Not only was future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning outplayed by Joe Flacco on his own turf on Saturday, but he will be the one to bear the burden of the Denver Broncos' bitter playoff defeat for as long as it haunts them.
While many will point the finger at Champ Bailey and the Broncos' secondary, which was torched on far too many occasions vs. Baltimore, Manning's nervous play is what doomed Denver throughout and at the end of their AFC divisional playoff matchup.
The Ravens offense is capable of creating big plays and scoring points, they have all season. It was Manning and the Broncos' offense that was supposed to win the battle, but didn't.
Manning's first interception resulted in seven points for the Ravens, and his second pick (one that made even Brett Favre cringe) ultimately led to Baltimore's game-winning field goal in the second overtime. In between, a third quarter Manning fumble led to another Ravens touchdown.
While Flacco's three bombs were huge, those two arrant throws and the fumble by No. 18 proved to be back-breakers.
Manning did manage to complete 28 passes for 290 yards and three touchdowns on Saturday, but the Broncos needed fewer mistakes from the veteran. In a game decided by just three points, Manning's three giveaways proved to be the difference. If Manning had taken the sack or thrown the ball out of bounds on one of those occasions, perhaps Denver, not Baltimore would be moving on to the AFC Championship Game.
Manning and the Broncos also wasted a sensational performance from return man Trindon Holliday, who played out of his mind and spotted the offense 14 points on Saturday, returning a punt and a kickoff for touchdowns.
Take those scores away and Denver puts up just 21 points and likely loses in regulation.
It's not the 15 incompletions Manning had vs. the Ravens on Saturday that crushed his team, it was the two completions to Ravens defender Corey Graham, and his third quarter fumble on his own side of the field.
Manning assisted the Ravens in scoring 17 of their 38 points on Saturday, a fact that cannot be ignored when handing out blame for No. 1-seeded Denver's upset loss.
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