Like the sheriffs in the movies, Peyton Manning—the NFL's Sheriff—often appears at the very last moment to save the day. He survives a beating, sure, and it looks like he's down for the count, but he always manages to peel himself off the ground and save his best punches for last.
In the process, he saves the Denver Broncos from certain doom and gloom. Or in this case, from falling to 2-4 on the season.
After leading the Broncos to 35 unanswered second-half points in a shocking 35-24 win over the San Diego Chargers, Manning has solidified himself as the league's most dangerous second-half player. What he's accomplished in leading the Broncos back from large deficits is truly amazing.
In the first half of games this year, Manning has thrown for 853 yards, three touchdowns and four interceptions and has a quarterback rating of 85.2. In the second half, he's thrown for 955 yards, 11 touchdowns and no interceptions and has a quarterback rating of 124.0.
Against the Atlanta Falcons, he nearly erased a 27-7 deficit heading into the fourth quarter (and three first-half interceptions) by leading the Broncos on two late scoring drives. Had the Falcons not been able to run the clock out at the end, there's little doubt he would have led them on a third to win the game.
Against the Houston Texans, the Broncos trailed 31-11 heading into the fourth quarter. Again, two scoring drives lowered the deficit to 31-25. This time, Manning got the ball back with 20 seconds left at the Denver 14-yard line.
Not even Manning could pull off that miracle, and the Broncos lost again.
Against the New England Patriots, Manning and the Broncos trailed 31-7 in the third quarter. Manning gave the team a chance to win once again. He led the Broncos on two scoring drives and had them moving the ball on two more drives that were stymied by a Willis McGahee fumble in the red zone and his own fumble after being swarmed by the Patriots rush.
Oh, and Demaryius Thomas fumbled in the red zone earlier in the game as well. The Broncos lost that one, 31-21.
Against the Chargers, Manning did have some help from his defense, which returned a fumble and interception for two vital touchdowns. But let's not take anything away from his three touchdown passes in the second half (or the fourth he should have had in the first half had Eric Decker not tripped on his own feet with a clear path to the end zone).
Now, it would be nice—and a whole lot easier on Denver fans, I'm sure—if Manning and the Broncos could start the game with a bit more urgency. But there is no question right now that with his team trailing in the second half, there is no more dangerous player in the NFL than Manning.
I'm guessing things will get easier for the Broncos, as the difficult portion of the team's schedule has been traversed. There are still tough games to play—the New Orleans Saints, at the Cincinnati Bengals and at the Baltimore Ravens, to name a few—but Mr. Second Half isn't sweating them.
The Sheriff is back in town. He may go down from time to time, but he's proven once again that he's never out.
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