DENVER —Manning battled a right thigh injury down the stretch, which he suffered Dec. 14th in San Diego. Over the final five games of the regular season, he had one 300-yard passing game, two games with fewer than 200 yards passing, five touchdowns and six interceptions for the Broncos.
Peyton Manning has rehabbed a right thigh injury, and as he ambles closer to his 39th birthday, it sure has looked of late as if onrushing Father Time is beginning to give him happy feet in the pocket.
Manning does not want to stop playing any less than Tom Coughlin wants to stop coaching, but the old gunslinger’s window is closing once again, for the umpteenth time, and we watch him Sunday against Andrew Luck and his old team suddenly wondering whether he can be Muhammad Ali rope-a-doping and willing his way to the end zone, one small step for Mann, one giant leap for Mannkind, toward the latest of Legacy Games that would be standing between him and that elusive second Lombardi Trophy.
Mile High drama: The proud, weathered warhorse desperate and driven to win the race to the AFC Championship game against the ambitious young Colt who succeeded him so seamlessly in Indianapolis.
Or Mile Thigh drama, given the shroud of mystery over the truth about Manning’s health.
Inquiring media minds may have wanted to know, but the best we could have hoped for anyway was another Robert Mueller investigation.
It would be foolish of the Colts, however, to expect Manning to show up for his first playoff game since Seahawks 43, Broncos 8 in Super Bowl XLVIII merely as the game manager he has been, partly by design, since Thanksgiving.
It has been eight years since Manning won his Super Bowl, he has been one-and-done eight times in the playoffs, he is 11-12 in the postseason.
But he’s back again, looking to make history as the first quarterback to win Super Bowls with two different franchises, and make his case for greatest of all time.
It has been nearly three years since he was introduced to the football world as a Denver Bronco:
The late Pat Bowlen: “Our goal has always been to win Super Bowls. Peyton gives us a chance to win another championship.”
John Elway: “What I told him in the process was, my goal is to make Peyton Manning the best quarterback that has ever played the game, and he’s got that ability with the football he has left.”
Manning: “Knowing that I don’t have 15 years left to throw a football, I certainly feel that sense of urgency.”
If he didn’t have 15 years left then, he certainly doesn’t have 15 years left now.
He got Manning a upgrade when receiver Eric Decker left for the Jets in Emmanuel Sanders.
And the emergence of C.J. Anderson has filled the shoes left by the departure of Knowshon Moreno and given Manning balance and a sense of comfort — he no longer needs to sling the ball all over the lot and carry the team on his shoulders.
He has had an extra week to rest, an extra week to prepare. It gives him a fighting chance to beat the Colts with his arm, but an even better chance to beat them with his beautiful football mind.
He has confronted his own football mortality. He knows better than most how precious these moments are, how you must never take them for granted.
Mile Thigh drama, and I wouldn’t buck the old Bronco this time.
Broncos’ Peyton Manning Taking A Gamble This Season.