Adam Nadel/Associated Press
10) Manning goes first overall to the Colts in the 1998 NFL Draft
Remember when there was actually a debate as to whether or not Indianapolis would take Manning or Ryan Leaf? "Manning didn't win enough in college, and look how strong Leaf's arm is." You can talk yourself out of anything as the draft approaches. Kudos to the Colts for not doing that. And apologies to the Chargers who picked second. (And who, oh by the way, also traded their 2000 first-rounder to move up and draft Mikhael Ricks in the second round of the '98 draft to be Leaf's go-to-guy. Yeeesh.)
Tom Strattman/Associated Press
9) Manning's first game-winning drive
The Jets were in the midst of their best regular season in team history in 1998, and Manning came along to put a nick in it with this touchdown pass to Marcus Pollard, giving the Colts a 24-23 win. Luckily for Jets fans, realignment eventually sent Manning to a different division.
Phil Coale/Associated Press
8) Thursday Night Football: 17 straight completions
Needing a win to make the 2008-09 playoffs, Manning completed his first 17 passes of the night against Jacksonville to help spur the Colts to a 31-24 win. The funny thing was, as Manning was completing passes, Indianapolis fell down 14-0, which seems mathematically impossible. But watching this game, and Manning, I remember thinking I didn't care what the deficit was, the Colts were going to win. Period.
Scott Audette/Associated Press
7) Manning's Monday Night miracle
A 2003 game that will mostly be remembered for Simeon Rice's "leaping" penalty that helped decide the final outcome, Manning carried the Colts back from a 35-14 deficit to win 38-35 in overtime. Indy scored 28 fourth-quarter points against the defending Super Bowl champs, including three touchdowns in the final four minutes. I've seen Manning do plenty of impressive things, but this performance was out of this world. Possibly the best I've ever seen him.
Jerry Lai/US Presswire
6) 2009 AFC Championship Game vs. the Jets
The Jets did everything perfectly in the first half of this game, and Peyton undid it all in the second half. He carved up New York's secondary to send the Colts to the Super Bowl. It was a testament to how good he really is, because the Jets' defense was a monster in 2009. And it showed that even if you play one perfect half of football against Manning, he can blow you away in 30 minutes or less and make it look easy.
Mel Evans/Associated Press
5) The first "Manning Bowl" in 2006
The atmosphere of this game was like a Super Bowl. I was amazed at the attention this got. Like one of those midseason Cowboys-49ers "Super Bowl and a half" games from the 1990's. So much was made of this game that you just knew Peyton was going to win it -- and he did. Eli wasn't the same QB he is now in that game, and it was closer than expected. But Peyton won it 26-21, as well as Manning Bowl II in 2010.
Amy Sancetta/Associated Press
4) 2006 AFC Championship Game vs. the Patriots
This just might be the most well-played football game I've ever seen. Manning overcame a 21-3 halftime deficit to win 38-34 by leading Indianapolis on a game-winning drive in the final minutes. What a dragon Manning slayed here -- Bill Belichick's Patriots had been Manning's own personal House of Horrors.
3) Waving off the punt team; and 2) throwing his 49th touchdown pass of the season.
These two obviously go together. Nearing the end of his greatest regular season, needing one touchdown pass to break Dan Marino's all-time record, Manning famously waved off the punt team on his own 26-yard line facing a fourth-and-4. I've seen a lot of gutsy stuff, but this might be the gutsiest. As good as any QB is right now, could any of them ever do something like this? Of course, Manning fired a 19-yard completion to Reggie Wayne. Later on in the drive, Peyton threw his 49th touchdown pass of the season to set the regular season record (a record which Tom Brady broke a few years later). The attention Manning had in this season was incredible. Everyone knew they were seeing history, and a 20-year old record was in jeopardy. The question was there every week: "Can Peyton do it?" No matter what team you rooted for, you watched this like it was the McGwire-Sosa homer chase of '98.
David Drapkin/Associated Press
1) Super Bowl XLI victory over the Bears
He didn't have the greatest of games in the Miami rain, but he was good enough for 247 yards and a TD in the Colts' 29-17 win -- his only Super Bowl title. For someone who was routinely criticized for his lack of playoff prowess, winning this might have been the biggest "Now Shut Up" performance of his career. Right or wrong, Manning's legacy was going to be defined by that game. And he delivered. He didn't play for my team, but I was just so incredibly happy for him.
More Photo Essays:
- All-Time Team - New England Patriots
- Fantasy best fits for 2014
- Throwback Thursday - Michael Irvin
- All-Time Team - Green Bay Packers
- Mind-blowing stats for free agency
- Throwback Thursday - Extraordinary Combine Busts
- Mind-blowing stats for the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine
- Throwback Thursday - Wish you could've stayed
- NFL players from historically black colleges