We were told last February you can't spell "Elite" without E-L-I?
Well, you still can't spell "Maddening Disappointment, yo..." without Peyton Manning.
He did it again.
Peyton Manning, quarterbacking a No. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs, took the horse behind the barn and gave it one behind the ear.
This time, it was a Bronco and not a Colt.
Ravens 38, Broncos 35. In two overtimes.
It was a fun and fascinating game in frigid cold that turned on a stupid decision by Manning. It's a choice that undid the good Manning did earlier in the game and cast a pall over his tremendous comeback season of 2012.
The smoking gun? Let the record show, this wasn't a singularly brilliant defensive play or a bad-luck tipped ball like the pick-six Manning had in the first quarter of the game.
On the play in question, the throw was delivered while Manning rolled right and threw softly across his body. It was second-and-6 and Manning was at his own 38. The only play at that point was to whip it into the shivering players on the bench. But no. Manning threw it toward Brandon Stokley and it was picked by Corey Graham at the Broncos 45. Six plays later, the Broncos were dead and so was Manning vs. Brady XIV and Broncos vs. Patriots with a Super Bowl berth on the line.
And New England's road to New Orleans got a lot less Rocky, if you know what I mean.
If the Patriots polish off Houston on Sunday, the Ravens will be in town for a rematch of last year's AFC Championship game,
And they'll be coming here after playing a 76-minute rock fight at altitude in sub-zero wind chill. Of course, after watching what happened to the Broncos Saturday night, Patriots fans may be staring at the sky and whistling aimlessly on Sunday rather than get too full of schadenfraude. Karma and all.
But back to Manning because, brilliant as he's been - and he is one of the top-five of all-time - his postseason resume is, well, pretty crappy.
He's been one-and-done eight times in 12 playoff seasons. He's won one Super Bowl (in a 2006 postseason in which he threw three TDs and seven INTs) and threw a game-sealing pick-six in crunch time in his other Super Bowl appearance back in 2009. He also rode the top-seeded 2005 Colts right out of the playoffs in similar one-and-done fashion.
The line of Manning-worshipping media eager to pin the blame on anyone other than Peyton is already a hundred miles long. It was the Denver secondary that allowed a game-tying moonball from Joe Flacco to Jacoby Jones. It was head coach John Fox for...I don't know, ask Woody Paige. Fingers will point in myriad directions instead of settling on Peyton. Which is ironic because the story from June through December was all about how the Broncos were Manning's team and John Fox was just their KC Jones...
(My early clubhouse leader for best Manning quote came from Troy Aikman who said after the clip of his pick was played during the NFC Divisional Playoff game, "You're not expecting Peyton Manning to make a throw like that." Yeah, Troy got chased from the game by concussions.)
Peyton Manning did what Peyton Manning does.