If there’s been one knock over the years against the nearly flawless Peyton Manning, it’s been his playoff résumé. The four-time MVP (soon to be the five-time MVP) was largely unsuccessful in each of his first three playoff appearances, all resulting in losses. When he finally broke through after the 2003 season with a pair of emphatic January wins, he was stonewalled by Tom Brady and the Patriots in consecutive postseasons.
Manning has since broken through for two playoff wins against the Brady/Belichick combo, a Super Bowl victory, and now two more appearances on the NFL’s greatest stage.
Even last season’s meltdown was more a result of a stunning defensive breakdown against Baltimore. Peyton was solid with 290 yards passing and three scores.
In other words, whatever was holding Manning back in the postseason is no longer there. If anything, he should be more motivated to wash out the bad taste in his mouth that last year’s debacle left him with.
That said, he’ll have his work cut out for him against Seattle on Super Bowl Sunday.
As everyone knows, the Seahawks defense is the best in the league—both in yards allowed (273.6) and points given up (14.4).
Seattle’s “Legion of Boom” secondary is probably the fiercest in the league with safety Earl Thomas and cornerback Richard Sherman forming the best backfield duo in the business.
But Manning and the Broncos offense have chewed up nearly every defense they’ve seen this season. Denver’s offense is just as good as Seattle’s defense, averaging league-highs of 457.3 yards per game and 37.9 points per game.
So who wins when the best offense plays the best defense?
On paper, it would appear the matchup all comes down to Peyton’s arm against the speed and coverage ability of Seattle’s secondary.
But Peyton’s strength is not just in his arm. It’s in his head.
Although it’s hard to find a statistic to prove it, Manning is the master of audibles.
Being the offensive coordinator of a Manning-led offense must be one of the more comfortable jobs out there. If Manning walks to the line of scrimmage and sees something he doesn’t like, he can simply audible out of the play. He even throws in a few “Omaha!!” calls while he’s at it.
Seems easy enough, but no one is more successful at doing it and the Seahawks are going to have to adjust to it.
If Seattle brings both safeties near the line, Peyton will be making sure it’s a pass play. If the safeties are playing deep, he’ll be making sure the ball is handed off to either Knowshon Moreno or Montee Ball.
And if Seattle tries to disguise the coverage until the last second, Manning has no problem making a late audible.
Meanwhile, as the “Legion of Boom” is busy playing mind games with Peyton, they’ll also be trying to cover 1,000-yard receivers Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker as well as two-time All-Pro Wes Welker and Pro Bowl tight end Julius Thomas.
Although there is still the matter of Denver’s defense against Seattle, and quarterback Russell Wilson, the real battle stars when Peyton takes the field.
When Manning is on, with this many weapons at his disposal, there’s no beating him: Broncos 34, Seahawks 21.