Peyton Versus His Past

Broncos-Colts is the game of the weekend. How will Peyton Manning play against his ex-team, in his former home? Plus, 10 more storylines to watch in Week 7

Peyton Manning spent 14 seasons with the Colts. In his second year with the Broncos, the veteran quarterback is paying a visit to his former home. (Getty Images/2)
Peyton Manning spent 14 seasons with the Colts. In his second year with the Broncos, the veteran quarterback is paying a visit to his former home. (Getty Images)

There is only one game this weekend, one game that will draw every football-loving eye in America to it Sunday night: Denver Broncos at Indianapolis Colts. And some non-football eyes too, because Americans just love seeing drama, and Revenge on ABC and The Good Wife on CBS won’t cut it. (Maybe Boardwalk Empire on HBO, but that’s why man created DVRs.)

Eyes will be on Colts owner Jim Irsay, who threw a Molotov cocktail on the emotions of Peyton Manning this week for suggesting the organization is more smartly run and better built without the financial anchor of a veteran franchise quarterback. Irsay also pointed out that Manning’s Colts were one-and-done in seven of 11 playoff years.

Eyes will be on the emotional Manning, who admitted this week he didn’t know how he’d react when he stepped on the field in The House That Peyton Built. (And if you think that storyline is overplayed—that Manning is the key reason Lucas Oil Stadium exists—I can tell you you’re crazy. Manning, and the success he keyed for a decade in Indianapolis, was the driving force behind the Colts getting their glitzy palace.)

More on Manning’s Return

A Colts fan still has her Manning jersey, up in her closet next to her wedding dress. Who’s she rooting for on Sunday?

 

Andrew Brandt considers how the league would have looked if Peyton Manning hadn’t picked Denver.

 

Andy Benoit analyzes Denver-Indy, a matchup of the two best quarterbacks in the league. Yup, Andrew Luck is already that good.

 

Video: Peter King on the relationship between Luck and Manning.

 

Eyes will be on the moments. There are very few electric times in sports that you desperately want to see. No, HAVE to see. But Manning running onto the field, Manning during the in-stadium tribute (which is supposed to be a doozy), Irsay looking down from his box, crying people in the stands, scanning the stands for orange Manning jerseys, the occasional shot of Andrew (A Mellower Peyton Junior) Luck, and the game … I mean, this won’t be a singular moment you have to see. It’s 3 hours and 15 minutes of them. Woe be to FOX if there’s a Game 7 in the ALCS. The ratings would be swell in Boston and Detroit, but anywhere else? A very, very bad night for baseball drama, or any drama.

I’ve tried to think back at some of the great regular-season games in recent seasons. Denver and New England in Manning’s first post-Denver game against Tom Brady last year was good, but the Broncos and Patriots were both 2-2, so the event was fun but not must-see. Cowboys-Giants for the playoff spot to end 2011 was good. Lots of games end up being ridiculously good (Pack 51, Cards 45, 2009 Wild Card; Steelers 37, Pack 36 in 2009; the Denver-Dallas 99-pointer this month), but really … What game of recent vintage matches this one for story and football appeal?

“There’s gonna be a lot of weird feelings in the crowd Sunday night, I can promise you that,” said Jim Sorgi, the former Manning backup with the Colts who now is their radio color man. “The emotion will be raw. I went to my son’s football game [in Indianapolis] the other day and found at least one mom who is going to be rooting for Peyton in this game [and not the Colts]. You’ll see some Peyton 18 jerseys in orange in the crowd. That’s because there’s still so much allegiance to the man who made us an NFL powerhouse.”

Sorgi is uniquely qualified to talk about Manning and Luck. How are they the same? How are they different?

“Their playing styles are different,” Sorgi said. “But the coaches tell me they’re checking now [changing plays] as much as they checked when Peyton played. No one studies like Peyton. But Andrew works very hard at it, too. What I really love about both of them is they never let one series affect the next one. When the series is over, no matter whether it ends in a touchdown, a punt or a turnover, they don’t care; it’s on to the next one. And the nine fourth-quarter comebacks by Andrew—who does that remind you of?”

Sunday Slate

Wanna go beyond the obvious storylines? Andy Benoit takes a deep dive to preview Week 7's games.

The added bonus to this: Luck loved Manning as a kid. In eighth and ninth grade, Luck went to the Manning Passing Academy in Louisiana, just hoping some of Peyton’s greatness would rub off on him. Apparently it did. Luck won’t be as emotional about this game as Manning will be. Who knows—that could end up being an edge.

“But,” said Sorgi, “knowing Peyton, at kickoff, all the other stuff will be gone, and he will have only one thing in mind—getting to 7-0 with the Broncos. I have never in my life seen any outside thing get in the way of football with him. But again, that seems to be the same with Andrew. He just plays, and he doesn’t let anything distract him either.”

I like Denver, but not for any reasons of vengeance. It’s just football. Manning’s playing better than any quarterback right now. And with Von Miller coming back from his six-game suspension this week, the Colts are going to have do things differently than the previous six Denver opponents did. In the wild 51-48 game, the Cowboys played with an empty backfield on 19 snaps. No way the Colts can do that now. They’ll have to keep an extra tight end or back in to account for the rangy Miller. And not only is Miller a terrific pass rusher, he’s also a great quarterback spy. Look for Denver to have figured out when Luck is most likely to abandon the pocket, and watch for Miller to wait cagily for Luck to make his move.

This is going to be an electric night and a very fun game. Thanks to Irsay’s words and the reverberations in two cities, the theater might be as good as the game.

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13 comments
boblynchlaw
boblynchlaw

No wonder Peyton and the Colts lost all those playoff games with Irsay as their owner. Poor Luck.

TigerFrankBurris
TigerFrankBurris

I would advise Rex to see if he could do something about that Brady guy while he’s at it.

Crybaby Brady averages 1.5 TD per game and  241.4 yards per game against the Jets in 22 career games, she wasn't exactly speculator in their previous meeting this year either. 


SusanCorenflos
SusanCorenflos

It's Ok for the media to say Peyton's the best regular season quarterback ever, but he can't win in the playoffs, yet it's not okay for  the owner to say he is changing his model a bit to become more balanced because we only won one SB during all those winning seasons.  .  He has been saying this since he hired Grigson, so there was nothing new here and he said it this time 4 weeks ago but they didn't print it until this week because of the game.   So there was no intent to mess with Peyton or any other things he's being accused of.   I think cutting Peyton was the hardest thing Indy and Irsay have ever gone though.  I think Irsay really cares about not only Peyton but all his players.  He does great things for people to help when they need it.  I really wish the media had not made a deal out of nothing especially when the media has said the very same thing all along.  They have ruined what will most likely be Peyton's last game in LOS. A chance for us to say goodbye and wish him well.   They could have created something else to hype this game instead of making Indy look bad.

And all those Denver fans have to realize if not for the Irsay family they would never of had Peyton or Elway so they owe their football lives to the Irsay family.  They sound a little bit ungrateful to me.

WCoastPro
WCoastPro

After reading this article I am less excited to see the Sunday night game than before. It is after all on NBC - the writer's employer - and if it's going to be 3 hours of Manning this and Manning that I'll just as soon follow online. The Dungy bit at the half will be cringe inducing.

jhymas25
jhymas25

"Just not an electric back in the league so far."

LeSean McCoy is on pace for almost 1700 yards rushing (on a 5 yards per carry) and 600+ yards receiving. On top of that you will see him make more people miss than any back in football right now. I know we may not see another 2000 yard rusher this year, but that is pretty typical. If McCoy isn't an electric back this year I'm not sure what we should be looking for. Perhaps Mr. King just doesn't get around to watching the Eagles play. 


Joe R2
Joe R2

Peter King can hardly contain himself right now.  He is counting down the minutes to Sunday night....."Manning Irsay Manning Irsay Manning Irsay Manning Irsay Manning Irsay...."  HIs head might possibly blow up before the game...

Phroggo
Phroggo

Brett Favre returning to Lambeau Field with the Vikings was must-see TV.

RandallAllen
RandallAllen

"(Pack 51, Cards 45, 2009 Wild Card"  Really?  I know the Cards caught lightning in a bottle for a couple of years and the Packers have been consistently good but the Cardinals really did win that game, 51-to-45.  Correction, please?

Phroggo
Phroggo

@SusanCorenflos  

Good point, Susan, about the Irsays supplying Denver with a couple of mighty fine quarterbacks.  Without Elway there would be no Lombardi trophies in Denver.

SportPage
SportPage

@WCoastPro Although King does work for several companies, his main employment is Sports Illustrated, not NBC.

RoyalClough
RoyalClough

@RandallAllen The days of proof reading for corrections is long past. Its an issue with all publications these days, don't know if it's a lack of personnel or just pure laziness.

CoreyLivermore
CoreyLivermore

@RandallAllen Yeah, the Cards won that game.  With Karlos Dansby's hand all over Rodgers' face mask in front of the referee.

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