I didn't pay a great deal of attention to this NFL season and, confession time, I didn't even stay awake for the entirety of the game. However, that's not going to stop me from getting two takeaways from that contest about the game.
First, upon reflection it's rather fitting that Peyton would go out as a Super Bowl champion after playing for a team that basically won in spite of his play rather than because of it.
His entire career has been a beacon shone on the fact that a single spectacular talent can't fully dominate a game of 11-on-11.
For much of his career, Peyton couldn't get to the Super Bowl because his Indianapolis Colts couldn't get out of the AFC, often because of his peer Tom Brady and the Patriots. New England was routinely a more complete team that failed to surround Brady with weapons as good as Marvin Harrison, Edgerrin James, or Reggie Wayne but did support him with some fine defenses.
Manning ended up participating in four Super Bowls. His first with the Colts they beat the Bears in 2007 by leaning on the running game, in particular RB draw plays that punished Chicago for dropping MLB Brian Urlacher into the deep middle in Tampa-2 when he read pass sets from the OL.
Dominick Rhodes had 113 yards on 21 carries while Joseph Addai added 77 more on 19 carries as the Colts carefully took down the Bears 29-17.
In Manning's second Super Bowl, again with the Colts, they ran into that "who dat" Saints team captained by Drew Brees. That was one of the only Brees/Payton era Saints teams that had a good defense and they pick six'd Manning in that game.
Then came the Denver era, which saw Manning reach the Super Bowl two more times. First against the Seahawks, who beat the hell out of them, and now against the Carolina Panthers who weren't able to handle the Bronco pass rush.
Here's a table of Manning's Super Bowl performances:
It's kinda funny that he's been in the Super Bowl every three years, the longevity of Manning's career is perhaps one of the most impressive parts of his resume.
Anyways as you can tell, Manning hasn't really dominated any Super Bowl and actually took a back seat in each of the two victories. For me that makes the most impressive thing about Manning the fact that he's capable of understanding when the path to victory is not one that runs through him.
Kobe Bryant, for instance, has rarely understood when this is the case. Credit to Manning.
My second takeaway from the Super Bowl was the tremendous advantage that comes from having an overwhelmingly elite facet of your team. For instance, a team with two great safeties is going to be difficult to out-leverage and drive the ball against.
A team with two great defensive tackles is going to destroy just about any run game and render you one-dimensional. A team with two great cornerbacks is going to always be able to force you to your third option.
Th 2015 Denver Broncos had two elite pass-rushers and it was more than any of their playoff opponents could handle.
They combined for 18.5 regular season sacks, but then in the postseason they really went off. They combined for one sack against Pittsburgh, then three sacks against New England, and finally 4.5 sacks against the Panthers. They completely negated the passing games of each of those teams by preventing their QBs from ever getting comfortable and thus they nullified the most difficult thing to stop in the modern game: an elite passing attack.
Taking down Ben Roethlisberger, Tom Brady, and Cam Newton in succession is a big deal.
Lots of people are going to come away from this saying, "see what you need is to field two elite pass-rushers!" That's not the case, what kills people is when you are overwhelmingly elite in one aspect of the game and can control games as a result.