Column: Welcome back Peyton, we missed you
Published: Monday, September 10, 2012
Updated: Monday, September 10, 2012 23:09
You never know how much you miss something until it is gone. Last season, the NFL went an entire year without Peyton Manning playing. On Sunday, we were reminded how much he was missed last year.
The four-time MVP, former Super Bowl champion and future hall of fame quarterback was sidelined for all of the 2011 season due to a neck injury. In a season where quarterbacks ruled as Drew Brees, Tom Brady and Matthew Stafford all exceeded 5,000 passing yards, Manning was sorely missed.
Now he’s changed his scenery from Indianapolis to Denver, trading in the blue and white for orange and blue. Although a lot has changed, two things have not: his number and the way he plays football. In his debut against Pittsburgh, where he beat the Steelers 31-19, he looked like vintage Manning.
In his first scoring drive for the Broncos, it looked like he had not skipped a beat. The drive, which ended in a seven-yard touchdown run from Knowshon Moreno, was a 12 play drive for 80 yards over a 4:24 span. During the drive, Manning completed six of seven passes for 63 passing yards and added a seven-yard run. He made it look effortless the way he moved down the field.
Manning, the seasoned veteran and master play caller, switched to a no huddle offense during that drive. This became the turning point in the game for the Broncos offense as they would score touchdowns on their next three consecutive drives.
On his second scoring drive, Manning gave the fans a bit of NFL history, becoming the third quarterback ever to throw for 400 touchdowns. On his second snap in the third quarter Manning hit receiver Demaryius Thomas with a 71-yard touchdown pass. The 36-year-old quarterback looked like a kid again as he ran up the field to celebrate with his new team. It was a wonderful moment that reminds us why sports are so great.
Manning joins both Dan Marino and Brett Favre in the 400 club. It took Marino 227 games and took Favre 228, it took Manning only 208 games. He also did it in the least amount of pass attempts with 7,226. His first 399 touchdowns were all with the Colts. He finished the game 19 for 26 with 253 passing yards and two touchdowns.
There’s something special about watching him play because Manning can run an offense like no other. It is like a conductor orchestrating a symphony as he directs his offense on the field. He is very methodical in his approach. Every move is calculated after observing the defense and no throw is without a purpose. He’s calm and collected and makes it look easy. Manning has been able to maintain that his entire career and even after missing all of last season with four neck surgeries, it looks like he will be able to keep that play up.
The best part about watching Manning work is the chess game he plays with the other team. Once he switched the offense to no huddle he was able to take complete control of the game and that is where the fun started. As he lined up for the snap, Manning surveyed the field, diligently studying the defense until he figured out the play. Once he knew what the Steelers were going to do, he called it out to his offense and switched his play accordingly.
The most entertaining part of that was not just Manning’s mastery of the football, but the frustration he caused for the Steelers defense. Manning spent a majority of the second and fourth quarter calling out Troy Polamalu’s blitzes and covers and the Steelers’ safety was furious. Polamalu looked like a caged animal out in the middle of the field stomping around angrily as he was clearly frustrated by Manning calling out what he was going to do.
Manning is special. His high football IQ combined with his ability to control the play clock is truly something to be in awe of. Not once in the game did Manning look out of place. He was not perfect, but he was close. It was not his best game ever, but it was one of the best ones to watch. It has been 611 long days since we saw him play last, and I did not realize how much I missed him until Sunday night.
Thank you, Peyton Manning; football missed you.