Indianapolis went from 3-13 in Manning’s first season to 13-3 with a playoff bye in his second year, and that set the stage for the quarterback’s first playoff game. But the Colts’ offense, which ranked third in the NFL at 26.4 points per game, mustered only 16 points behind Manning’s 19-of-42 performance that netted 227 yards but zero touchdowns with zero interceptions. Manning did pick up a 15-yard TD run with 2 minutes left, but this game is remembered only because it was Manning’s first playoff contest – not because it was one of his best.
AFP/Getty ImagesJEFF KOWALSKY
2003 divisional round: Colts 38, Chiefs 31
Manning has played in 23 postseason games, but has never had a better two-game stretch than this outing put a cap on. A week after completing 22 of 26 passes for 377 yards and five touchdowns in a wild-card win against the Broncos, he handled the Chiefs by hitting on 22 of 30 for 304 yards and three TDs.
2009 AFC championship game: Colts 30, Jets 17
Manning paved the way for his second Super Bowl appearance by completing 26 of 39 passes for 377 yards and three touchdowns. He found Pierre Garcon 11 times for 151 yards and a TD and Austin Collie seven times for 123 yards and a TD as the Colts headed to the Super Bowl with a gaudy 16-2 record.
2004 wild-card round: Colts 49, Broncos 24
For the second straight season, the Colts opened the playoffs with a blowout win against Denver, and once again Manning was nearly perfect. This time, he completed 27 of 33 passes for a playoff personal best 458 yards and four touchdowns with just one interception. Manning found Reggie Wayne 10 times for 221 yards and tight end Dallas Clark six times for 112 yards. Indianapolis led 35-3 at halftime, and this game was never close.
2003 wild-card round: Colts 41, Broncos 10
Having lost his first three playoff games while completing less than 50 percent of his passes combined, a 26-year-old Manning had something to prove – and he did just that, to the tune of 22-for-26 for 377 yards and five touchdowns without an interception. Wideouts Brandon Stokley (144) and Marvin Harrison (133) each topped 100 receiving yards, and Manning averaged a playoff personal best 14.5 yards per attempt.
2013 AFC championship game: Broncos 26, Patriots 16
NFL fans hadn’t been treated to a Manning-vs.-Brady playoff game since the 2006 AFC championship game, and just like in that matchup Manning got the better of his longtime nemesis. In his second season with the Broncos, Manning made it to his third Super Bowl on the strength of a 32-for-43 performance that included 400 passing yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions.
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY SportsMatthew Emmons
2013 Super Bowl: Seahawks 43, Broncos 8
At age 37, Manning won his fifth season MVP award and rolled through his first two playoff games, but his third Super Bowl appearance will be remembered for his being completely befuddled against Seattle’s defense. Manning completed 34 of 49 passes for 280 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions, but most of the best of those numbers came after Seattle got out to a 36-0 lead late in the third quarter.
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2009 Super Bowl: Saints 31, Colts 17
Playing in his second Super Bowl, Manning led the Colts to a 10-0 first-quarter lead and put them up again, 17-13, midway through the third quarter, but things fell apart after that. Manning finished 31-of-45 for 333 yards, one touchdown and one interception, but his counterpart – Drew Brees – was nearly perfect, completing 32 of 39 passes for 288 yards and two touchdowns.
Getty ImagesJed Jacobsohn
2006 AFC championship game: Colts 38, Patriots 34
Manning vs. Tom Brady has been the NFL’s defining quarterback matchup for seemingly forever, but it took Manning until his third playoff try to beat his chief rival. After falling to Brady during the 2003 and 2004 playoffs, Manning found the Patriots again in his path one game away from his first Super Bowl. This time, he completed 27 of 47 passes for 349 yards with one touchdown and one interception while Brady went 21-for-34 for 232 yards with one TD and one pick. More impressive than his statistics was Manning’s final possession. Trailing 34-31 with 2:17 left, he led the Colts on a seven-play, 80-yard game-winning drive that took just 1 minute, 15 seconds.
2006 Super Bowl: Colts 29, Bears 17
Manning entered the 2006 playoffs with a 3-6 playoff record and zero Super Bowl appearances, so even though this was far from his best postseason game statistically – he completed 25 of 38 passes for 247 yards, one touchdown and one interception -- it was the one that finally proved he could win a big game. Manning outdueled forgettable Bears starting quarterback Rex Grossman in a steady Miami rain to win the MVP award, completing 10 of his passes to running back Joseph Addai.