SANTA CLARA, Calif. (Feb. 7, 2016) – If this was Peyton Manning’s last rodeo, let history chronicle it as one of the most esteemed players in NFL history going out on top without being on top of his game.
Manning’s contributions to Denver’s 24-10 win over the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50 Sunday at Levi’ Stadium included 141 passing yards, his second-lowest total in 27 postseason games. He failed to throw a touchdown for just the fourth time.
But who cares?
In the Super Bowl’s golden edition, it was Manning hoisting the Lombardi Trophy into the cool evening air with his twins – Marshall and Mosley – tugging at his legs.
It was the 39-year-old Manning, supplanting his boss, John Elway, as the oldest quarterback to win a Super Bowl.
It was Manning notching his 200th overall win, snapping a tie with Brett Favre to become the winningest quarterback in NFL history.
It was Manning becoming the first quarterback to win a Super Bowl with two teams. Surely you remember the first: a 29-17 decision over the Chicago Bears in Super Bowl XLI while serving as the cornerstone of the Indianapolis Colts.
Manning, now 14-13 in the postseason and 2-2 in the league’s preeminent game, was asked how caressing the Lombardi Trophy Sunday night compared with doing it with the Colts Feb. 4, 2007 in South Florida.
“They’re certainly different, but it’s a special feeling,’’ he said. “I certainly know how hard it is to get here. It takes a lot of hard work and you’ve got to have some good fortune.
“We were very grateful to be here and be in this game, play in the 50th Super Bowl, and certainly to be victorious is very special.’’
The overriding question that followed Manning out of the game, though, was whether it was his final game. It’s been widely speculated his 18th season will be his last.
“I don’t know the answer to that,’’ Manning said.
He then shared a conversation he had last week with Tony Dungy, his former coach with the Colts. Dungy retired after the 2008 season even though his team had reached the playoffs for a seventh consecutive season.
“He called me and said, ‘I need to talk with you,’’’ Manning said. “He said he got some good advice from Dick Vermeil and I think maybe Bill Cowher as well about not making emotional decisions one way or the other.
“I thought that was good advice. Kind of let this sink in.’’
During a post-game on-field interview with CBS, Manning emphasized he will “take some time to reflect.”
“I’ve got a couple of priorities first. I want to go kiss my wife and my kids. I want to go hug my family. I’m going to drink a lot of Budweiser tonight, I promise you that.’’
He expanded on that while meeting with the media.
“It’s been an emotional week,’’ Manning said. “It was an emotional night and the night’s just beginning. I look forward to celebrating with my friends and family. I think I’ll take some time after that. I think I’ll enjoy tonight and take it one step at a time.
“I got a chance to talk with the team last night and just kind of thanked them for letting me be a part of the journey. It’s truly been a team effort.’’
No sooner had Manning returned to the Broncos’ locker room than he began sharing the experience with those closest to him.
“I just had a chance to see Eli,’’ he said. “It’s great to be with him, have a moment with him in the locker room. I was in the locker room with him when he won his first Super Bowl and those are special memories.
“Had a chance to see my parents and see Ashley and had a chance to hug my kids. Marshall’s down here chewing gum underneath this podium. To celebrate with your family, with your teammates and with your friends and all of the people who have helped you along the road, I’m very grateful for that.
“I’m proud to be a part of two organizations that have won a Super Bowl. I know how hard it is to do. I’ll make a decision and be at peace with it however it goes.’’