Fair or not, Denver's divisional playoff game Sunday versus San Diego, as well as any subsequent postseason matchup, will go straight on the ledger and legacy of Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning.
Those looking for the flaws in Manning's football career go straight to the 9-11 postseason record he has put up after regular seasons of routine greatness.
But that 9-11 won-loss record just as easily could be flipped, improved and made so that critics would need to find some other way to question Manning's credentials.
Of Manning's 11 postseason losses, seven came in games that Manning could easily have won if one other player had made one other play. But certain Broncos and Colts could not come through, and the loss followed Manning, which is how football works.
No other player in sports is as important as the quarterback, which is one reason QBs are treated like and paid better than royalty. But they get most of the blame, too, even though a game's outcome is never on one player.
There are plenty of other culprits in Manning's subpar postseason mark.
Last season, had Broncos safety Rahim Moore not made what might have been the single worst defensive play in postseason history, Denver would have beaten Baltimore. But Moore misjudged a 70-yard, Joe Flacco-to- Jacoby Jones touchdown pass with 41 seconds remaining that sent the divisional playoff game into overtime, where the Ravens eventually won 38-35. Yet Manning absorbed more blame than anyone.
During the 2010 divisional playoffs, after Manning led the Colts on an eight-play, 48-yard drive for a go-ahead field goal with 53 seconds remaining, Indianapolis' defense could not hold against the Jets. It allowed New York quarterback Mark Sanchez to drive his team 40 yards for a winning field goal at the gun for a 17-16 Jets win. Some wondered what Manning was missing.
During Super Bowl XLIV, with Indianapolis leading 10-6 at halftime, the Saints attempted and recovered an onside kick to start the second half, leading the way for them to rally and win 31-17. Manning threw a decisive late-game interception to Tracy Porter and caught plenty of flak himself.
During a 2008 wild-card game in San Diego, with 2:30 remaining and the Chargers out of timeouts, all Indianapolis needed was one more first down to run out the clock. Yet on a third-and-2, Manning was sacked. The Chargers tied the score on their next possession with a field goal and won 23-17 after they won the overtime coin toss and scored a touchdown before the Colts ever could touch the ball. Yet Manning was blamed.
During a 2007 divisional playoff game against the Chargers, with Indianapolis trailing 28-24, Colts tight end Dallas Clark dropped a fourth-down pass just shy of midfield with one minute left that would have given his team a first down and a chance to win. Criticism was showered on Manning.