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Sant-Miller: Manning reaches new heights (Oct. 3)

Aaron Sant-Miller | Thursday, October 3, 2013

 

Peyton Manning is just too good.

I know people probably don’t want to hear about this old guy anymore. You can’t turn on ESPN without hearing his name. For goodness sake, Manning even has had his own BottomLine category before. This clown has dominated NFL headlines for 16 seasons. Yet, this year, Manning deserves it more than ever. The man is 37 years old and playing the best football of his life.

No one has ever reveled in Manning’s athleticism or physical gifts. I mean we’re talking about a quarterback who ran a 5.27 second 40-yard dash just last fall. On top of that, since his 35th birthday, Manning has had four neck surgeries and a spinal fusion surgery. However, it would be hard to argue that there is a better player in professional sports right now.

If you haven’t heard, Manning is averaging four passing touchdowns a game, has yet to throw an interception and is completing 75 percent of his passes. I guess it’s pretty impressive when you lead the NFL in every major passing statistic.

This is a man who, for years, has won on the back of his unbelievable knowledge of the game, coupled with a vicious work ethic. In Indianapolis, before a game with suspect weather conditions, Manning would practice taking snaps while, in full uniform, a shower poured water over him. Manning would also soak both of his hands and practice footballs in ice water so that they were cold and numb when he practiced before a cold weather game. 

Known to call his own plays throughout his career, Manning probably says more in one pre-snap audible than New England’s Bill Belichick does in a season’s worth of postgame interviews. It is impossible to talk about any player having a high football IQ without thinking of Peyton Manning. For goodness sake, the man pretty much invented the term. So, at 37, with a deteriorating body, Manning’s brain and wisdom continue to dominate the game. 

After only one full season in Denver, Manning has completely rewritten the Broncos offensive culture. On Sunday, Manning and Co. absolutely dominated the flashy Philadelphia Eagles in a 52-20 rout. Following the game, starting wide receiver Eric Decker spoke with Sports Illustrated’s Peter King.

“I think a big part of it is we all want to win for this guy,” Decker said. “The line plays like, ‘Don’t let Peyton get hit.’ The receivers are like, ‘Run that route exactly the way it should be run.’ I also think it has to do with our expectations. Even after a game like this, the attitude in the locker room was, ‘That was good, not great.’ That’s Peyton.”

Manning has always demanded more from his teammates. In a league where the best players often make their teammates better, Manning exemplifies this trait.

Every Monday, the Broncos offense gets together, without any coaches, and breaks down the game film. Let me reiterate, this is player-organized and player-run. Would you be shocked if I told you this was started by Manning last fall and that he leads these sessions? I hope not.

Sure, this isn’t an article highlighting some stud player no one knows about. Yeah, I started to write this piece about Tennessee cornerback Alterraun Verner, who is the best defensive back in the NFL through four games. In case you’re wondering, quarterbacks have a combined Passer Rating of 12.9 when throwing at him and he leads the NFL in takeaways. 

That’s a great story. It’s captivating, intriguing and eye-opening. Regardless, the 2013 season has been all about Peyton Manning, especially if you want to talk about impressive performances. Sure, it’s not original or trendy, but it must be talked about. We are witnessing some of the best quarterback play the NFL has ever seen. I couldn’t live with myself if I passed up an opportunity to write about it.

Never in a four-game stretch, throughout his entire 16-year NFL career, has Manning played this well. Not once. It’s not like we’re dealing with a small sample size either; the old man has played in 228 NFL games.

Folks, this greatness in the making. In a sport defined by unbelievable athleticism, Peyton Manning is at the top, leaning on his mind, desire for perfection and work ethic. Watch and pay close attention. Pleasew, for goodness sake, don’t overlook how unique and incredible this season has been, just because he’s Peyton Manning and this is what we’ve come to expect after sixteen seasons.