DENVER -- If Cooper Manning is to be believed, and who’s to say the eldest Manning brother isn’t simply reciting history, when Peyton Manning was 10 years old he was a 400-yard passer in total control, playing his best at the biggest moments.
That’s what Cooper told his brother to be Sunday and Peyton will now play in the Super Bowl because of it.
“I just shoot him a little pregame thought and that was it,’’ Cooper said in the middle of a locker room celebration after the Broncos’ 26-16 victory over the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship Game. “It was, ‘Hey, you’ve come this far, go ahead and pretend you’re a 10-year-old playing in the front yard.’ That’s what it looked like.’’
In the end Peyton finished 32-of-43 passing for 400 yards and two touchdowns. He completed passes to eight different receivers, and completed at least three passes to five different receivers.
On a post-card worthy, sun-splashed day with little wind, Peyton showed arm strength to all parts of the field in one of his best all-around outings since his return from a missed season in 2011.
Peyton’s father Archie was emotional in the Broncos locker room following the game, talking about how he had caught passes from his son at one point -- “I wasn’t moving too good’’ -- and how the first family of quarterbacks dealt with the uncertainty that initially came with Peyton’s recovery, especially since Cooper's own football career at Ole Miss ended because of a neck condition.
“I just didn’t know, I just didn’t know,’’ Archie said. “ … He really had a good frame of mind about working, trying it, but if it didn’t work he was at peace. That was comforting, especially to me and Olivia. But he worked, he did work.’’
But there were plenty of smiles to be found in the postgame conversations, spiced with plenty of hugs.
“I’m just like all the other parents of the Broncos whose child is going to the Super Bowl,’’ Archie said. “I don’t know besides Peyton and Wes (Welker) who’s been … but it’s special now, it’s special … I’ve always admired the way Broncos fans love their team.’’