Sitting at his locker just over two weeks ago after he helped carve up the Jacksonville Jaguars, Peyton Manning tried anxiously to pull off the bulky brace of his left knee. That task was much tougher than what he did earlier that night.
Manning's performance against the Jaguars, completing 29 of 34 passes for 364 yards and three touchdowns, earned him his third MVP award, an award he was given Friday in a vote of the national media.
Manning now has three MVPs to tie Brett Favre as the only men to win three. Some will say he has 2 1/2 since he tied Steve McNair back in 2003. But there's no way he should have shared that one. It was his, but only the anti-Manning vote cost him the award outright.
I used to write then: The Co must go for McNair.
There was no debating this one. After an infected bursa sac in his left knee led to two surgeries and had many wondering about his status for this season, Manning started on opening day.
"I wasn't right until about the fifth week," he told me after that Jacksonville game.
He never let anyone know.
That's Manning. He works his butt off and doesn't make excuses, even if people try to portray him as a me-first player.
Manning loves to win. He can sometimes be surly when he doesn't win, but that's the competitor in him.
Dan Marino and Peyton Manning are the two best I've seen.
They both hated to lose. They both showed it when they did.
That's what I want from my quarterback. I also want them to stand in and face the rush and scan the field to the third and fourth read.
After that victory over the Jaguars on December 18, Manning was asked about a certain play.
He mentioned the receiver was his fourth read.
There are a handful of passers in the game today who make it to the fourth read. That's what sets the great ones apart.
They see it.
Marino saw it. Manning and Brady see it.
Manning finally did get that brace off. It wasn't without work. The persistence he showed in doing that simple task is what makes him the game's best quarterback.
You could see it in his eyes. Now I know what defenses see on game days.