(SportsNetwork.com) - The script was perfect.
Turned out it was too perfect.
And now 37-year-old Peyton Manning will likely have to withstand another long
offseason hounded by his critics.
Back in MVP form after a bevy of neck surgeries that once threatened his Hall-
of-Fame career, Manning passed for 5,477 yards and 55 touchdowns in 2013, both
NFL single-season records.
He defeated archrival Tom Brady's New England Patriots in the AFC Championship
Game to advance to Super Bowl XLVIII on the field his brother Eli calls home.
Instead of matching Eli's two titles with the New York Giants, the elder
Manning watched as his third Super Bowl appearance turned nightmarish, ending
in a 43-8 loss to the Seattle Seahawks.
"It's not an easy pill to swallow," Manning said. "I don't know if you ever
really get over it."
The first mistake came just 12 seconds into the game when Denver center Manny
Ramirez snapped the ball over Manning's head as he stepped up to the line of
scrimmage. Replays showed Manning was surprised by the snap, which ended up in
the end zone for a Seattle safety and the earliest points ever scored in 48
"For whatever reason," Manning said, "we couldn't get it started after that."
Indeed, it got worse.
Manning threw a pair of interceptions in the first half, leading to 14 Seattle
points. The second one was returned 69 yards for a touchdown by the game's
MVP, Malcolm Smith.
It was the second pick-six in a Super Bowl for Manning, who also threw one in
Super Bowl XLIV that Tracy Porter returned 74 yards for a score.
By halftime, Seattle led 22-0.
Manning was 17-of-23 for 104 yards in the first half.
It was the largest deficit at the break Denver faced all season and the only
time the Broncos didn't score in a half. The Broncos only generated 11 yards
of offense in a shockingly ineffective first quarter for the NFL's highest-
scoring offense of all time.
Manning became the first quarterback to register 12 losses in the postseason
(11-12). He has eight one-and-done appearances in the playoffs, including last
year in the divisional round when the top-seeded Broncos fell to eventual
Super Bowl champion Baltimore in double-overtime.
After winning his record fifth NFL MVP award, Manning finished 34-of-49 for
280 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions against the Seahawks.
Manning bristled at the notion the game was embarrassing, saying the Broncos
simply ran into "a great football team."
"I think we needed to play really well to win," he said, "and we didn't come
anywhere close to that."
Manning reportedly will undergo a physical in the coming weeks that will go a
long way in determining if he returns for another NFL season.
After Sunday's game, the 2014 season can't come soon enough for him.
The Sports Network