published Tuesday, February 4th, 2014

Greeson: Peyton Manning's great season swallowed in super beatdown

Denver Broncos' Peyton Manning walks off the field after the NFL Super Bowl XLVIII football game against the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday, Feb. 2, 2014, in East Rutherford, N.J. The Seahawks won 43-8.
Denver Broncos' Peyton Manning walks off the field after the NFL Super Bowl XLVIII football game against the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday, Feb. 2, 2014, in East Rutherford, N.J. The Seahawks won 43-8.
Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

It was complete and thorough and overwhelming. From the start -- that brutally foretelling safety on Denver's first play when the snap sailed over Peyton Manning's head -- it was clear Seattle was the better team in Sunday's Super Bowl.

The final score was 43-8 and it seemed worse than that, as it was clear which team was better from front to back and, in terms of a dynamic defense built from the secondary forward, from back to front.

It was all Seattle, and the only question was whether this Super Bowl super beatdown would be historic. It wasn't -- Denver lost 55-10 to San Francisco many moons ago -- but the layers and pieces of this drubbing were confusing only because they were so clear.

Is Manning the best ever? Forty-eight hours ago we would abide that notion, but now it's hard to see because that argument seems dimmed. This game will be part of his legacy for sure. It's not the first chapter, but in his season for the ages the final verse was a disaster. Imagine reading a classic -- a page-turner that is both extraordinarily well-written and amazingly entertaining -- and you get to the final chapter, and the last page says ...

Chapter 19 -- Everyone dies. The end.

That's what we are faced with in gauging Manning's run this year in particular and his career in general. Sure, every Broncos player was part of this debacle, but with the praise of a place in history comes the pause of historic placement.

In truth, the unbelievability of this game is a mirrored image of Manning's unbelievable career. His numbers, his grace, his presence and his precision have been a joy to watch, but as eye-popping as his numbers have been, he has only one Super Bowl title and he is 11-12 in the postseason. Confounding, no?

Now try this: What are the championship memories of the great quarterbacks?

Collectively, we as football fans are sad that Dan Marino never got one. We are thankful Brett Favre got his one and John Elway finally got help to get his two. We are optimistic that Tom Brady may join the four-timer club, and we grow more appreciative of Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw each going 4-0 in the big game, regardless of how talented their teammates were.

But Peyton has only one, and now has two Super Bowl losses. That's surprising and disappointing, much like Sunday's game.

We use the term "legacy" too much. Manning could be back and rewrite that final chapter next year, and that could change the final chapter. And this moment is surely not all on No. 18: In fact, we'd be remiss to ask why the Broncos had so much success all year moving pieces and changing flow and ideas at the line, only to try to line up and go through arguably the best defense in NFL history.

There was very little motion and even less emotion. Did Peyton even yell "Omaha!" once, for crying out loud?

So it goes and so it went, and it likely would not have changed the final outcome if Manning had been the Manning we saw for the last six months or the Manning we all expected to see Sunday night. Seattle was better. Percy Harvin looked like the fastest man on the field. The Seattle defense was a blur and a bully. Heck, the Broncos even managed to shut down Marshawn Lynch and Seattle adapted and overcame. Seattle deserved to win.

But if Manning had been good in defeat, would that have changed the conversation this morning? If he had been great, would it change the tone? Maybe.

But he was neither of those, and while this is one game, it's the one game that will be remembered in his magnificent, record-breaking season. Rightly or wrongly, that's how it always goes -- in the best season of all time and in the careers of the best ever to play.

Ask Manning's nemeses, the Patriots and quarterback Tom Brady, who a few years ago were on the cusp of football immortality before David Tyree pinned the ball to his helmet and pinched the dreaming New Englanders. Do you remember the glory of that 18-game Patriots streak or do you remember them coming up short in the big one at the end?

Of course you know the answer. It's the same for the Broncos and Manning this time.

And it seems -- not unlike that fateful first snap of Sunday night's beatdown -- that lasting moment remains just out of Manning's reach.

Contact Jay Greeson at jgreeson@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6273. You can listen to "Press Row" with Jay and TFP sports writer David Paschall from 3 to 6 p.m. weekdays on ESPN 105.1 FM or at timesfreepress.com.

about Jay Greeson...

Jay was named the Sports Editor of the Times Free Press in 2003 and started with the newspaper in May 2002 as the Deputy Sports Editor. He was born and raised in Smyrna, Ga., and graduated from Auburn University before starting his newspaper career in 1997 with the Newnan (Ga.) Times Herald. Stops in Clayton and Henry counties in Georgia and two years as the Sports Editor of the Marietta (Ga.) Daily Journal preceded Jay’s ...

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