We don’t know if that 24-10 Super Bowl 50 win over the Carolina Panthers last night in the Super Bowl was it for Peyton Manning in the NFL.
I think it was, but he’s not the type to upstage a team victory with a personal announcement like that. That will come in due time. But assuming it was – what a way to go out for the legendary quarterback who has gained fans in Tennessee, Indianapolis, Denver and in all other corners of the nation as he’s put together a legendary career marked by class, multiple NFL records, and now, two Super Bowl wins.
Here are a few takeaways about Peyton and that performance from the Broncos last night:
1. Defensive line domination: There’s no other place to begin other then mentioning the historic effort of Denver’s defensive line – which limited Cam Newton and the Panthers in a way that hadn’t been seen this season. I thought Denver would have the edge over Carolina’s offensive line, but also thought Cam Newton’s mobility could be the X-factor. The Broncos neutralized that by staying in their lanes, spying at times and simply having too much speed and athleticism. They green-dogged like crazy too – sending extra players when the Panthers went max protection, clogging up any potential escape routes for Cam and leading to seven sacks and countless disrupted plays. MVP Von Miller (2.5 sacks) and DeMarcus Ware (2 sacks) were the studs, but Malik Jackson had his moment too – jumping on a loose ball in the end zone for the first touchdown of the game.
2. Manning the manager: We knew Manning wasn’t going to come into this game and carve up the Panthers’ defense. He didn’t need to do that. As has been the case this entire postseason, Manning has been the most high-profile game manager in NFL history – using his pre-snap reads, football IQ and decision-making to keep the Broncos in good situations. He threw just one interception all postseason, and that was a one-handed catch by a defensive lineman on Sunday. No, Manning didn’t do anything too spectacular in the passing game, but he limited mistakes and let the strength of the Broncos – the defense – take over and win the game.
3. Add it to the record books: Manning already held a plethora of NFL records. He added a few more lines to his resume last night:
- Oldest quarterback to start, and win, a Super Bowl: Age 39
- Winningest quarterback in NFL history: 200 wins (regular season and postseason)
- First starting quarterback to win the Super Bowl with different teams
Manning also tipped his postseason record over .500 as a starting quarterback. He’s now 14-13 in his career.
4. Cam comes up short: Carolina quarterback Cam Newton is an absolute superstar. He could easily win multiple Super Bowls in his career. Denver’s defense was his kryptonite, however, on Sunday. And it was a rough night for him on many levels. I won’t blast him much for an overall subpar performance. It’s tough to do anything with a defensive front, one that made Tom Brady look downright feeble at times in the AFC Championship Game, crashing in on you all night. I thought the most disappointing moment for him was when he didn’t dive after a loose ball in the closing moments that the Broncos ended up recovering. I don’t know if he would’ve recovered it or not, but how does anybody, regardless of their role on the team or what they’ve accomplished all year, not instantly dive head first after that? Also credit Manning and the Broncos for taking the early lead. Newton played from ahead all postseason and looked a little rattle when his team got punched first on Sunday.
5. What’s next for Peyton?: That instantly became the question on everybody’s mind as soon as the clock hit zero. Truly, it was already the question on many people’s minds all season. Sunday’s result, seemingly, makes it easy. He now has the opportunity to follow the path of the man he shared the stage with after the game, John Elway, and go out on top. Few get to enjoy that luxury. But Manning has done it his way his entire career, and the decision is in his hands. He didn’t commit to anything after the game, simply saying he needed to spend some time with his team, his family and then gave Budweiser a very valuable shoutout. Maybe that was foreshadowing what is to come for Manning: a retirement filled with endorsements, Papa Johns’ franchises and other business pursuits. Maybe he follows Elway’s lead and runs an NFL franchise. Perhaps he coaches quarterbacks at Tennessee – becoming the most high-profile collegiate assistant of all time. Regardless what he does, expect him to be the best at what he does. He doesn’t know any other way.