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Super Bowl XLVIII: Peyton Manning is who we thought he was!

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If you tuned into Super Bowl XLVIII expecting to see Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning “Omaha” his way to immortality, you were sorely disappointed about 15 minutes after kickoff.  

From the beginning, the champion Seattle Seahawks overwhelmed the Broncos in every conceivable way scoring touchdowns on offense, defense and special teams. In fact, the game wasn’t even as close as the 43-8 score.  

Head coach Pete Carroll became the third coach in history to win a NCAA FBS National Championship and a Super Bowl title, joining former Cowboys’ Jimmy Johnson and Barry Switzer. Carroll and his charge deserve every bit of praise for one of the epic performances on the game’s grandest stage.    

Still, there is no way to dismiss or ignore Manning’s colossal failure.  

Without question, football is a team game and Manning does not deserve all the blame. He had a prolific season and is still one of the 10 or 12 greatest quarterbacks in NFL history.  Another playoff loss cannot change that.  

However, two seasons ago the Broncos gave Manning a huge contract and complete offensive autonomy; two things Manning demanded most of his career. And because of that, it is not only fair to place most of the blame on him, but it is necessary. Peyton Manning photo: USAToday.com

No, Manning doesn’t play defense, and he certainly cannot block for himself, but it is important to put this latest debacle in proper context.  

Manning is at his best when he knows the answers before the test. As ESPN’s NFL analyst Trent Dilfer likes to say, Manning has a “Doctorate level” understanding of NFL defenses. But every once in a while a football game becomes a street fight, and that is when Manning most often struggles.  

Unlike the NFC Championship Game, when San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick posed a legitimate threat, the Seahawks never believed the Broncos could hurt them. They knew where to find Manning on every snap and used that knowledge to physically dominate him and his Broncos teammates.        

Consider, after three possessions the Broncos had zero first downs and every yard gained came grudgingly. This is when a team tries to make adjustments to slow the onslaught. But Manning plays with a different set of rules. His own.  

Unfortunately for the Broncos, that means Manning is going to run whatever plays he wants. And based on his previous failures in this type of game, that is not always the best strategic decision.  

In my view, Manning’s incessant need to control everything is the primary reason his playoff record is so average for a player of his skill. He decides when to run a pass play or when to hand the ball to a running back. Sometimes, he even decides when to go for it on 4th down. And when you wield that kind of power, it is correct to blame him when a defense overwhelms his offense.  

Manning’s apologists disagree with this notion but the question remains: why is it all about Manning when the Broncos score 40 or 50 points, but it is a team game when they cannot move the ball?  

Again, Manning’s place as an all-time great is safe, but the idea he should receive the lion’s share of credit for record-setting statistics but little blame for another playoff meltdown, is fallacy.

Super Bowl XLVIII gave Peyton Manning a chance to change his career narrative. He didn’t necessarily have to win this game, but he had to make a swift and constant impact. He did neither.  

Instead, he tried to outwit his opponent like he always has. But like those vintage Pittsburgh and New England defenses he faced in earlier years, it didn’t work. Seattle simply bullied Manning into making the same mistakes he always makes in games like this.

It is the difference between a football game and a chess match and the difference between Manning and the top five all-time greats.  

There is no shame in that.      

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THINGS THE PUNDITS CAN’T OR WON’T SAY: Super Bowl 

-Seattle proved the value of good defense and running the football. More importantly, Russell Wilson showed the value of a smart, mobile quarterback.  Enough of the traditional drop back passer nonsense.  It is tired, cliché and shows a total lack of football sense.  

-The Seahawks have a terrific defense, but don’t make the mistake of overvaluing them because of what they did to the Broncos.  

-Seattle linebacker Malcolm Smith played well, but Wilson earned the MVP. The fact he didn’t win it is further evidence of our collective infatuation with statistics.

-The NFL is not a passing league, it is a match-up league. Eventually, teams that insist on throwing the ball 40 times a game will lose to a great, physical defense. It’s not that complicated.  

-It would not have changed the result, but the Broncos needed to kick a field goal on 4th and 2  the end of the first half. Makes you wonder if head coach John Fox made that decision.  

-Now that the Seahawks embarrassed Manning in front of a third of the U.S. population, look for the NFL to either make another rule change in favor of offenses or call more penalties on defensive backs next season.

-Seattle safety Kam Chancellor appeared wobbly after making a special teams tackle. After the way they handled WR-KR Percy Harvin in the divisional playoff, it seems the Seahawks have their own set of concussion protocols. 

Earl Myers is a freelance writer from the Philadelphia area.  He closely follows North America's four major sports leagues but just about any sporting event gets his attention.  His goal is to provoke a little thought in his readers.

Contact Earl at emyersiii@hotmail.com

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Manning photo: USAToday.com