Originally posted on Football Nation  |  Last updated 9/10/12

We all wondered, so did Broncos President John Elway, head coach John Fox and his dad, Archie Manning. Is it gone? Did he lose the magic? For thirteen years, Peyton Manning spoiled us. As quarterback for the Indianapolis Colts, he helped create a dynasty. In those thirteen years, the Colts made the playoffs eleven times. They won their division eight times , made it to the AFC championship game three times and advanced to the Super Bowl twice, winning once, in Dolphin Stadium at Super Bowl XLI.

Then, something happened. The NFL’s new “Ironman” got injured.  Manning missed all of the 2011 season after electing to have neck surgery to alleviate lingering neck pain and arm weakness. His streak of 227 consecutive starts, including the playoffs, was broken.  

Many players, with all his accomplishments and storied career, may have decided to retire. Yet, that mentality did not get Manning to where he is today. He rehabbed, trained but most importantly, he rested. After playing 17 seasons of college and NFL football, Manning was hurt and tired.

The Colts suffered without him. With a menagerie of quarterbacks, they could only manage a 2-14 record. With their outstanding lack of success, the Colts were awarded the first pick of the 2012 NFL draft. Colts owner, Jim Irsay, couldn’t resist the young quarterback from Stanford University, Andrew Luck. Luck was the hottest prospect coming out of college, since Peyton Manning himself.

Irsay was greedy; he wanted to catch lightning in a bottle twice. He probably figured it worked in the past, why wouldn’t it now. So, on March 7, 2012, Irsay did the unthinkable: he cut the NFL’s only 4-time MVP winner. Some fans scream fouled, while others were eager to usher in the “Luck” era.

Meanwhile, somewhere in Denver, Elway was seen jumping over the moon. Elway was never bashful with his praise for Manning. As soon as he could, Elway began to court Manning like a bunch of adolescents in the 1960’s. He shopped around his current fling, Tim Tebow, to the would be suitors. Elway was never fond of Tebow and that was evident as well. On March 20, the Broncos signed Manning to a five-year contract worth $96 million, and the next day, shipped Tebow and a 7th round pick to the New York Jets in exchange for the Jets’ 4th and 6th round picks. Elway got the quarterback he always wanted.

So, here we were watching the most eagerly anticipated first quarter of this NFL’s opening week games, but something was off. On his first three drives, against the visiting Pittsburgh Steelers, Manning was not the quarterback we all knew. The Broncos managed only 49 yards on 17 plays, complete with two punts and one lost fumble by running back Willis McGahee.

The tension was palpable in the stadium, but then it happened. His first drive of the second quarter was classic Manning. He led the Broncos 80 yards on 12 plays, going 6 of 7 for 54 yards, a drive that was capped with a 7-yard touchdown run by running back Knowshon Moreno.

He wasted no time on the Bronco’s first possession of the second half either. After he completed a 9-yard completion to wide out Eric Decker, his next pass was a 71-yard completion to wide out Demaryius Thomas that went the distance.

Throughout the game, Elway, Fox and Archie were in a state of euphoria, as Manning continued to call out coverages and blitzes and change the Broncos’ offensive scheme on the fly. After he took a knee on the last play of the night, it was clear: Peyton Manning is back. He finished the game 19 of 26 for 253 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions.

Broncos’ fans are thrilled for the future, Colts’ fans are stuck to wallow in the past. One team’s trash had turned into another’s treasure. Someone should try and find Colts Owner Jim Irsay and tell him he was wrong and greedy; lightning doesn’t always strike twice.


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