We were fortunate enough to have an opportunity to watch Peyton Manning over the years. He is among the best to ever play his position, and five times over his 18 year career the Dallas faithful had the opportunity to watch him go head-to-head with the Cowboys. During that time Dallas came up short in three of the five outings, but that is history. What remains is the memories that fans were left with, memories that will last far beyond the day, a few years from now, when Archie Manning's boy joins the immortals of the game.
Two contests against Manning stand out fresh in my mind.
December 5, 2010
The Dallas Cowboys rolled into Lucas Oil Stadium on a cautiously optimistic wave of hope. The winds of change had recently blown through Valley Ranch and Jason Garrett was auditioning for the head coaching position made available by the mid-season firing of Wade Phillips. The team immediately responded to the move and Dallas was rebounding from its dismal start under Phillips. The Colts would be a good measuring stick for how the red-headed coach was able to rally the team.
The performance that # 18 delivered that day was in many ways what the home fans had come to expect from the man who had restored glory to the Colts franchise. Peyton connected on 36 of his 48 passing attempts against the Cowboys defense. He was good for 365 yards passing and two scores. What stands out though is the fact that in an uncharacteristic manner he also tossed not one but four interceptions.
For one Cowboy, the outing against the greatest passer in the game served as a coming out party. Sean Lee had two critical interceptions on the day. The first time he picked Manning, the rookie linebacker set sail for 31 yards and the first touchdown of his professional career. He did not find paydirt after his second pick, off a Mike Jenkins pass break up, but the interception did lead to the game winning field goal off the foot of David Buehler. The Cowboys left Indianapolis with a hard fought 38-35 victory.
Orlando Scandrick also recorded a pick six against the future Hall of Fame passer.
October 6, 2013
This contest featured one of the best aerial battles since allied pilots tangled with the Red Baron a century earlier. Manning and Tony Romo put on a display for the ages at AT&T Stadium. For 58 minutes the two men went toe-to-toe with neither man blinking. They threatened to eclipse the 1,000 yard passing barrier as they traded punches. On that day, for 58 minutes at least, fans were treated to a classic match up for the ages. Manning finished the day going 33 of 42 for 414 yards and four touchdowns. He also ran for another score. Romo set a franchise record with 506 yards passing in a game. He was 25-36 on the day. Both men also tossed an interception. Romo's miscue was the difference-maker. It came inside the two minute warning, and led to a game winning field goal that allowed the Broncos to leave Dallas with a 51-48 victory.
Like the man or not, Peyton Manning was a player for the ages. In five years he will head up a Hall of Fame class as a first ballot inductee. Personally, I am not a fan, but one does not have to be to respect all that one of the greats accomplished. Perhaps the best quarterback in the history of the game, the football world is much richer for his having been a part of the sport for nearly two decades.
Farewell, Mr. Manning. Thank you for the many memories.