By Arnie Stapleton
The Associated Press
DENVER — No quarterback has been to the playoffs more than Peyton Manning or experienced more heartache there, either.
Only once in his previous dozen trips to the postseason party has Manning put his fingerprints on the Lombardi Trophy.
His 9-11 postseason record stands in stark contrast to his 167-73 regular season mark and includes eight first-round exits, none more scarring than last year’s AFC Divisional round-home loss to Baltimore as the AFC’s top seed.
He also lost his first playoff game in Indianapolis as the No. 1 seed after the 2005 season, then bounced back to win it all the next year. Since then, he’s won just two of seven playoff games and lost his last three.
The meticulous quarterback renowned for his unrivaled work ethic and painstaking preparation doesn’t believe that’s because he grinds too much in January.
“I really don’t believe so,” Manning said as he prepared for Sunday’s showdown between his Denver Broncos (13-3) and the San Diego Chargers (10-7). “I know people — it’s easy to summarize, to take a whole bunch of football seasons and lump them together. I personally don’t believe in that theory.
“I think each season takes on its own identity and different things occurred along the way at different points of my career. This is the 2013 season, 2014 postseason, and it’s its own chapter. We’re looking forward to hopefully writing it for a number of more weeks.”
Manning set a slew of records this season, including 55 TD passes and 5,447 yards through the air as the Broncos became the highest-scoring team of the Super Bowl era. Five players scored 10 or more touchdowns. No team in history had ever had more than three players accomplish that feat.
Yet for all his records and all his greatness, Manning’s fault-finders point to his cold-weather record — it’s 4-7 in sub-freezing temperatures at kickoff — and his playoff pratfalls — his 11 losses are tied with Brett Favre for most in NFL history — to suggest he won’t cap it all off with a championship in the first outdoor Super Bowl in a cold-weather city next month.
Here’s the thing about the cold: In many of those games, Manning had the lesser team. That’s why he was on the road. And sometimes, he only played a series or two because his team had already clinched its playoff slot, but the loss went next to his name nonetheless.
And in the playoffs, you could point the finger at his supporting cast as much as you could at him, if not more.
If Rahim Moore doesn’t make one of the biggest blunders in playoff history last year, Manning would be hailed for his fourth-quarter touchdown toss to beat the Ravens and not lambasted for his interception in overtime. And maybe now he’d be trying to defend a Super Bowl title instead of seeking atonement.
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