(Reuters) - Peyton Manning’s bid to reach the Super Bowl in his comeback season ended miserably with a game-costing interception as the Denver Broncos quarterback handed victory to the Baltimore Ravens on Saturday.
The 36-year-old four-time National Football League (NFL) Most Valuable Player was left to wonder what could have been after Baltimore secured a 38-35 double overtime win that ended Manning’s season on his home field.
“We had plans for playing next week, guys were excited and to get beat in overtime by a field goal is really disappointing,” Manning said.
“We made a lot of strides and accomplished a lot this season but it definitely stings ending in a loss like this.”
Manning was cut by the Indianapolis Colts after missing the 2011 season due to various neck surgeries and began the season with many wondering whether he was still capable of being a top caliber quarterback.
By the end of a regular season where he threw for 4,659 yards, 37 touchdowns and led the Broncos to the top playoff seed in the American Football Conference, pundits were wondering if he could add to his 2007 Super Bowl win with the Colts.
But that ambition ended in dramatic fashion.
Manning completed 28-of-43 passes for 290 yards and three touchdowns and played his part in a thrilling playoff encounter but was responsible for all three Denver turnovers -- two interceptions and a lost fumble.
A first quarter pass was picked off by Corey Graham, who returned it 39 yards to put the Ravens ahead 14-7 five minutes into the game.
It got worse late in the first overtime period when Graham superbly picked off a Manning pass intended for Brandon Stokley.
”A bad throw and the decision probably wasn’t great either,“ said Manning. ”I thought I had him in the open and didn’t get enough on it. Certainly I’d like to have it back.
“It’s a very disappointing finish in the game. You can go through lots of plays offensively that you’d like to have back.”
Despite the loss, Manning was able to reflect positively on a 13-3 regular season.
“I accomplished a lot more this year than I certainly thought I would have personally and I think the team exceeded its expectations as well,” said Manning.
”We really didn’t know what to expect from this team. It’s hard to form chemistry when you have a lot of new players come in such a short space of time and we did that.
“This is a hard one to swallow but I‘m certainly proud of this team and what it went through to get to this point.”
Reporting by Simon Evans in Miami; Editing by Frank Pingue