Upon further review, there may actually be some advantages to losing a legendary quarterback and watching your favorite team subsequently fall apart at the seams. When Peyton Manning was released by the Indianapolis Colts last March after a year of fretting over his neck injury, I was not too enthusiastic about the move, even though it meant that Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck would likely be heading to the Circle City. Now though, after a handful of games, Luck has flashed the promise of greatness that so many pundits predicted for him, making me much more optimistic about the team's future. And because Manning chose to sign on with the Denver Broncos rather than another team in the Colts' AFC South, I'm free to root for Number 18 on most weekends, as well. On October 15, Manning made John Elway and the Broncos' brain trust look smart by leading Denver to a comeback win on Monday Night Football after falling 24 points behind the San Diego Chargers at halftime.
Of course, late heroics by Peyton Manning are nothing new to Colts fans, and Elway himself orchestrated some minor miracles during his playing days, but Monday's second half was one for the ages. We can debate from now until the Colts come home whether the Chargers' collapse or the Broncos' comeback was the story of the night, but it will always be a Manning moment for me. After a rough first half, the Broncs rode a slew of Chargers turnover and Manning's steady shoulders to a 14 points in the third quarter. By the nine-minute mark in the fourth, Manning had struck twice more and had Denver up 28-24. When Chris Harris picked off Rivers on the San Diego 46 with a little over two minutes to go, the cornerback decided to end the night, taking it all the way in for a decisive touchdown.
On the night, Manning rang up three touchdowns against one interception and completed a gaudy 80% of his passes. Depending on who you believe, he now has 47 or 48 (or 1000) game-winning drives in the fourth quarter, which belies the notion that he can't win under pressure, prevalent in some circles. We can fuss over the details, though, or we can just enjoy the triumphant return of one of the greatest quarterbacks in league history. I'll take the latter, and I'll continue to root for both the Colts and Broncos for the rest of this year. After all, the teams don't meet during the regular season, and the Colts are unlikely to be competing for a playoff berth as the schedule unfolds.
So, for now at least, it's great to see Manning doing what he does best. Soon it will be Luck's turn.
Adam Hughes was raised, and still lives, in rural Indiana. He has been a Colts fans since the team arrived in Indianapolis on a snowy morning in 1984. The Blue and White eventually replaced the Chicago Bears as his #1 team, and Super Bowl XLI was a dream come true.
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