Sports, and football in particular remain the single greatest demonstration of how individual performance alone is not enough to persevere.
I’m speaking of course about the epic New England Patriots versus Denver Broncos football game that was just played.
Brady versus Manning XVII proved to be one of the most compelling and exciting games I’ve ever had the pleasure of watching. The storylines before, during, and yes, even after this game was over, abounded.
Sports like tennis or golf have drama, but it is emotion reserved exclusively for individuals who do not rely on assistance from anyone else other than themselves. In football, the word team is exemplified. And this afternoon, the Denver Broncos played as a team and as a result helped send Peyton Manning on to one more chance at Super Bowl glory.
Tom Brady is perhaps the greatest quarterback to have ever played. If football was not played in time limit constraints you just knew that Brady would lead the Patriots down the field and eventually put up enough points to surpass the Broncos in the end. But, as in life, football is played on a deadline. There are four, 15-minute quarters to prevail and save for the occasional overtime scenario, the ending generally takes place in a three-hour window. Unlike baseball where there are no clock constraints, football is urgency personified.
Peyton Manning was most definitely feeling the confines of Father Time, who this season had sapped his formerly impressive physical skills.
But today was not a day to feel sorry for the Denver quarterback. Today was a day to marvel in how two teams could work together, against one another, and change the storyline from Manning versus Brady to which team’s defense would be the difference maker and make their final stand count.
Manning managed the game well. Brady was Brady. But the Denver defense never allowed Brady the opportunity to get comfortable. They continually pressured the Patriot’s star, put him on his back several times and generally made him work for every passing yard he accounted for.
On the other defense’s side, the Patriots made enough adjustments after the first half to hold Manning and Denver’s offense in check. Yes, good leadership in the form of great coaching was at the root of these adjustments. But it was up to the Patriots defense to actually put things in play.
The second half saw Manning and the Broncos offense stymied compared to what they were able to accomplish in the first half. Amazingly enough, turnovers did not play a huge factor in the game nor did the missed extra point by Patriot’s kicker Stephen Gostkowski. What mattered more than any individual error was how each team responded to their individual adversity.
Personally, I could not have withstood an overtime for this game. It was entirely draining with emotions running the gamut. At the end of the game both Bill Belichick and Tom Brady chatted with Manning individually, no doubt gracious in defeat, congratulating him and wishing him well in what should be his final Super Bowl.
Is Manning diminished compared to his former self? Most certainly. Is Brady still arguably at the top of his game? It looks like it.
But there can be no doubt that no matter what each marquee player is and was, the better “team” prevailed in this game. This team made the plays when it counted and breathtakingly so.
Their quarterback was no longer in a position to put the team on his shoulders and will it to victory. It was up to the team to get it done collectively and collaboratively.
And they did.