There was a moment, one perfect moment, when Peyton Manning walked onto the field at Lucas Oil Stadium and responded to a sustained ovation and touching video by taking off his helmet, touching his heart and repeatedly mouthing a wistful “thank you” to the crowd.
“It’s something I’ll always remember,” Manning, said afterward, “and I’m very grateful for that.”
From that point on, though, it was a game that Manning would probably rather forget. The night, as far as football was concerned, belonged to Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts. Maybe the emotion of Manning’s first game was too much. Maybe the Colts are just getting good — they’ve beaten the Seattle Seahawks, San Francisco 49ers and Broncos (who were 6-0 coming in).
“I think he got emotional, and how could he not?It had to be very awkward for him almost, because this city loves him so much, and rightfully so,” a former teammate, Colts punter Pat McAfee, said. “Guys who were on the team with him love him so much, so it had to be emotional for him, and I think it got to him a little bit.”
It seems ludicrous to say that a man who completed 29 of 49 passes for 389 yards and three touchdowns was not sharp, but that was the case with Manning, whose passes wobbled and were underthrown. Uncharacteristically, he was not sharp and that showed when he said he was “tired” and “relieved” after an “emotional” and “draining” week. The gamesmanship began with biting comments by Colts owner Jim Irsay on the number of Super Bowl rings Manning has won and it extended to just before that video tribute, when the Colts chose to keep the Lucas Oil roof open. Manning always preferred to have it closed.
“It was emotional during the tribute,” Manning admitted. “It was a great reception from the fans. It is something I will always remember.”
The Broncos, now 6-1, return to Denver to prepare for a game Sunday against the Washington Redskins. After a night on which he was battered by Robert Mathis, there’ll be questions about Manning’s arm strength and those wobbly, off-target passes.
“I throw a lot of wobbly passes,” Manning said and then, in a pure Manning moment, he added, “a lot of wobbly touchdowns, too.”
H/T Bleacher Report for the GIF