Monday, February 8, 2016

Peyton Manning's Last Rodeo

Not a lot of people know this, but before I was a hardcore Patriots fan, I was also a Colts fan. The first football game I vividly remember is the 2005-2006 Divisional Playoff game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Indianapolis Colts (Disclaimer: I didn't write the following from memory). Peyton Manning still hadn't made it to a Super Bowl, and this was his best shot to do so: the Colts were the #1 AFC seed for the first time in the Manning era. The Pittsburgh Steelers were the #6 seed, and before this game no #6 seed had beaten a #1 seed, so I think everyone was pretty shocked when the Steelers took a 21-3 lead into the fourth quarter. I for sure was upset. The Colts scored two touchdowns in the fourth to close the gap 21-18 but it was too little too late until Jerome Bettis fumbled the ball at the goal line with less than a minute to go (Now this, I remember). The Colts recovered the ball and were on their way to scoring the go-ahead touchdown when Big Ben Roethlisberger miraculously came from behind and tackled Nick Harper at the Colts' 42-yard line. Nevertheless, the Colts were still alive. After driving 20 more yards, the Colts were in position to send the game into overtime, but the infamous Mike Vanderjagt, who hadn't missed in the playoffs yet, shanked the 47-yard field goal attempt. The Steelers as we all know went on to win the Super Bowl.

The Colts would go on to win the Super Bowl the next year, but my loyalty to the Patriots was solidified in the AFC Championship game when the two teams faced off against each other. It was either Manning or Brady, and sometime on my football journey, I chose Brady and the Patriots. I wouldn't root for Peyton Manning again until today.

I wasn't sure of who to root for at first, the Panthers or the Broncos, in Super Bowl 50. A part of me wanted to root for the Panthers because a Denver loss would continue to make Brady look better than Manning in terms of Super Bowl Rings (I was still bitter from the previous week's loss), but the emotions surrounding Peyton's supposedly last game got to me (I also thought the team with the better defense should win, but that's another story). He was stuck on 199 wins, one away from setting the record for most wins ever for a quarterback, and I wanted him to get to 200, a nice even number. I wanted him to solidify his legacy. I wanted a fairytale ending because who doesn't? (besides Carolina fans, of course) I wanted him to win because I remembered how funny of a host he was on Saturday Night Live. I remembered how I used to root for him, and if he was going to retire, I wanted him to leave on top, not at the bottom like the Pittsburgh game. 10 years later, I finally got that win from Peyton.