Peyton Manning slumped off the field towards an uncertain future following the Denver Broncos’ AFC play-off defeat to the Indianapolis Colts late on Sunday, with many wondering if they had seen the last of one of the greatest NFL quarterbacks of all time.
It would mark a humble departure for the league’s five-time MVP and former Colts quarterback, who was shown up by his successor at Indianapolis, Andrew Luck, in the 24-13 defeat.
As the final seconds ticked off the clock at a subdued Sport Authority Field, commentators were already wondering whether a weary-looking 38-year-old Manning would return for an 18th season.
“My mindset right now is just disappointment,” he said afterwards. “I kind of need to process this game. I guess I just can’t give that simple answer.”
Manning built a Hall of Fame career in Indianapolis, rewriting the record books and taking the Colts to a Super Bowl in 2006 before moving on to Denver in 2012 when the Colts decided their future lay with Luck.
The 25-year-old, who completed 27 passes for 265 yards including touchdowns to Dwayne Allen and Hakeem Nicks, will now lead Indianapolis to Sunday’s AFC title game against the New England Patriots, who beat the Baltimore Ravens 35-31.
In Sunday’s other game, a hobbling Aaron Rodgers rallied the Green Bay Packers from an eight-point deficit with two second-half touchdown passes to beat the Dallas Cowboys 26-21.
The Packers, helped by a video reversal of a potentially game-changing Cowboys play with four minutes remaining, head to defending Super Bowl champions Seattle Seahawks on Sunday for the NFC title game.