The Denver Broncos have announced that Peyton Manning will return as their starting quarterback for their January 17 playoff appearance, according to Yahoo Sports. Manning hadn’t been the starter since November 15 after a lackluster performance and a foot injury.
The Broncos had turned to inexperienced quarterback Brock Osweiler to take over for Manning. Although Osweiler’s performance was at times as undependable as Manning’s, it was Peyton’s resilience in sealing the win over the San Diego Chargers, combined with Brock’s two interceptions and fumble on Sunday, that helped Broncos’ coach Gary Kubiak make the decision as to which quarterback would be under center after their first-week bye. In the end, Kubiak opted for Manning’s experience as a NFL record setting five-time MVP.
To say the 39-year-old Peyton Manning has struggled this season is an understatement. Manning, a seasoned quarterback and Super Bowl winner with the Colts, has thrown 17 interceptions in total, 13 of those prior to even tearing his plantar fascia. Following his struggle against the Chiefs in Week 10, in which Manning threw four interceptions, Peyton found himself replaced in favor of the inexperienced Brock Osweiler.
According to ESPN, Kubiak has stated that Manning would return to the helm when he was healthy enough to do so, blaming many of Peyton’s struggles on the fact that he was playing injured. Kubiak’s announcement of utilizing Manning, a quarterback familiar with the pressure of the playoffs, shouldn’t have come as a surprise, but it also may not make Broncos fans feel any better about their odds.
Manning’s completion rate coming into the playoffs is only 59.8 with a little over 2,200 total yards in 10 games, according to the NFL. Brock Osweiler’s completion rate is only slightly better at 61.8, proving what critics have lamented all along: The Broncos have been relying more on the defense than Manning or Osweiler to get the job done.
While it seems Manning would be the obvious choice based on his experience in the post season, Broncos fans might feel a little nervous about Peyton’s return. They likely remember the ill-fated first play of Super Bowl XLVIII in which Peyton missed the hike from the center, resulting in a safety for the Seahawks. The miss by Manning set the tone for the entire Super Bowl, and the Broncos were demolished 43-8.
The fact of the matter is that many people are questioning whether Peyton Manning has surpassed his prime and has the ability to carry off another Super Bowl win. An ESPN article from September discussed the physical toll that playing the sport has taken on Manning’s body over the years. In vivid detail, the reporter discusses the difficulty in which Peyton struggles with simply getting undressed after a game.
“It takes Peyton Manning 15 minutes to shed his suit of armor after a game. He begins with his cleats, which he can barely untie without assistance. A Broncos equipment staffer helps peel them off his feet while he does a radio interview, because after nearly 25 years of football dating back to high school, it’s a relief to not have to bend over that far.”
While in seasons past Peyton has been able to overcome the physical limitations including recovery from neck surgery, Manning’s retirement could be imminent based on his difficulty in leading the Broncos this year.
Perhaps the past several weeks of rest are just what Peyton Manning has needed to play the post season of his life and Manning’s experience and tenacity will shine through. Only time will tell.
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