There is a storm brewing in South Florida.
In 1926, The Great Miami Hurricane blew through the region, devastating everything in its path, killing approximately 300 people and causing an estimated $100 million in damages, which translates to roughly $1.2 billion in today’s dollars. The storm was so severe that the local university, Miami, nicknamed its athletic teams the Hurricanes in memory of the catastrophe, and to this day it remains the standard for tropical storms.
But this new storm system, which is gaining strength every day and is on a collision course with Miami, could top them all. According to the National Weather Service, this storm, which could become the first Category 6 in recorded history, is scheduled to hit on Feb. 7.
If New Orleans residents thought Hurricane Katrina was destructive, wait until they feel the impact of this storm system.
That’s right, Peyton Manning has become a one-man freak of nature, an unstoppable force with just one goal in mind; victory, at any cost.
There is no other player as vital to his team’s success, or as capable of single-handedly taking over a game, as Peyton Manning.
This year, he’s taken it to a whole new level.
Through the first 14 games of the regular season, Peyton and the rest of the Indianapolis Colts were perfect in every way, including in the standings.
There was no question that these Colts, led by perhaps the best quarterback in the history of the game, would become just the second team in NFL history to finish the regular season 16-0 and then take their freak show of God given talent and perfection all the way to Miami where they would become the first team since the 1972 Miami Dolphins to finish the season as undefeated Super Bowl champions.
And how ironic it would be that the Colts would join the Dolphins as the league’s only unbeatens in their home city of Miami.
But then it happened. Jim Caldwell, the man with perhaps the easiest head coaching job in all of sports, made what might have been the most controversial decision in NFL history.
Halfway through their Week 15 contest with the New York Jets, Caldwell pulled Manning, along with most of the other starters on the team, allowing the Jets to pull off an anti-climactic second half comeback, putting an end to the hopes of all Colts fans and players of an undefeated season.
It was in the team’s best interest, he said. It was the only decision that would allow the team to compete for its ultimate goal, which is a Super Bowl title, he argued.
Peyton and the rest of the team nodded approvingly, saying they supported the team’s decision to rest its starters and prepare for the only games that mattered, the playoffs.
But the fans knew better, and so did Peyton.
After all, this is the man that had started 190 consecutive games up until that point, 205 if you count playoffs. His offensive line is one of the best in the league, proved by the fact that not once has Manning missed playing time because of an injury.
The depth of talent that the Colts have is enviable, meaning that they probably wouldn’t miss a beat if somebody did happen to get injured, so long as it wasn’t Manning himself.
Not to mention there was a bit of history on the line.
It’s one thing to rest once you’ve got the top seed locked up despite having lost a game here or there during the course of the season. It happens. All the time, in fact. But perfection? That’s rare, and most think it was worth fighting for.
That includes Peyton Manning.
Not one to usually give off negative body language, you could see that Manning was visibly upset with the decision to be yanked in that Week 15 game against the Jets as he stood on the Colts sideline, still wearing his helmet, disgusted. He was itching to get back in there, desperate for a chance to retain his undefeated season and his shot at solidifying his mantle as THE best quarterback of all time.
But the time ticked away, and there was nothing he could do about it.
In the ensuing weeks, Manning held his head high, constantly backing the decision his coaches and owners made, saying he stood by them no matter what.
Secretly, though, he was devising an evil plot to foil any and all opponents who got in his way as he set out in search of what he thought was rightfully his; the Lombardi trophy.
If he couldn’t have his perfection, he was damn sure getting his Super Bowl victory.
This newfound sense of determination and destruction was never more evident than during the Colts first two playoff games.
Against the Ravens, a team that just a week earlier had made Manning’s arch-rival Tom Brady look more like JaMarcus Russell, Peyton was methodical, meticulously chipping away at one of the decade’s most dominant defenses. We’ve seen Manning play like this before, but never have we seen the hunger in his eyes as much as we did during this game.
Same goes for his next game, one against the team that snatched his perfection away from under him, the Jets.
After a somewhat slow start in which he was sacked multiple times on his team’s first few drives, we saw the true nature of the beast unleashed with just under two minutes to play in the first half.
Against a defense that was the best in the league, one that was home to Revis Island, which is the Bermuda Triangle of the NFL, Peyton was spectacular, doing what he does best—dissecting the defense apart into a million intricate pieces and having his way with them.
After that beautiful two-minute drill, there was no question as to what the outcome of the game would be despite the Colts heading into the locker room at halftime trailing by three points.
Colts 30 – Jets 17.
Now Peyton has his sights set on Miami, the same place he hoisted the Lombardi Trophy just a few years ago. Standing in his way is a New Orleans Saints team making its first ever Super Bowl appearance. With the aftermath of Katrina still fresh in the country’s mind, it’s likely that most will find themselves rooting for the Saints and their feel-good story of resurrection.
But one man won’t be. One man will be doing everything in his power to stop them, to capture what he feels truly belongs to him. One man will be attempting to salvage what should have been a historic season, instead having to settle for becoming just the league’s 44th champion.
One man will be out to prove that he is the greatest of all time, out to showcase his truly unfathomable talent for taking over when the game is on the line. One man will be out to prove to not only an entire nation, but to himself, that he is the most destructive force the NFL has ever seen.