Thursday, April 26, 2018
Sports

Manning breaks 'Rule No. 1'— and pays dearly

DENVER — Usually more comfortable in the pocket, Peyton Manning scrambled to his right to avoid pressure.

Usually so accurate, the Denver quarterback threw a pass across his body — a toss he sometimes has gotten away over his career.

This time, he didn't.

Late in the first overtime Saturdays, Manning tried to thread the ball to Brandon Stokley only to have the pass intercepted by Ravens CB Corey Graham.

Soon after, the Broncos' season — and Manning's first after four neck operations that kept him out all of last season — was over with a 38-35 loss.

"I accomplished a lot more this year than I thought I would have," said Manning, who finished 28-of-43 for 290 yards. "And I think the team exceeded expectations as well."

One of Manning's most memorable completions in this comeback season was a touchdown at Carolina in November. He rolled to his right, stopped, twisted and threw across the field to Stokley.

NFL Films had Manning hooked up for sound. Coming off the field, he called it an example of "Rule No. 1 that you never do." Now Manning has an entire offseason to think about breaking "Rule No. 1."

"It's disappointing because of how much hard work and effort and time and extra meetings and extra workouts we put in to get to this point," he said. "You want it to go perfect and to win and keep going. But it's not the way it always works."

Bad audible: With the Broncos up 35-28 after stopping the Ravens on fourth down, most thought Manning could run out the final 3:12. Denver ran rookie Ronnie Hillman on the first two plays, getting a first down. Two more Hillman runs made it third and 7 from the Denver 47 with 2:00 left and the Ravens out of no timeouts. A first down wins it. But rather than Manning throwing on third down, Hillman ran once more, this time for no gain, and the Broncos punted with 1:15 left. "That was an audible," Manning said. "Actually, I called that play, so don't put that on (offensive coordinator) Mike (McCoy). We just didn't do much with it."

Brrrrr: Temperature at kickoff was 13 degrees, the coldest playoff game in Broncos history. Manning fell to 0-4 when the temperature is 40 or colder.

Long returns: The Broncos' Trindon Holliday returned the second-half kickoff 104 yards to become the first player in playoff history to score on a kickoff and punt return in the same game. Both the kickoff return and 90-yard punt return were the longest in playoff history. "It was painful," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. Ex-Raven Jermaine Lewis held the punt return record, 88 yards in 2002. The Falcons' Eric Weems held the kickoff record, 102 yards in 2010. And Holliday's 248 return yards also were a playoff record.

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