With six minutes left in his Super Bowl nightmare, Peyton Manning sat meekly on the Denver bench, quietly watching his time tick away. Peyton's helmet was still on, but all his fight was long gone.
In the biggest game of all, with a grand chance to cement a legacy that Tom Brady could never touch, Peyton Manning choked. It's an ugly word. But it's also the undeniable truth.
The Denver Broncos imploded — and inflicted 43-8 on an unsuspecting America — because Manning seized up on the monster stage and flung ducks all around his little brother's stadium. The long-feared and vastly over debated cold weather Super Bowl is a near-balmy blowout. The only thing special about Peyton Manning on this Sunday was the depth of his dud-dom, and Broncos and competitiveness were both doomed.
Who would have ever thought Tim Tebow would outperform Peyton Manning in a Super Bowl?
Who would have ever thought Tim Tebow would outperform Peyton Manning in Super Bowl XLVIII?
But that's exactly what happened on this Sunday. Tebow's No Contract commercials were the most entertaining thing of the night, easily topping Bruno Mars and the Red Hot Chili Pepper's lame attempt to be edgy by having Anthony Keidis and Flea go shirtless at halftime. Of course, no one came up as small as Peyton.
"It's not an easy pill to swallow," Manning said in his postgame news conference broadcast live on several networks.
Sitting there on a dais, decked out in an expensive, conservative blue suit, Manning looked like he was just going through the motions. He threw out that pill cliche. He kept mentioning how the Seattle Seahawks just executed better. He tried to make it a team thing.
When you're Peyton Manning, it's never just a collective loss though. He is this team. The Broncos are built around Manning orchestrating a fearsome offense. Instead he played afraid. Manning blinked and bungled away any shot at the championship.
Seattle mocked the Broncos and Manning, only they did it quietly. With Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman — the most interesting man in football — on his best behavior after America lost its mind over his daring to get excited in the vicinity of Erin Andrews, Seattle coach Pete Carroll was the one who attacked.
The Seahawks won the toss, decided to defer and watched the Broncos offense self destruct.
The Broncos are built around Manning orchestrating a fearsome offense. Instead he played afraid.
Manning and center Manny Ramirez completely messed up the first offensive snap of the game, leaving Broncos running back Knowshon Moreno falling on the ball in the end zone for a game-opening safety. Manning attributed it to "a cadence issue." So much for Omaha.
Still, the Broncos stayed close, within one score at 8-0 despite three Seattle scores. Then, Manning threw it all away.
He went three-and-out on the Broncos' second possession. Facing another three-and-out on possession No. 3, Peyton Manning made it worse. He air mailed a pass way over tight end Julius Thomas on third-and-7 and Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor grabbed it for one of the easiest interceptions you'll ever see. Of course, Seattle linebacker Malcolm Smith's enjoyed an even easier interception — courtesy of Manning — later and returned it for a Pick 6.
Peyton Manning's new legacy
How pathetic is Manning? The Seahawks of Russell Wilson and Percy Harvin racked up nine first downs before the Broncos got a single one. Manning never gave Denver a chance in this game. He was the biggest reason the Super Bowl morphed back into the blowout brigade it was in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
"We expected a great fight," Smith said in an NFL Network set visit. "But we kind of just dominated the game."
That's on Peyton Manning. It turns out Sherman was too kind during the week when he noted that this 37-year-old, surgically repaired Manning throws a lot of "ducks." Manning's passes in Super Bowl XLVIII were more like sickly baby robins. They didn't quack. They barely made a peep.
Manning's passes in Super Bowl XLVIII were more like sickly baby robins. They didn't quack. They barely made a peep.
"To finish that way is special," Wilson told the Fox cameras. "It's a mindset."
So is throwing up all over yourself on the big stage. Peyton Manning is now an under .500 quarterback (11-12) in the postseason again. He won that one Super Bowl in Indianapolis on the strength of his running game and defense. He lost this one showing surprisingly little fight.
"We just ran right into a buzz saw," John Fox said in the losing coach's interview. "[Peyton's] disappointed like all of us. He had a tremendous year."
And another horrible finish. The 25-year-old, third-round pick quarterback was the one dousing his coach in a Gatorade bath. The Hall of Famer, Chosen One From Day One? He's playing the good sport loser again, shaking everyone's hand as both the executive vice president who brought him to Denver (John Elway) and the little brother with the steelier nerves (Eli Manning) both watched stone faced from suites at Met Life Stadium.
Peyton Manning choked. And all of America suffered through the boredom of it all.
"What we saw tonight is not good," Deion Sanders said when asked about Manning's legacy after 43-8. "And it started from the first snap. These guys dominate Peyton Manning in every way. Intellectually, physically and emotionally."
Peyton Manning was meekly beaten down. His time ticking away.