Peyton Manning's 2014 season concluded with a quick dismissal from the postseason that came after an uncharacteristically bad month for the future Hall of Fame quarterback.
It turns out that Manning played the final month of the season with a tear in his right quad. A hit to his already nonexistent mobility wouldn't necessarily throw off his game, but given that the injury was to his plant leg, it could have certainly affected his ability to step into throws and drive the ball downfield.
According to Pete Prisco of CBS Sports, the struggles for the Denver Broncos quarterback weren't limited to games. The 38-year-old passer reportedly struggled in practice, throwing more interceptions than usual.
I talked to some Broncos players who said Manning was throwing more picks in practice in the past six weeks than at any other time. Before the game, some Colts veterans expressed to Broncos players that Manning's arm looked spent.
"You could tell something wasn't right," one Broncos player said of practice the past month. "He just didn't look like 18 out there."
In the final four games of the regular season, Manning threw six interceptions and just three touchdowns, marking the worst month for the quarterback since his rookie season with the Indianapolis Colts. Prior to his Week 14 performance against the Buffalo Bills, Manning had a streak of 51 consecutive games with a touchdown pass, but he was unable to find a score against the Bills and was held without a touchdown against the Oakland Raiders two weeks later.
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Manning managed to avoid interceptions in the Broncos' 24-13 loss to Colts on Sunday, but was very honest in his assessment of his performance after the game. He told reporters after the game that his 26-of-46 passing for 211 yards was "not good enough," via the team website:
"I think I'm as honest with myself as anybody else is and probably as critical of myself as anybody else is," Manning said. "And I didn't play well enough today and didn't play well enough consistently in the second half of the season, especially in the games that we lost. And those are things that you'd like to be able to play better."
After the game, Manning was noncommittal about the possibility of retirement and said he wants to "digest this game first" before making any decisions regarding his future. But for a player who said he adopted Tom Brady's play "until you suck" philosophy, the 13-time Pro Bowler might be inclined to hang up his cleats if he believes his best days are behind him.