With six minutes left in his Super Bowl nightmare, Peyton Manning sits meekly on the Denver bench, quietly watching his time tick away. Peyton's helmet is still on, but all his fight is long gone.
In the biggest game of all, with a grand chance to cement a legacy that Tom Brady could never touch, Peyton Manning chokes. It's an ugly word. But it's also the undeniable truth.
The Denver Broncos implode — and inflict 43-8 on an unsuspecting America — because Manning seizes up on the monster stage and flings ducks all around his little brother's stadium. The long-feared and vastly over debated cold weather Super Bowl is a near balmy blowout. With the only thing special about Peyton Manning on this Sunday the depth of his dud-dom, the Broncos and competitiveness are both doomed.
Who would have ever thought Tim Tebow would outperform Peyton Manning in Super Bowl XLVIII?
But that's exactly what happens on this Sunday. Tebow's No Contract commercials are the most entertaining thing of the night, easily topping Bruno Mars and the Red Hot Chili Pepper's lame attempt to be edgy by having Anthony Keidis and Flea . . . go shirtless at halftime. Of course, no one comes up as small as Peyton.
"It's not an easy pill to swallow," Manning says in his postgame news conference broadcast live on several networks.
The Broncos are built around Manning orchestrating a fearsome offense. Instead he plays afraid.
Sitting there on a dais, decked out in an expensive, conservative blue suit, Peyton Manning looks like he's just going through the motions. He'll throw out that pill cliche. He'll keep mentioning how the Seattle Seahawks just executed better. He'll try and make it a team thing.
When you're Peyton Manning, it's never just a collective loss though. Peyton Manning is this team. The Broncos are built around Manning orchestrating a fearsome offense. Instead he plays afraid. Peyton Manning blinks and bungles away any shot at the championship.
Seattle mocks the Broncos and Manning, only they do it quietly. With Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman — the most interesting man in football — on his best behavior after America lost its mind over him daring to get excited in the vicinity of Erin Andrews, Seattle coach Pete Carroll is the one who attacks.
The Seahawks win the toss, decide to defer and watch the Broncos offense self destruct.
Manning and center Manny Ramirez completely mess up the first offensive snap of the game, leaving Broncos running back Knowshon Moreno falling on the ball in the end zone for a game opening safety. Manning attributes it to "a cadence issue." So much for Omaha.
Still, the Broncos stay close, within one score at 8-0 despite three Seattle scores. Then, Manning throws it all away.
He goes three and out on the Broncos' second possession. Facing another three and out on possession number three, Peyton Manning makes it worse. He air mails a pass way over tight end Julius Thomas on third-and-7 and Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor grabs it for one of the easiest interceptions you'll ever see. Of course, Seattle linebacker Malcolm Smith's enjoys an even easier interception — courtesy of Manning — later and returns it for a Pick 6.
Houston Texans quarterback Matt Schaub couldn't have given that one away any better.
Peyton Manning's New Legacy
How pathetic is Peyton? The Seahawks of Russell Wilson and Percy Harvin rack up nine first downs before the Broncos get a single one. Manning never gives Denver a chance in this game. He's the biggest reason the Super Bowl morphs back into the blowout brigade it was in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
"We expected a great fight," Smith says in an NFL Network set visit. "But we kind of just dominated the game."
That's on Peyton Manning. It turns out Sherman's too kind during the week when he notes that this 37-year-old, surgically-repaired Manning throws a lot of "ducks." Manning's passes in Super Bowl XLVIII are more like sickly baby robins. They don't quack. They barely make a peep.
Who would have ever thought Tim Tebow would outperform Peyton Manning in a Super Bowl?
"To finish that way is special," Wilson tells the Fox cameras. "It's a mindset."
So is throwing up all over yourself on the big stage. Peyton Manning is now an under .500 quarterback (11-12) in the postseason again. He won that one Super Bowl in Indianapolis on the strength of his running game and defense. He lost this one showing surprising little fight.
"We just ran right into a buzz saw," John Fox says in the losing coach's interview. "(Peyton's) disappointed like all of us. He had a tremendous year."
And another horrible finish. The 25-year-old, third round pick quarterback is the one dousing his coach in a Gatorade bath. The Hall of Famer, Chosen One From Day One? He's playing the good sport loser again, shaking everyone's hand as both the executive vice president who brought him to Denver (John Elway) and the little brother with the steelier nerves (Eli Manning) both watch stone faced from suites at Met Life Stadium.
Peyton Manning chokes. And all of America suffers through the boredom of it all.
"What we saw tonight is not good," Deion Sanders says when asked about Manning's legacy after 43-8. "And it started from the first snap . . .
"These guys dominate Peyton Manning in every way. Intellectually, physically and emotionally."
Peyton Manning is meekly beaten down. His time ticking away.