ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Peyton Manning’s resume is stocked with dozens of records, one-of-a-kind performances and enough highlights to make a Netflix series worthy of binge-watching.
A month after basking in the glow of his second Super Bowl championship and a parade through downtown Denver attended by more than a million Broncos fans, the five-time MVP is retiring.
"Congratulations Peyton, on an incredible career," Tom Brady tweeted Sunday. "You changed the game forever and made everyone around you better. It’s been an honour."
Here are some of the most memorable moments of Manning’s 18-year NFL career, which included an unprecedented five MVP awards, three wins over Brady in the AFC championship and a record 71,940 passing yards:
On Feb. 4, 2007, Manning led Indianapolis to a 29-17 win over the Chicago Bears in the Super Bowl. It came two weeks after he helped the Colts storm back from a 21-3 deficit to Brady and the New England Patriots, the largest deficit ever overcome in an AFC title game. He was named game MVP after completing 25 of 38 passes for 247 yards and a touchdown. He would beat Brady twice more — in Denver — with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line.
On Oct. 19, 2014, Manning’s receivers played keep-away with his milestone memento after he broke Brett Favre’s record with his 509th career TD throw, an 8-yard strike to receiver Demaryius Thomas. Afterward, Thomas revealed that Manning had choreographed the celebration at practice that week. No matter, Manning also toyed with the 49ers, throwing four TD passes in a 42-17 win. Manning would finish his career with 539 TD passes.
On Sept. 5, 2013, Manning had the biggest day by an NFL QB in 44 years, throwing seven touchdown passes in directing Denver’s 49-27 rout of the Baltimore Ravens, who had upset Denver in double overtime in the playoffs seven months earlier. His seven TD throws and 462 yards — with no interceptions — against the defending Super Bowl champs kick-started a record-breaking season in which he’d throw for 55 touchdowns and 5,477 yards and lead Denver to its first Super Bowl appearance in 15 years.
On Dec. 22, 2013, Manning broke Brady’s single-season record of 50 TD throws. He’d finish with 55. Tight end Julius Thomas nonchalantly dropped the record-breaking memento after scoring the touchdown, unaware of the famous football’s emotional or even economic value. "It wouldn’t have surprised me if Julius would have went and handed it to some babe up in the stands, trying to get her phone number in exchange for the football," cracked Manning.
Manning didn’t save his best for last — he had just 13 completions for 141 yards in Denver’s 24-10 win over the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50 on Feb. 7. Denver gained only 194 yards, the fewest for a victorious team in a Super Bowl. Thanks to a defence led by game MVP Von Miller, Manning became the oldest QB to win a championship, a year older than his boss John Elway was when he won his second Super Bowl in 1999 before walking away.
Some of Manning’s biggest moments came in 30-second spots outside the lines. Although he said he had to cut short his post-Super Bowl interview to go kiss his wife, his first smooch actually went to John Schnatter, founder and CEO of Papa John’s, one of his biggest business partners. Manning reached super status as a product pitchman long ago for MasterCard with his role-reversal commercials where he encouraged the butcher to "Cut that meat!" Today, that Nationwide Insurance jingle is stuck in all of our heads.
"Chicken parm … ."