Peyton Manning could be the Bronco's best punt

ALMOST three years ago, superstar quarterback Peyton Manning underwent neck surgery in an effort to extend his 14-season career with the Indianapolis Colts.

That was May, 2011. The Colts were so convinced the surgery would prove relatively straightforward they signed the then 35-year-old to a $A100 million five-year contract extension just two months later.

In September that year, however, Manning went under the knife again to have two vertebrae fused together.

The player who had never missed a game in his career, had to watch the entire 2011/12 season from the sidelines.

On March 7, 2012, Indianapolis decided Manning's time was up and cut him from its roster.

Two weeks later the Denver Broncos took a punt that one of the greatest quarterbacks in the history of the competition could still match it with the best.

This morning in New Jersey, the now 37-year-old will lead the Broncos into battle against the Seattle Seahawks, hoping to repay the faith Denver showed in him by claiming the team's third Super Bowl trophy.

Victory would cap a near perfect season. Manning was yesterday awarded his fifth MVP award - two more than any player in the history of the game - after breaking the NFL's single-season passing records with 5477 yards and 55 touchdowns.

Not a bad effort for a player who earlier in the campaign said: "I don't believe I throw quite the same as before I was injured. A lot of that is injury, a lot of it is being 37 years old."

To lift the trophy, Denver will have to beat the best defensive team in the NFL.

Seattle coach Pete Carroll has done an extraordinary job of turning his young charges - the second-youngest by average age to reach the Super Bowl - into championship contenders.

Just four players - Brandon Mebane, Red Bryant, Max Unger and Jon Ryan - were on the team when Carroll arrived four years ago. Experience is also a question. No Seattle player has played in a Super Bowl, but Carroll said he was hopeful that would not be a factor.

"There's a big emphasis about the Super Bowl experience and all of that, but I don't think it's that big of a deal," Carroll said.

"Hopefully we'll demonstrate that we can handle this game, and we can handle the matchups, and the lights, and the cameras, and all of that kind of stuff, and play good football."

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