Where once the Peyton Manning second act called for caution, come Monday night it began calling for commotion. Now the autumn forecast calls for noise -- noise rising out of the Rockies, noise permeating the land, noise that might chase you down even if you don't try to hear it.
Did you see Peyton on Monday night? Peyton leapt the skyscrapers of the San Diego skyline. We love u, Peyton! Where the Manning storyline had stayed only lukewarm but promising through five games, the Manning mastery during the outrageous surge from 0-24 to 35-24 lent another dose of spice to a dazzling young season that didn't cry out for any upgrading.
In a country of spotty memories, it threw on another on another layer of forgetting the replacement referees. It arranged for even more Peyton-this, Peyton-that chatter, figured to lure in some marginal fans and, of course, promised to bulldoze all nuance.
For example, did you know that the biggest play of Monday night came from the outstanding defensive end Elvis Dumervil, plucking a pivotal fumble from Philip Rivers with the score 24-7 in the third quarter? Did you know Tony Carter produced a fumble return for a touchdown and an interception to set up a 50-yard touchdown drive, both in the second half? Did you know two of the five Denver touchdowns came from the defense? Did you know Denver employs a defense? Did you know Manning threw four touchdown passes, three to Broncos and one to a Charger?
No! You did not know this, and stop it with the pivotal details! Manning went 24-for-30, 13-for-14 in the second half, sterling numbers that override all piddling little defensive touchdowns for us Americans. We are quarterback people, a quarterback culture. We love quarterbacks in high school, quarterbacks in college, quarterbacks when they're old. We love our razzmatazz, and we love quarterbacks except when we hate quarterbacks, with hate always very close to love. And we might love creaky old star quarterbacks even more than other cherished ideals such as trash TV, childish political infighting and unhealthy food.
When John Elway won a Super Bowl at 37, we got all blubbery about it, reveled in his airborne spin on the highlight reel. Now, you can make a case we should have gotten a little blubber-ier about Terrell Davis with his 157 rushing yards and his three touchdowns and his fierce withstanding of a second-quarter migraine, but old quarterbacks are old quarterbacks.
When Joe Montana led Kansas City into the playoffs at 37 with his 13 touchdown passes in 11 games, it hovered over that January in 1994, brought the stray stargazers to the TV screens, dominated the postgame chatter from the playoff upset in Houston.
Of course, did you realize the biggest play of that win over the old Oilers came when Derrick Thomas broke free as he often did, rammed into Warren Moon, caused a fumble that Dan Saleaumua recovered at the Houston 12-yard line and set up the Chiefs for a mighty two-play, 12-yard scoring drive? Did you know the Chiefs got nine sacks? Did you know Montana under-threw into an interception in the fourth quarter, or that a 38-yard interference penalty and a 41-yard tipped completion dotted his two big drives?
Of course not. That was our Joe, and we loved our Joe, and we loved that his age had passed 35 just as Manning's has reached 36. We love them because they've taken the hits and earned it, but we also love them all out of proportion. They're so familiar to us and, besides, maybe somehow they make us feel slightly sprier ourselves.