NEW ORLEANS -- Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning didn't win the NFL's Most Valuable Player or Offensive Player of the Year award -- both of those went to Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson -- but there could be little doubt that Manning's comeback from a lost 2011 season and several neck surgeries over the last few years was one of the most impressive feats in recent league history. Those in charge of deciding such things agreed, as Manning won the Comeback Player of the Year award on Saturday.
The four-time MVP switched teams from the Indianapolis Colts prior to the 2012 season, signing a five-year, $96 million contract in March of last year. Many thought that the 15-year veteran was done after four surgeries and a nerve impingement in his throwing shoulder, but the future Hall-of-Famer proved the doubters wrong.
Manning had one of his best season in a career full of them, completing 400 passes in 583 attempts for 4,659 yards, 37 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions. He had more touchdowns and fewer interceptions than in his last full season of 2010, and he took a young and improving offense to entirely new heights.
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The Broncos had two receivers with over 1,000 yards in 2012 -- Demaryius Thomas with 1,434 yards, and Eric Decker with 1,064 -- and the Broncos came up just short of advancing to the AFC Championship game in a 38-35 double overtime loss to the Baltimore Ravens in the divisional round. After that tough defeat, Manning said that he's ready to do it all over again.
"I accomplished a lot more this year than I certainly thought that I would have personally," he reflected. "I think this team exceeded its expectations as well. We really didn’t know what to expect from this team. A lot of new players, it’s hard to form chemistry when you have new players and a new team in such a short period of time and we did that. We did some really good things and so this one’s, it’s a hard one to swallow but you certainly give credit to Baltimore. We’ll deal with the future as it comes about, but I’m certainly proud of this team and what this team went through to get to this point. I really appreciate the efforts of so many guys and the coaches.”
Broncos head coach John Fox, who has seen a lot in his long career, hadn't encountered anything quite like Manning's determination and will to succeed.
“As I have mentioned many times, what he has done, to be coming off that kind of rehab, that type of injury at his position in a new city with a new team is unprecedented," Fox said in late December. "Historical would be the word I would use.”
We would concur. And in a career that may see him go down as the greatest quarterback in NFL history, Manning outdid even himself in the 2012 season.
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