The timing was terrible.
A chunk of the way through Sunday's game, a few of us Denver Post scribes noticed a certain tweet from a respected NFL Network writer, one who shall for now remain nameless. The gist of his 140-character missive: Tom Brady for MVP.
It was, as one might expect, met with some incredulity.
Tom Brady for MVP, as Peyton Manning hits Eric Decker for perhaps the greatest throw and the best catch of this Broncos season, although Decker fell inches short of a touchdown.
Tom Brady for MVP, as touchdown pass after touchdown pass ( after touchdown pass after touchdown pass) sailed into the end zone.
Sorry Tom. Bad timing.
In the NFL this season, there's no better candidate for MVP than the Broncos' quarterback, and Sunday afternoon solidified that. Call me a wimp in the cold? I'll answer it, the same way I answered the people who said I couldn't be the same after neck surgery. I was better.
Just look at the numbers through 13 games: 45 touchdown passes (Manning) vs. 21 (Brady), 4,522 passing yards vs. 3,685, 11 wins vs. 10, 67.9 completion percentage vs. 60.8. I know, I know. You get it. I'll stop.
But MVP isn't about just numbers and numbers alone, necessarily. It's become this sort of vague paragon, for the best winner, the best leader, the archetype. That's where the Brady argument comes in: He lost a good chunk of his offensive weapons, so it's just him, and look what he's doing, miracle win after miracle win.
Sure, it's hard not to give Brady credit where credit is due. But lost in that argument is what Manning has overcome. Over the course of this season, the Broncos have been built up as the Goliath to the Patriots' David, the superteam, the offense of all offenses, the best money can buy. Granted, they might be all of those things, but as Manning pointed out last week, this season has been the furthest thing from normal.
Here's a quick rundown: a fax machine, a drug test collector, some faulty feet, an even faultier aortic valve, a high ankle sprain, compartment syndrome, a dislocated hip and seizure-like symptoms that have yet to really be clarified. Manning's taken all of it in stride, and the Broncos are still functioning the way many imagined they'd be before this litany of obstacles. Oh, and the defense is looking worse with every coming injury, and Manning's still giving it a cushion.
Just as Brady is the Patriots, Manning is the Broncos. Each team would be radically different without its quarterback, likely lost and languishing in the cellar of its division. But the difference was clear on Sunday: Brady ekes out the Patriots' close wins, and Manning orchestrates the Broncos' blowouts with numbers even the most optimistic of Broncos fans couldn't have predicted.
Game, set, match, Peyton. Sorry, Tom.