In total, Peyton Manning played 17 years in the NFL with an additional 18th year that he missed due to a neck injury. In those 17 seasons, Manning’s teams made the super bowl four times winning two of them.
His first ring came while playing for the Indianapolis Colts at the end of the 2006/2007 season, defeating the Chicago Bears 29-17. Ring number two came in Manning’s final year in the NFL with the Denver Broncos.
Manning’s skills had declined by the 2015/2016 season, but the 39-year-old quarterback was supported by an excellent defense that held the high-powered Carolina Panthers to a single touchdown in a 24-10 victory.
- Manning finished his career with two Super Bowl Championships, but only one in his prime as the leader of a high-powered offense.
- Manning’s teams had a tendency to lose in the AFC Divisional Round, often as heavy favorites, getting bounced six times.
- Manning’s final title came in his last year at the age of 39 thanks in large part to the Denver Broncos’ excellent defense
How did one of the most statistically successful quarterbacks play for almost two decades and pick up just two Super Bowl rings?
While there’s no clear-cut explanation, Manning’s career saw a few bad bounces, a shocking number of home playoff losses, along with intersecting with the rise of Tom Brady and the buzzsaw that was the New England Patriots.
Let’s dive a little deeper into Manning’s career, those two Super Bowl victories, and how close he was to add even more rings to his illustrious career.
Getting Past Tom Brady
After a rough rookie season, Manning and the Colts burst onto the scene in 1999 winning 13 games and clinching the #1 seed in the AFC. The young Colts were upset in the divisional round however by the eventual AFC Champion Titans. 
Manning wouldn’t advance past the Wild Card round of the playoffs again until 2003, the first of five consecutive division titles. But the next three seasons led to nothing but playoff disappointment. Despite finishing either first or second in the league in points scored, Manning’s offense sputtered in the postseason. The Patriots held the Colts to just 14 and 3 points in their playoff matchups with Manning throwing five total interceptions. 
The third time, Manning was tripped up by the Steelers, and while Manning’s numbers looked a little better, his Colts still managed just 18 points with 15 of them coming in the fourth quarter with the Steelers well ahead. 
Breaking Through against… Rex Grossman?
By the 2006/2007 season, the narrative was in place. Manning would put up gaudy passing stats every year, only to see his team crumble in the playoffs. But Manning turned the storyline on its head with a torrid postseason run. The highlight came in the AFC Championship against the vaunted Patriots. Manning led a comeback from a 21-3 deficit throwing for 349 yards and putting to rest the critique that he couldn’t beat Tom Brady. 
The Colts entered the Super Bowl as 6.5-point favorites against the Chicago Bears. After the titanic battle against Brady and the Patriots, there was no doubt which quarterback had the upper hand over the Super Bowl contenders. The Bears were led by Rex Grossman, a journeyman quarterback buoyed by an excellent defense.
The Super Bowl itself was a turnover-ridden affair with the two teams combining for eight total turnovers. Manning wasn’t spectacular in his first Super Bowl, but he posted a solid final line of 247 yards with a touchdown and an interception. It was more than enough to overwhelm a Bears team that fumbled three times while Grossman tossed a pair of interceptions. The monkey was off Manning’s back. 
The Saints Pick 6
The Colts failed to return to the Super Bowl the next two years, losing another pair of playoff games to the Chargers in which they were favored.
But in 2009, they took advantage of the Patriots getting bounced in the Divisional Round by the Jets. After beating the Jets by 13 in the AFC Championship, the Colts returned to the Super Bowl against the Saints. Once again they were favored to win.
While Manning finished with 333 yards passing, the most memorable moment of the game may be Manning’s most infamous.
Porter’s interception put an end to Manning’s Colts as Super Bowl contenders. They lost in the Wild Card round the following year, and a neck injury shelved Manning for the entire 2011 season.
With the Colts drafting quarterback Andrew Luck, Manning chose not to exercise his player option and became a free agent. Unsure if his neck injury would end his career, the Denver Broncos took a chance on the four-time MVP, signing him in the spring of 2012. 
The Seahawks Hurricane
Manning proved he had plenty left in the tank with Denver. His passing numbers in his first three years with the Broncos were absurd, throwing for 130 touchdowns and continuing to change the way football was played. 
But the playoff struggles continued to rear their ugly head. Manning and the Broncos lost two more home divisional playoff games.
In between those two divisional losses, the Broncos did make a Super Bowl appearance, taking on the Seattle Seahawks and their fabled defense nicknamed the Legion of Boom. Fans anticipated a tightly contested battle between a fantastic offense and defense. The actual game was anything but. Manning and the Broncos looked like they’d sat down for a test they hadn’t studied for.
Manning had five MVP awards and has been to the Pro Bowl 14 times. But it seemed that his illustrious career would end with a bucketful of home playoff losses and a single Super Bowl against an underwhelming Bears team.
Von Miller and the Redemption Season
By 2015 it was clear that Manning was no longer the player that he’d been even a couple of years ago when he threw for 55 touchdowns. 
Age, neck surgery, and new injuries to his ribs and foot were clearly having an effect on his performance. Manning missed several weeks with his injuries, and his backup Brock Osweiler played well enough that it was suggested that he remain the starter for the playoffs. 
But Manning got his starting job back in Week 17 and was once again the starter as a home favorite in the Divisional Round of the playoffs. Manning was far from spectacular in the playoffs. But he threw just one interception in three games, allowing the Broncos defense, one of the best in the league, to carry the load.
This culminated in the Super Bowl against the Panthers in which Manning threw for just 141 yards but watched his defense sack the MVP Cam Newton seven times and rattle him into one of the more… questionable plays in any Super Bowl.
After a career of incredible statistical numbers, Manning’s ring total was doubled in what would be his final season thanks in large part to the defensive performance.
How many rings would Manning have if we replayed his career? It’s impossible to say, but when you look at the number of high-powered offenses he orchestrated, coming away with just two seems on the low side.