The 5 Most Super Plays of Peyton Manning's Career
Peyton Manning is among the greatest players in NFL history. His name is on the first or second line of nearly all the key passing records in NFL history, and there is little doubt about his ability to diagnose what the opposing defense is doing and then call the perfect play to defeat it.
Manning's career has been one of consistency and excellence. There are other quarterbacks who excelled at reading defenses, and there have been several quarterback who could come close to Manning in passing accuracy.
However, it's impossible to find a quarterback who has combined those two aspects as well as this future Hall of Famer.
Manning's ability to do whatever it takes to win made him the centerpiece in Indianapolis, and it has done the same in Denver for him. His toughness and intelligence have laid the groundwork for a stellar career that is replete with highlight-film plays.
Here's a look at the top five plays of his career.
Manning Hits Wayne with 53-Yard TD Pass in Super Bowl XLI
After the Colts finally beat the New England Patriots in the 2006 AFC Championship Game, there was relief in Indianapolis.
The Colts were finally going to the Super Bowl to play the NFC champion Chicago Bears. The game started out poorly for the favored Colts, as Devin Hester turned on the afterburners on the opening kickoff and returned it for a touchdown to give Chicago the early lead.
Moments later, Peyton Manning threw an interception, and it looked like the Colts might not be able to defeat the NFC champions.
However, Manning shook off the early deficit. Later in the first quarter, he stepped up into the pocket and found a wide-open Reggie Wayne streaking down the field. Manning hit him with a 53-yard TD pass, and the receiver strolled into the end zone (4:24 mark in video above).
It didn't matter that the Colts missed the extra point or that the Bears would score again. Manning had shown he could throw over the top of the Chicago defense and control the flow of the game. The Colts would systematically get stronger and register a 29-17 victory in Super Bowl XLI.
Manning's early TD took the edge off an anxious Colts team and paved the way to a championship.
Manning Hits Garcon in Super Bowl XLIV
The Colts made it back to the Super Bowl a second time following the 2009 season.
While the Colts would drop a 31-17 decision to the New Orleans Saints, Manning made a near-perfect throw in the first period that gave his team a 10-0 lead and what seemed like control of the game.
Manning keenly diagnosed the Saints' defensive scheme and saw that wide receiver Pierre Garcon was getting one-on-one coverage on the far side of the formation. With one look at Garcon a split second before he received the ball from center, Manning let his receiver know that he would be getting the ball.
Garcon used an inside release, and Manning delivered a perfect, 19-yard touch pass (above).
While the Colts could not sustain their lead, it was a moment of brilliance for Manning.
Manning Leads Monday Night Comeback vs. Bucs
Peyton Manning and the Colts were in a difficult position when they went to Tampa for a Week 5 game against a very physical Buccaneers defense.
Tampa Bay stopped Manning for more than 55 minutes, and the Bucs had a 35-14 lead as the game hit the home stretch.
That's when Manning figured out Tampa Bay's aggressive defensive scheme and took over. He led the Colts to three touchdowns in the final 3:37 that allowed them to send the game to overtime, where they would win it on a field goal.
One of the touchdowns in that span was a perfectly thrown 28-yard pass to All-Pro receiver Marvin Harrison (1:04 mark in video above). That pass was one of those Manning specials, thrown precisely into a tight window that few of his peers would have been able to see or execute.
The Tampa Bay comeback demonstrated that there was no defense that could hold Manning in check.
Manning Ignites Broncos with Seven TD Passes
The Broncos began the 2013 season with high hopes that they could establish themselves and make a run at the AFC championship.
They would get their chance to prove themselves in the season opener against the defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens. While the Ravens no longer had Ray Lewis or Ed Reed, they were still supposed to provide a formidable test because of their aggressive and hard-hitting defense.
Somebody forgot to give that message to Manning, who eviscerated the Ravens by throwing a record-tying seven TD passes. Manning threw two TD passes to Julius Thomas in the first quarter, and by the end of that period, the quarterback knew he was on his game.
Early in the second quarter, Manning fired a 28-yard TD pass to Andre Caldwell (0:17 mark) that showed his touch, decisiveness and quick release. When Manning is on his game, there's an air of inevitability that opposing defenses are forced to swallow. That came to fruition on that scoring pass, as it became obvious that the Ravens had no chance to slow Manning down on that particular night.
Manning Leads Classic Comeback vs Patriots in 2009
The best quarterbacks in the game have always been masters of the comeback.
Nobody has more fourth-quarter comebacks than Peyton Manning. He has registered 40 of them in his career.
One of most notable games took place in 2009 during a highly anticipated game against the New England Patriots and Tom Brady.
The Patriots offense was operating at a high level, as Brady threw three TD passes, including two to wide receiver Randy Moss.
The Colts trailed by 13 points after a Stephen Gostkowski field goal with 4:12 remaining, but Manning was undaunted. He led the Colts to two touchdowns in the final 2:23. He threw a decisive TD pass to Reggie Wayne with 13 seconds remaining on the clock (3:55 mark of video above).
While the scoring pass was just a one-yarder, it was thrown with decisiveness and precision, and it marked Manning's ability to come through when his team needed him most against a pedigreed and relentless opponent.