Peyton Manning has been playing professional football since Bill Clinton was president. You don't survive that long in a violent, punishing game without learning a few tricks along the way.
One such method is Manning's give-up drop to the turf when he gets swarmed by defenders. We'll call it Manning's patented Tuck & Die, though that might be antithetical seeing how this act of self-preservation has saved him from countless monster hits over the years. Peyton Manning dies so that he may live.
During Sunday's divisional playoff win over the Steelers, we saw a fascinating variation of Manning's famous survival tactic. In the fourth quarter, Manning ran a play-action and was immediately met by Steelers safety Will Allen, who had effectively blitzed out of the slot. Manning stepped up, then slumped to the turf like Ralphie's kid brother in A Christmas Story.
"(Peyton) lay there like a slug. It was his only defense."
But something strange happened on the way to second-and-forever. Manning was never touched. He got to his feet and delivered a strike to Emmanuel Sanders that went for 34 yards, Denver's longest pass play all day.
"I don't really want to analyze this play too much," Manning said after the game. "I'd kind of like it to go away, if it could. I was stepping up. When you fake that way and kind of get your head around, I felt that guy closing, so I stepped up and kind of leaned forward. My momentum kind of just took me down, I guess. I didn't think that he had touched me. I told Emmanuel just to kind of be alert in case I fall down, get back up to be uncovered.
"I'll have to take a look at that play," he added. "I'd like to get in there early in the morning and then I can get it deleted off the game film. I don't know because those video guys get there pretty quick. I think it was probably our longest pass play of the game. We'll take it."
The truth is that the play probably should have been blown dead the second Manning gave himself up. But we could also be in our final hours with The Sheriff -- we say he's earned a wink from the football gods.