DENVER (New York Times) — Somewhere in the anxiety-ridden depths of the fourth quarter, Peyton Manning stood tall as a ship mast in the Broncos pocket and tossed once, twice, three times into the middle reaches of the field.
His team’s condition was precarious: The Broncos trailed the Indianapolis Colts in the A.F.C. divisional playoff game. Each of his passes was reasonably well tossed, although without much starch. And each time the Colts defenders, those acrobats of the secondary, went airborne and slapped or punched or knocked the ball down.
Then the oddest of sounds was heard in this most often joyous orange-tinged stadium. Low, sonorous boos washed down from the stands, accompanying Manning on his walk back to the sidelines. The fans saw, and perhaps Manning did as well, another postseason slip-sliding away.
How, Manning was asked after the game, did he play? He looked at the reporter and shook his head, with disapproval of no one but himself.
“Not well, not good enough, didn’t play well enough,” he said.