Peyton Manning: Divisional Round Loss Doesn't Overshadow QB's Spectacular Season

Joseph ZuckerFeatured ColumnistJanuary 12, 2013

Denver Broncos QB Peyton Manning
Denver Broncos QB Peyton ManningJeff Gross/Getty Images

It's unfortunate the lasting image of Peyton Manning's 2012 season is Corey Graham's interception.

That turnover set the stage for Justin Tucker's 47-yard field goal to give the Baltimore Ravens a 38-35 double-overtime win over the Denver Broncos in the NFL divisional round.

Manning can't take the majority of the blame for the loss. Although he wasn't his best, he still threw for 290 yards and three touchdowns.

The two interceptions, especially the second, were huge, but they don't deserve to cloud what was a good game for the quarterback.

Denver's biggest disappointment in the playoffs was how poor its defense was. Coming in, the Broncos had one of the best defenses in the league.

You favored the unit against a quarterback like Joe Flacco, who was never covered himself in glory in the postseason. Instead, he threw for 331 yards and three touchdowns.

The loss will no doubt be a sour note on what has been an otherwise outstanding season from Manning.

While he was outgunned in the postseason, few played better than Manning during the regular season. He ranked sixth in passing yards, third in touchdowns and second in passer rating.

If this was just a normal season for the QB, it would have been one of the better of his career, but you can't discount the two neck surgeries he underwent in the offseason.

Many were wondering if Manning would return to the NFL at all. How many players could be expected to come back after not one, but two neck surgeries?

At 36 years old, he was putting a lot on the line choosing to return to the league.

Instead, he put up the second-most passing yards and second-most touchdowns of his career during the regular season. In addition, his completion percentage was the second best of his career.

Manning's impact wasn't just in the box score, either.

When he was in Indianapolis, Manning had the benefit of throwing to receivers like Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne. Harrison was one of the best receivers of his era, and Wayne was a very good second option.

In Denver, Manning's top two targets were Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas.

Decker's numbers jumped from 44 receptions for 612 yards in 2011 to 85 receptions for 1,064 yards in 2012.

Thomas looked like he could be one of the better receivers in the league. Manning just accelerated his development. Who can forget when Thomas revealed to the 790 The Zone in Atlanta that he would actually have to run his routes since Manning was a Bronco.

No one ever doubted the greatness of Manning. With this season, though, the admiration for his accomplishments continued to grow.

He changed the entire culture in Denver. John Elway's shadow was too large for every quarterback who followed. The organization had failed to find the proper replacement. Now it's Manning's shadow that will loom for years to come, no matter what happens from now on.

One loss at the end of the season shouldn't dwarf everything that he has done in Denver this year.