Manning has yet to string together top performances during a Colts' playoff run. Will this finally be the year he does?

Peyton Manning may very well earn his fourth MVP award Saturday.

To say he is a shoe in Hall of Famer is an understatement.

If Manning retired tomorrow, he’d finish his career top five all time in every major statistical category.

But something is missing.

Yeah, yeah, we all said he just needed that one Super Bowl ring to elevate himself above the Dan Marino “never won the big one” category.

He did that.

But still, something is missing.

It’s Manning that brings it on himself. During the regular season the guy is a magician, he’s unstoppable. He’s one of the best — if not the best — to ever play the position.

The postseason has been a mixed bag.

His first three playoff appearances in 1999, 2000, and 2002 were bad. In those three games combined he tossed just one touchdown pass and completed 48 percent of his passes.

In 2003 and 2004, he was virtually flawless in the postseason until the Colts ran into the Patriots. We all remember what happened in those two games — Manning meltdowns.

He got his signature win against the Patriots during the Colts’ Super Bowl run in 2006, leading the team back from a seemingly insurmountable deficit. But overall, the running game and defense were more responsible for the Lombardi Trophy residing in Indianapolis than Manning was. He threw for three touchdowns and seven interceptions during that postseason.

Manning has been very good in the Colts’ playoff losses the past two seasons, throwing for a combined 712 yards, four touchdowns, and two interceptions.

But from Manning, we’ve come to expect more than very good.

Every regular season he puts the team on his back and wills them to victory. However, we’ve yet to see that from him throughout a playoff run.

Don’t get me wrong, football is the ultimate team sport. Manning can’t stop the run, cover kicks, or run block.

Manning could certainly have the game of his life and the Colts could still get knocked out of the playoffs.

That hasn’t happened yet.

The Colts have averaged just 13.6 points in eight playoff losses with Manning at the helm — far below average for what has always been an elite offensive unit during the regular season. In those losses he’s thrown seven touchdowns to nine interceptions.

It is time for Manning to bring his best throughout a playoff run. If he can do that, the Colts will be a force to be reckoned with this postseason. But if he can’t, expect the criticism to return, because Manning has set the bar so high that anything less than a return to Miami will be a disappointment.

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