It was 9 degrees when the Broncos returned to their practice field for the first time since clinching a spot in next week’s Super Bowl at MetLife Stadium.
“Any time you can have ... a situation that you can simulate during practice that might be in a game, that’s always a good thing,” said Manning, his breath vaporizing as he spoke from the podium after the two-hour workout.
Manning, who spent much of his career inside in Indianapolis, has prepared for some cold-weather games since coming to Denver in 2012 by soaking his right hand in ice water.
He welcomed the blast of wintry weather after a relatively balmy stretch of January, which included a 63 degree Sunday afternoon when he led the Broncos past the New England Patriots for the AFC title.
The knock on Manning is that for all his greatness he crumbles in the cold and in the playoffs — he has just one championship ring in 12 previous trips to the postseason, eight of which ended in first-round exits, including last year’s double-overtime loss to Baltimore on a frigid night in Denver.
Manning could take care of both of those criticisms next week when the Broncos face the Seattle Seahawks in East Rutherford, N.J., in the first outdoor Super Bowl ever held in a cold-weather city.
With a win, he would be the first quarterback to lead two teams to the title.
Although it’s too early for forecasters to predict what the weather will be, there’s a decent chance for freezing temperatures or snow by kickoff on the night of Feb. 2.
Although Manning is 167-73 in the regular season, he’s 11-11 in the playoffs. And he’s 4-7 in games that are below freezing at kickoff, although some of those were games where he played sparingly because the Colts had already locked up playoff seeding. Others were against New England, when the Patriots clearly had the better team.
And Manning did complete 39 passes for 397 yards and four touchdowns against Tennessee last month when the temperature at kickoff in Denver was 18 degrees.
If the Broncos beat the Seahawks — and they’re favored by oddsmakers for the 30th straight game — Manning will match little brother Eli’s two Super Bowl rings.
Eli said Peyton doesn’t have to beat Seattle to secure his legacy, however.
“I think Peyton’s already created his own legacy,” Eli said during a conference call Thursday. “He’s played at a very high level for a long period of time and he’s overcome injuries and obviously set numerous records and been on a lot of playoff teams, playing in his third Super Bowl.”
Peyton’s resume is impressive: 13-time Pro Bowler, seven-time All-Pro and odds-on favorite to win his fifth MVP after setting NFL records by throwing for 55 TDs and 5,447 yards.
Eli does not think the cold will be a factor in the game, either.
“I don’t think this hurts or helps either team,” he said. “Peyton has been in Denver this year and played outside in a lot of cold games. I think obviously if it were to snow or be very windy, it could be a disadvantage to the Broncos, just because how much they like to throw the ball, compared to Seattle and their running game.
“For the most part, it’s really going to be the best team that is going to win, whoever plays the best football that day. It’s going to come down to that and execution. The weather isn’t going to decide the game.”
Although the Seahawks are more run-oriented, the Broncos do have a good 1-2 punch in running backs Knowshon Moreno, who grew up 45 minutes from the Meadowlands, and Montee Ball, who combined for 2,290 yards from scrimmage and 17 touchdowns this season.
Denver safety Mike Adams, who’s also from New Jersey, scoffed at the notion that inclement weather could hurt the Broncos.
“We’re talking about the Super Bowl. I’m not worried about the cold, I promise you that,” Adams said. “Weren’t we practicing in like minus-3 degree weather here? So I’m definitely not worried about any cold weather. If anything, I’m worrying about them cancelling the game.”
The NFL’s contingency plans call for the game to be played anywhere from Friday, Jan. 31, to Monday, Feb. 3, in case of a major snowstorm.
Manning — who is 10-3 while wearing a glove on his throwing hand the last two seasons — and the Broncos are embracing the elements.
“We practice in the cold all the time. I think we practiced indoors one time,” Denver pass-rusher Shaun Phillips said. “We’re definitely cold weather bred, and we’ll be ready for it.”