I've read several columns by bona-fide sports journalists (a club to which I do not belong, though I am a journalist in another milieu) breaking down the Broncos' loss in Super Bowl 48 (enough with the stupid Roman numerals already). I've read one account that said Peyton Manning "looked like he was getting older by the second." I've read several that brought up this stupid "legacy" issue and laid the blame for the loss entirely on Manning's shoulders.
I guess I watched a different game, then, because that's not what I saw. Here are my observations about the Broncos and how they played in Super Bowl 48.
- Manning threw for a record number of completions. On several designed roll-outs, he ably moved out of the pocket, planted his feet and threw with authority. That doesn't strike me as a quarterback who was looking old and tired. Personally, while I don't think Manning looked his best (it looked to me like he had the flu or something, to be honest), he certainly didn't play like a washed-up has-been.
- Manning threw two interceptions. Well, sure, that's bad in a Super Bowl. I've watched 45 of the 48 great games, and I always say Super Bowls are won and lost on turnovers. You have to play near-perfect football at the big show. That said, only one of Manning's interceptions could rightfully be credited to him. The other occurred on a deflection. I don't think you can ding him for that one. Ditto the fumble.
- Poor coaching decisions contributed to the loss. That onside kick? Really? When your defense has shown it cannot stop the opponent's offense? Why not kick it out of the endzone, force the opponent to start on its own 20 and hope your D can make a third-down stop before the offense reaches field goal range -- instead of almost certainly giving them the ball right at midfield with an onside kick? Onside kicks have about a 20% success rate (recovery by the kicking team). That was a boneheaded decision by Fox, if you ask me.
- Poor tackling. It's difficult to say "poor" tackling when tackling was nearly non-existent. Seriously, when FIVE defensive players hit an opponent and don't bring him down -- that's embarrassing. The entire Broncos defense should be embarrassed. Period.
- Speaking of the defense: Champ Bailey, I love you. I've always been a huge fan. But the sad truth is you are unable to compete at an elite level anymore. Ditto DRC. You both need to retire and allow the Broncos to get some young, fast, fired-up players into those key positions.
- Horrific special teams play. There's just nothing positive that can be said about the special teams. The coach should be sacked. Period.
On the plus side: The offensive line did a fair job protecting Manning. It wasn't the line's best play of the year, but it certainly wasn't their worst. Just one sack allowed.Edited to more clearly reflect my original intent: The offensive line didn't play as shitty as I had expected they would. For me, that was a plus. ~LL
Bottom line: I don't pin this loss on Manning. If one player alone can be responsible for a Super Bowl loss, then shouldn't it be Manny Ramirez for the game-starting safety? How about pinning this on Demaryius Thomas for allowing himself to be stripped of the ball? The truth is football is a team sport. The entire team lost this game, and the entire team gets the blame.