And, still, it wasn't enough.
Manning finished 28 of 43 for 290 yards and three scores. But more memorable than those touchdowns will be his fumble and two picks.
Fumbles happen, especially when being sacked and trying to tuck the football back against his body. The play was reviewed and the ruling of fumble upheld. Not that Manning expected anything different.
"Probably a fumble," Manning said. "I tried to kind of double-clutch and I lost the fumble. ... It was certainly a possession I'd like to have back."
A familiar theme for Manning on this day.
And that first interception? That happens, too — it was tipped and Graham returned it for a 39-yard score.
The other interception, though, that's a throw he's made a handful of times over his 15-year career, especially with good friend Stokley the one running the route.
"Bad throw," explained Manning, who's thrown 32 postseason TD passes, which is tied for fourth all-time with Dan Marino. "Probably the decision (wasn't) great, either. I thought I had an opening and I didn't get enough on it. I was trying to make a play and it's certainly a throw I'd like to have back."
After all, one of Manning's most memorable completions in this comeback season was a TD toss at Carolina in November, where he rolled to his right, stopped and twisted, then threw across the field to Stokley.
NFL Films had Manning hooked up for sound that day. Coming off the field, he called that throw an example of "Rule No. 1 that you never do." But, Manning told Stokley, sometimes you throw caution to the wind.
This time, it didn't work out.
Now, Manning has an entire offseason to think about breaking "Rule No. 1."
"It's a grind," Manning said. "It does require a lot of work and a lot of energy. That's why it's disappointing, because of how much hard work and effort and time and extra meetings and extra workouts we put in to get to this point. That's part of it.
"You want it to go perfect and to win and keep going, but it's not the way it always works."
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