The sight of Peyton Manning walking off a field after a playoff loss may be a familiar one, but it’s still stunning — particularly after he had crafted a season that was one of the best stories of the NFL season.
Manning admitted that he was stung by the Denver Broncos’ 38-35 double-overtime loss to the Baltimore Ravens in one of the classic playoff games. It mattered little to him that there was plenty of blame to go around and that a key decision by his coach, John Fox, helped doom the team Manning had led to 11 straight wins and the No. 1 seed in the AFC.
“I know how much time I put into this season. I think the more you put in, that’s why it does hurt,” Manning said. “Everybody’s hurting in that locker room, because guys really have worked. It if didn’t matter to you, it probably doesn’t hurt as much, but I know it matters, certainly to me, and I know it matters to a lot of guys in that locker room.”
Manning had come back from so much — missing all of the 2011 season because of multiple neck procedures — and will turn 37 in March. He’ll be back to give it another try next season, but this loss reminded everyone of the ugly flaw on Manning’s resume. He has a 9-11 record in the playoffs and is tied with Brett Favre for the most playoff losses by a quarterback. He also happens to be 0-4 in the playoffs when the temperature is below 40. In eight of 12 career playoff appearances, Manning has failed to win a game and the loss to the Ravens marked his eighth one-and-done postseason.
For years, Manning has been held up as the gold standard for the modern quarterback ever and his amazing, thrilling return to excellence only adds to the legend. But there’s no question that his legacy will take a hit because of his postseason shortcomings. Saturday night, there was a sense of a squandered chance, with postseason runs never guaranteed to any team or player.
“I can’t predict tomorrow,” Manning said. “I’m just disappointed tonight.”