With all the talk about matchups, it may come down to something as simple as this — Peyton Manning will “will” the Denver Broncos to victory.
Plain and simple.
I have acknowledged as much as anyone how good Seattle’s defense is. Heck, they may even have the best defensive player in the NFL not named J.J. Watt in safety Earl Thomas. They may have the best collection of defensive backs in the league, as well as a ferocious front seven that can get after the quarterback.
But they don’t have number 18.
I think Manning makes that big of a difference, and you might point to his previous playoff experience and say, “Well he lost to this team,” or, “He lost to that team in that climate with these stats,” but you would be missing everything that has happened THIS season.
This season is different. Peyton Manning is different. There’s something to be said about the job he’s done with the Denver Broncos this year. There is a sense for this Denver Broncos team that just getting to this game isn’t good enough, and putting up a fight against Seattle just isn’t good enough.
The Broncos are considered a ‘finesse’ team which couldn’t be further from the truth. Denver is as good after contact as any team you will ever scout, and believe you me there’s going to be plenty of contact.
Guys obviously need to do their jobs. Players can’t drop punts at the five yard line. Guys can’t get holding penalties or false start penalties on third down. But the Broncos don’t have to play a flawless game to win. That’s where Manning comes in.
More than any other time I can ever remember in sports, this player has carried his team to heights no one ever thought they could reach.
All-Pro left tackle goes down in a week two blowout? No problem.
All-Pro defensive player of the year candidate and the best pass rusher on the team suspended for six games, then blows out his knee? No problem.
Star players dropping faster than Broncos returners have dropped punts this year? No problem.
Nothing, and I’m telling you NOTHING has phased Peyton Manning this season. You could say he’s a “Mann on a mission,” but that would be too lame to describe the awesomeness of the season that has been for Manning and the Denver Broncos.
Just getting to the game simply will not do. The Broncos have to win it, they have to win it now, and they will. They will because of Peyton’s will. The will of a guy who can quite literally bring his team out of any adversity, out of any quicksand situation.
The heroics have been there. The signature plays have been there. If that 3rd-and-17 a few weeks ago didn’t show you how determined Manning is to get this one, if the statement win at home over arch nemesis New England didn’t hammer this thing home for you, then perhaps a big time win in the Super Bowl will.
This is Manning’s year. The neck surgeries, the change of scenery, being cut by the team that he poured his life into–it’s all boiled down to this game. This game against Seattle. A game that you can bet Manning wants more than any game he’s wanted in a long, long time.
The loss to Baltimore still stings. Watching them hoist that Lombardi Trophy has been enough motivation for the Broncos to get this job done. And that’s exactly what they’ll do on Sunday, if for no other reason than the guy with the red mark on his forehead. The guy who prepares harder than any player in the league. The guy who throws ducks.
The guy who came to Denver to accomplish the ultimate goal.