If at first you don’t succeed, try try again. In 2012, Peyton Manning came to the Denver Broncos after a one-year hiatus from football, during which he underwent multiple neck surgeries that left his career in a state of uncertainty. Until he stepped onto the field in a regular season game, there were questions and doubts about whether he could still play at a high level, how he would hold up during the course of an NFL season, and if he could still be the same player he was during his 13 seasons with the Indianapolis Colts.
But last season Manning answered all those questions and then some, proving doubters wrong by picking up where he left off before his surgeries. He led the Broncos to a 13-3 record, including an 11-game winning streak to finish the regular season, while recording the second most passing yards and second most touchdowns of his career. He helped the Broncos secure the top seed in the AFC and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, giving them a clear path to the Super Bowl, only to have their season foiled by a profound failure on the part of safety Rahim Moore on a Hail Mary throw late in Denver’s playoff game against the Baltimore Ravens, which opened the door for the Ravens to beat Denver and ultimately win the Super Bowl that the Broncos once looked destined to claim for themselves.
But despite that disappointment, Manning and the Broncos tried again in 2013, and put together an even more dominating performance than they did in 2012. It started with a seven-touchdown performance by Manning on opening night against the same Baltimore team that ended their Super Bowl hopes the previous season, and it didn’t stop there. When all was said and done, Manning threw 55 touchdown passes, a new single season NFL record, and the Broncos had scored more points than any other team scored in a single season in NFL history. More importantly, the Broncos had once again solidified the top seed in the AFC and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, except this time they refused to let their Super Bowl hopes slip away.
Manning has played a nearly flawless postseason this year, leaving nothing to chance, and making sure the Broncos get a chance to play in the Super Bowl. He’s completed more than 70% of his passes for 630 yards and four touchdowns. He’s been in complete control of not only Denver’s offense, but also the opposing team’s defense, manipulating things exactly how he wants them. As a result, the Broncos have dominated time of possession in both postseason games, they never trailed in either game, and most importantly Manning wasn’t sacked in either game. The Broncos have been in complete control in both games and rarely was there any doubt that they would win both games.
Once again, there were doubters along the way, questioning whether Manning could get the job done if he had to face a cold weather environment in the playoffs, and whether the Broncos would succumb to the pressure of being the AFC favorite, especially after the way their season ended last year. But when given a second chance, Manning and the Broncos redeemed themselves for their shortcoming last year and made sure there was nothing that could stand in their way of reaching the Super Bowl. In fact, after the brilliant season Manning has had, and all the records he and the Broncos have set, there never should have been any doubt about this team reaching the Super Bowl; with Manning and the Broncos getting a second try, their season was never going to end any differently than with a trip to the Super Bowl.