DENVER - The Peyton Manning playoff narrative has been drilled into our heads over and over by the talking heads in the media.
You've heard it all before. Peyton Manning can't win the big one. He melts down in the playoffs. Bottom line: when the chips are down, Manning folds.
There's a glaring hole in this narrative, however. Manning has won a Super Bowl. He has taken a team all the way.
That's a little inconvenient for that argument, no? Manning has a Super Bowl ring.
He took the Colts back to the Super Bowl 3 years later. Super Bowl XLIV. And this time is was against the team he grew up rooting for; the New Orleans Saints.
It was a close game until Manning threw a pick-6 to Tracy Porter in the 4th quarter that put the game out of reach.
And following 4 neck surgeries and a grueling rehab and recovery, inexplicably, Manning not only broke, or tied, every major single-season passing record in 2013, throwing for 55 touchdowns and 5,477 yards, but he also led his 2nd franchise, the Denver Broncos, to his 3rd Super Bowl start.
Quite remarkable, isn't it? The Broncos won 2 playoff games last year. But they probably shouldn't have.
By the time the Broncos made it to the Super Bowl to take on the Seahawks, the team was missing 5 starters on defense, including All-Pro linebacker, Von Miller, and 1 on offense; namely, their All-Pro left tackle, Ryan Clady.
It was literally a case of the walking wounded. The mere fact that Manning was able to get over the hump and defeat his arch-nemesis, Tom Brady, and the New England Patriots, in the AFC Championship game, almost defies belief.
But he did it. And he's been doing such things throughout his career. Many of the Colts teams he took to the post-season, by all rights, didn't deserve to be there.
But like his boss, John Elway, the sheer excellence of Manning's leadership and play, covers a lot of holes. Elway quarterbacked 3 Broncos teams to the Super Bowl in the 1980s, only to be dismantled in humiliating fashion in the big game.
A once-in-a-generation player can overcome a lot of obstacles, but eventually, those chickens, born of a deficient roster, come home to roost.
And that's what happened last February. Can you imagine how just having Von Miller could have altered the scope of that game? Would it have been enough to pull out the win? I don't know.
But I do know that he would have made a difference. Listen, I know that the NFL regular season is a long, drawn out war of attrition, and all teams must run that gauntlet. But missing 6 starters in the biggest game of the season is going to come out in the wash.
Since the Broncos began the 2014 season in earnest, the team has been randomly shouting "35"!
43-8; a 35-point deficit. As much as the fans would like to forget what happened on February 2nd, the Broncos don't want to let it go.
They are reminding themselves daily of that ignoble number. 35. And now, as the team gears up to launch their new season, they have reloaded the roster.
They have set their sights on the ultimate prize. And as the Baltimore Ravens found out last year, on opening night, revenge is a dish best served cold.
Alas for Colts fans that they must be the first patrons to be served such a meal. But someone's gotta do it. And the Sheriff wants one other record. A record held by only one other QB, Brett Favre. The distinction of having defeated each of the 32 teams in the NFL.
The Colts are the only team left that he hasn't defeated. But Peyton Manning is ready to exorcise his Super Bowl demons. And that particular ritual begins tomorrow night, before all the world, on Sunday Night Football.
You can find Chad Jensen on Twitter @CJ_Broncos.