As NFL Network cameras caught Manning and Bill Belichick embracing after the AFC Championship Game, the quarterback acknowledges it might be the last time the two battle.
"Hey, listen, this might be my last rodeo. So, it sure has been a pleasure," Manning told Belichick.
"You are a great competitor..." the Patriots' coach responded.
The context of the statement partly explains why both Manning and Belichick remained mum on the exchange following the contest.
Manning's phrasing is interesting, considering "last rodeo" was the exact wording Mark Kiszla of the Denver Post used earlier this month when asking Manning if this could be the end. "I'd be lying if I said I'm not thinking about that," the quarterback said at the time.
While Manning's admission on Sunday isn't definite -- slyly slipping the word "might" in -- this season has always felt like the fading sunset on his Hall of Fame career. After battling a torn plantar fascia in his left foot, Manning returned to lead the Broncos back to the Super Bowl. If The Sheriff rides off with another Lombardi Trophy after one last big rodeo, it will make quite a storybook ending.