After missing the initial snap in Sunday’s Super Bowl XLVII, the look on Peyton Manning’s face said it all. The Broncos were a rudderless ship with their captain flailing at the helm. For fans partisan and impartial, the game was a disappointingly one-sided affair that didn’t even come close to living up to the hype.
While Manning isn’t entirely to blame for Denver’s abysmal showing (the defense appeared to have gone on walkabout for most of the game), his lackluster play certainly didn’t help. And the Twittersphere was there to chronicle his performance every misstep of the way.
Even Hillary Clinton couldn’t resist joining in.
Manning has made a career of being a prepared and cool-headed team leader, but the Denver quarterback looked completely lost against an airtight Seattle defense tonight.
The Seahawks certainly did their part to stifle the Broncos' offensive game (to say nothing of Seattle’s incredible offensive performance) but Manning’s tenacity in the past has helped him propel the Broncos past tough defensive lines. Something No. 18 simply was not capable of tonight.
Much has been written about the strength of Denver’s offense and since heading to the Mile High City in 2012, Manning has been the driving force behind the Broncos' offensive vigor for the past two seasons. But you wouldn’t have known it from tonight’s game.
What cannot be blamed on Manning is the Broncos’ shockingly poor defensive effort, which the Seahawks ferociously took advantage of to rack up 43 points. In retrospect, it’s hard to know if that first missed snap was the seed of Denver’s demise or a fitting portent of the game that was to come.
Either way, things only proceeded from bad to worse for the Broncos.
Tonight was not Manning’s night, but that shouldn’t take anything away from what the Seattle defense did, systematically shutting down Denver’s offense, earning two interceptions and capitalizing on two fumbles. It would be disingenuous to not credit Seattle’s performance as being instrumental to the outcome of tonight’s game.
Oddly enough, Manning did set a record in tonight’s game, completing 33 passes, the most in a Super Bowl.
When he did find his receivers, Manning looked to be himself, but the Broncos failed to move down the field in the dominant way they have for much of the season. What’s more, Denver seemed incapable of changing course, failing to adjust its offensive strategy to compensate for Seattle’s impressive defensive pass coverage.
For such a low-scoring game, Denver’s offensive drives were not altogether a disaster, but coupled with an inability to move the ball into the end zone and Manning’s uncharacteristically erratic play, the Broncos were never really in tonight’s game.
Given that he's touted as one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, Manning certainly didn’t show his best stuff on Sunday. One bad game didn’t undo a great season or an incredible career, but it did add to a problematic statistic for the Manning legacy.
At 37, even under the best circumstances, Manning likely doesn’t have many more seasons left in him. While the Broncos and Manning can still take away a lot of positives from the 2013-14 season, Super Bowl XLVIII was undoubtedly a missed opportunity, if not possibly Peyton’s last.