Peyton Manning is, without a doubt, one of the greatest players in the history of the NFL. He has done it all in the league, leaving behind a legacy that very few will be able to match even if the NFL goes on for all time.
Being a great quarterback means getting to the top of the mountain. Manning did so twice, leading two teams to a Super Bowl victory in his career. It’s time to look back at both of those milestone wins, how his teams got there, and what impact they had on his legacy.
Super Bowl XLI Championship
Entering the 2006 season, Manning was in a class by himself. He had earned a pair of NFL MVPs during his seven seasons in Indianapolis to that point. Even though his rival, Tom Brady of the New England Patriots, had already managed a trio of Super Bowl championships, Manning was still in search of his first.
The Colts played like a team on a mission that year. For the fourth year in a row, the Colts won at least 12 games (12-4). They won the AFC South title thanks to a whopping five Pro Bowlers (Manning, WR Marvin Harrison, WR Reggie Wayne, OT Tarik Glenn, and C Jeff Saturday) and three All-Pros (Harrison first-team, Manning and Saturday second team).
The year prior, the Colts lost in the AFC Divisional round 21-18 to the Pittsburgh Steelers. This time around, things were different. The Colts easily bested the Kansas City Chiefs in the Wild Card round and pulled out a tough 15-6 win against the Baltimore Ravens.
Finally, after many tries, Manning topped Brady and the Patriots in the AFC Championship game, an epic 38-34 win. In Super Bowl XLI, Manning and the Colts would take on the defensive powerhouse Chicago Bears. Despite electric kick returns from Devin Hester, the Colts managed to capture their first title in Indianapolis, Manning’s first as a pro.
It was the day Peyton Manning became a Super Bowl Champion.#OTD in 2007, the @Colts won their first championship since relocating to Indianapolis by defeating the Chicago Bears, 29-17, in Super Bowl XLI.
— Pro Football Hall of Fame (@ProFootballHOF) February 5, 2023
Super Bowl XLIV Appearance
Just three short years later, the Colts remained a powerhouse. Manning had earned his third MVP the year prior, putting him on unparalleled ground in the annals of NFL history. It would turn out that 2009 was even more historic for “The Sheriff.”
With a new head coach, Jim Caldwell, there were uncertainties about how the team would perform. As it turns out, they performed just fine. They won their sixth AFC South title in seven years, going 14-2 in the process.
With seven Pro Bowlers and a quartet of All-Pros, the Colts bulldozed the Ravens (20-3) in the Divisional round before easily handling the Jets in the AFC Championship (30-17). Manning, riding high on his fourth NFL MVP award, was ready to add a second Super Bowl to his resume.
Unfortunately for the Colts, the New Orleans Saints felt like a team of destiny all year. Using every trick they could muster, Sean Payton and QB Drew Brees led the team from the Bayou to a 31-17 victory, the first in franchise history. Manning, meanwhile, was left wondering when his next trip would come.
Super Bowl XLVIII Appearance
By 2011, Manning was dealing with serious neck concerns. Despite the fact that he had recently signed a five-year, $90 million deal, there was serious speculation as to whether “The Sheriff” would still be the man in charge in Indy.
After the team made Stanford QB Andrew Luck the first pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, it was clear that Manning’s time was done. The Colts released Manning not long after, clearing the way for him to go to the Denver Broncos.
In his second season, Manning put up historic numbers. In his fifth and final MVP season, Manning threw for an NFL record 5,477 yards and 55 touchdowns, marks that stand today. More importantly, he helped lead the Broncos to their seventh Super Bowl appearance.
Unfortunately, that’s where the good vibes ended. Right from the beginning of the game, things got out of hand. The Seattle Seahawks dominated the entire night, routing the Broncos to the tune of 43-8. Manning now had a 1-2 record in Super Bowls and doubters following him.
Super Bowl 50 Championship
After setting the record for the most career passing touchdowns in 2014, the future remained in question for Manning. He came back for the 2015 season, though injuries and clearly degrading skills were the topic of conversation.
In Week 10, Manning wound up completing a four-yard pass to running back Ronnie Hillman. Those four yards were enough to make him the all-time passing yardage leader, passing Brett Favre. Unfortunately, injuries would keep him out until the end of the regular season. It also made clear that Manning would not be back for 2016 no matter what happened.
The Broncos, AFC West champions, earned a first-round bye in the playoffs. The team would garner tight victories over the Steelers (23-16) in the Divisional round before toppling Manning’s nemesis Brady once more in the AFC Championship Game (20-18).
This set the stage for Manning to have a John Elway-like departure. Facing the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50, it was a tight battle for much of the game. Manning threw for just 141 yards, fumbling twice, being sacked five times, and throwing one interception. Even still, clutch sacks from Von Miller would be enough to keep Carolina down and propel the Broncos to their third Super Bowl, Manning’s second. It would be the perfect send-off for one of the all-time great players in NFL history.
Though Manning may not have the litany of Super Bowl championships that his arch-rival Tom Brady has, there is no discrediting the kind of contributions Manning has made to the game. Though many feel like he could have won more, Manning had his share of success.
Whether during his time with the Indianapolis Colts or the Denver Broncos, “The Sheriff” left a mark on the game. By making such an impact with two franchises, Manning was able to tread on ground that few other quarterbacks could even dream of.