Since Peyton Manning came to the Denver Broncos in March of 2012, he has helped the team rise to heights they haven’t experienced since the hay-day of John Elway and the Super Bowl championship teams of the late ‘90s.
It hasn’t been all smooth sailing. A humiliating Super Bowl loss and two one-and-done Divisional Round playoff losses, have led some of the fanbase to pine for the beginning of the Brock Osweiler era.
However, even at 39-years-old, something tells me we shouldn’t count the Sheriff out quite yet. If the last three years have taught us anything, it’s that Peyton Manning has a penchant for proving his doubters wrong.
Under Manning, the Broncos organization have gone from mediocrity, to America’s Team. He’s won 48 regular season games, losing just 10. He might be 2-3 in the playoffs, but he’s still going. He has time to balance those scales.
Today, we’re taking a look at his top-5 moments as a Bronco. There are a lot to choose from. But we’ve narrowed it down to five. Begin!
No. 5: Comeback On MNF To Beat San Diego
October 15th, 2012 (Week 6).
In Manning’s first season in Denver, there was much uncertainty surrounding his neck and the regeneration, or lack thereof, of the nerves in his throwing arm. Although he won his first start as a Bronco, beating the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 1, he lost three of the next four games.
Going into Week 6, the Broncos sat at 2-3. And they had to travel to San Diego to take on their biggest divisional foe under the bright lights and national spotlight of Monday Night Football. After back-to-back special teams turnovers and a pick-6, the Broncos went into halftime trialing 24-0.
But what transpired in the second half was nothing short of a football miracle, as Manning went 13-of-14 for 167 yards and three touchdowns. He was helped out immensely by the Broncos defense, who forced Phillip Rivers into five second half turnovers but Manning capitalized on each one.
This game was the turning point for Manning and the Broncos. After this game, Manning seemed to fully get his groove and confidence back, playing at a MVP level. Although many would argue he deserved the league MVP award over Adrian Peterson, Manning was honored as the Comeback Player of the Year.
The Broncos went on to an 11-game winning streak, which culminated in not only winning the AFC West, but also the AFC’s No. 1 seed.
No. 4: 509th Career Touchdown Pass
October 19th, 2014 (Week 7).
Against the San Francisco 49ers, Peyton Manning reached an historic milestone last season, passing Brett Favre on the all-time list, when he hit Demaryius Thomas for his 509th career touchdown pass. After the game, Manning shared his thoughts.
”I’ve discussed with some family and friends recently that [I] certainly didn’t think this would even be a possibility a couple of years ago,” Manning said. “I’m really enjoying playing here, playing for this organization.”
Fortunately, the record-breaking milestone was reached in front of the home crowd at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. For those present and even those watching on television, it will be a moment not easily forgotten.
No. 3: Breaks Single Season Touchdown Record
December 22nd, 2013 (Week 16).
Manning is no stranger to the single-season touchdown record. With 49, he broke Dan Marino’s long-standing record back in 2004. But Tom Brady took the record from him in 2007, with 50. However, going into Week 16 in 2013, the stage was set for Manning to get back on top in the record books.
With 4:28 left in the game vs. the Houston Texans, Manning hit tight end Julius Thomas on a 25-yard touchdown pass, giving him the record at 51. He would finish the season with 55—a mark that might never be broken. He also broke the single-season passing yards record, finishing with 5,477.
No. 2: Fifth League MVP Award
For Manning’s efforts in his record-breaking 2013 season, he earned his fifth career award as the National Football League’s Most Valuable Player. With four, he was already the leader in NFL history, and his fifth was icing on the cake.
He led the Broncos to become the most prolific and highest-scoring offense in NFL history, finishing the season with 606 points. The team again finished 13-3, won the AFC West and went into the playoff tournament as the No. 1 seed.
Manning joined John Elway and Terrell Davis as the only Broncos in NFL history to win the league MVP award.
No. 1: Defeats New England In AFC Championship Game
January 19th, 2014.
Peyton Manning might be 5-11 in his career vs. Tom Brady, but because of this game, he’s 2-1 in the AFC Title Game. After all of the hard work Manning and the Broncos put in that season and all of the heights they reached, many doubted whether they could sustain it in the AFC playoffs.
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With Brady and the New England Patriots coming to town, Manning and company would have to dig deep in order to reach Super Bowl XLVIII. The Broncos controlled the clock, keeping Brady on the sidelines for more than 35 minutes of the game.
Manning quietly threw for 400 yards and two touchdowns, leading the Broncos to their eventual 26-16 victory. The Broncos got the lead in the first quarter and would never relinquish it, despite Brady’s attempt to orchestrate a fourth quarter comeback.
Although the team fell short two weeks later on Super Bowl Sunday, this game was particularly sweet for Broncos Country, as the Evil Empire was defeated in front of the home crowd, which led to the organization’s seventh Super Bowl appearance.