The Mile High City got real quiet yesterday.
After watching their 13-3 Denver Broncos squander a lead late in the game, Denver's fans watched as their all-pro quarterback, Peyton Manning, threw an uncharacteristic interception in overtime. The mistake led to a game-winning Baltimore Ravens field goal.
Denver went into this game on an 11-game winning streak and were labeled as 9.5-point favorites by the boys in Vegas. Most everyone thought they would handle the visiting Ravens with ease; most everyone was wrong.
Blame can be dispersed all throughout the Denver roster. The Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil-led pass-rush was ineffective and the defensive secondary blew its coverage multiple times, including on two long routes that led to touchdowns. The play calling was far too conservative, as their seemed to be some hesitation to let Manning throw the ball. When Manning did throw the ball, it was often inaccurate.
All of this play was uncharacteristic of the way the Broncos have played the last two months, and it certainly was a team loss. Yet the blame will fall, as it always does, on the quarterback.
Peyton Manning's season in Denver cannot be looked at as a failure; after all, he threw 37 touchdowns and finished the season with a 105.8 passer rating. These numbers were also following a complicated series of neck surgeries that some thought might end his career.
So yes, Manning had a fantastic year for the Denver Broncos. His career in Denver, however, will never be seen as a success unless Manning can lead Denver to a Super Bowl victory.
This sounds like a harsh term for success, but with the amount Manning is being paid and the resume he's compiled, anything less is a disappointment. John Elway and the rest of the Denver front office brought in Manning to round out the very talented, young team they had built over the past five seasons. He signed Manning to take Denver to the next level.
Making the playoffs or having a great regular season cannot be viewed as successful. Denver made the playoffs in 2012 with Manning, but at the end of the day no one will remember your regular season record.
So let's be clear, Manning didn't fail Denver this year. Far from it, in fact. He just hasn't reached his ultimate goal yet.
Yesterday's playoff loss was very disappointing and shocking, yet things are looking ripe for Denver next season. They should be able to retain almost the entire squad and the few problem areas can be addressed in the offseason. Denver will head into the 2013 NFL Season as a Super Bowl frontrunner. Once again, the bar will be set high.
Denver remains one of the most balanced teams in the league, and that is why Manning will only be considered a successful signing if he brings a Lombardi Trophy to Denver.
He'll be forgiven for this season; he brought Denver the best football that they have seen since the Elway-era. On another positive note, he stayed 100 percent healthy. With an offseason to further mesh with his young team, a fantastic regular season is not going to excite fans quite as much.
So yes, the bar is set high and the fans will be fickle. It's a well-documented fact that being a quarterback is the most unfair job in the country.