This is the moment Peyton Manning lost the game. Wait, what?

Admit it, you want to blame Peyton Manning. You want to assign him all of the blame for a playoff overtime loss, and watch him wallow in his #Manningface depression. You don’t think he’s worthy of MVP consideration anymore either, because who the hell under throws a pass that badly during OT? (no, narratives don’t care that the MVP is a regular-season award).

If the above doesn’t apply to you, good. You’re better than this hack, and the lord of the curmudgeons.

Manning did tire during the Broncos’ 38-35 OT loss to Baltimore. He is 36 years old, after all, and he was asked to throw a football 43 times when he had only attempted more than 40 throws in a game four times this year. That’s not an excuse. Instead it’s a fact, one that’s important to remember when a 36-year-old was playing in a game that could have been the last in the career of a 37-year-old who was chasing him.

He faded late in the fourth quarter and during overtime, with his reads a little off, and his balls a little wobbly. He deserves some of your scorn, just as any quarterback does when his weak throw across his body ends in a pick on his own 45-yard line during overtime, as Manning’s intended pass to Brandon Stokley did.

It’s likely that history will primarily remember that interception, because our desire to place a W or an L next to a quarterback must be satiated, along with the need to give them both far too much praise and blame. The truth, though, isn’t nearly as convenient, and it doesn’t hang as low on trees which only grow heavy, branch-bending fruit.

Manning shouldn’t have thrown that pass. Not because it was a bad decision, or a poor read (though it was both of those things). No, because he shouldn’t have had the opportunity, and the game should have ended about a half hour earlier.

Rahim Moore’s botched coverage was infinitely more damning and inexplicable. With 41 seconds left on the clock in the fourth quarter and Baltimore timeout-less and needing a touchdown to tie, Moore and cornerback Tony Carter allowed Jacoby Jones — only the fastest guy on the field — to beat them deep. Carter was expecting safety help on the play, but Moore took a horrible angle (the result of which is pictured above), and was far too late arriving. He then compounded his mistake by miss-timing his jump.

The ball landed in Jones’ hands, and he ran the rest of the way untouched for the game-tying score. Repeated for emphasis: two defensive backs played shallow enough to allow the opposition’s fastest receiver to beat them deep when the line of scrimmage was the Ravens’ 30-yard line, and they didn’t have a timeout.

Peyton Manning was on the sideline.

A long forgotten play also looms large now. Matt Prater was last year’s hero during Tim Tebow’s period of relevance, as the Broncos kicker missed only one +50 yard field goal, and he hit on both of his 50-yard attempts this year at home in the thin Denver air. An attempt of that length is clearly always far from a gimmie, but a fine moment in herp derpism isn’t expected….

That happened because Prater did his best impression of me with a nine iron…

Peyton Manning was still on the sideline.

Champ Bailey likely conversed with Ray Lewis before the game, and he may have also been talked into retiring. That’s fine, Champ, as you’ve had a long and distinguished career. But you could have waited until after the game. Bailey — long worshiped as a shut down corner — was beaten repeatedly by Torrey Smith. And not just for short or intermediate catches either. Two of Smith’s three catches ended with him standing in the end zone.

Those scoring catches were 32 and 59 yards in length, and on the second one he made Bailey look like an inanimate orange cone of some kind. Worse, after Smith caught his 59 yarder he already had more receiving yardage today than his total in 10 games this year (he averaged 53.4 yards per game). He finished with 98 yards, and a YPC of 32.6.

Peyton Manning was on the sideline.

After Jones’ game-tying catch and the ensuing kickoff, the Broncos had the ball with 31 seconds left and two timeouts on their own 35-yard line. In football time, that’s about an hour for Manning, and two-to-three completions would have been needed for a long field goal try. If Prater didn’t duff it and instead gave the ball an honest ride and chance to split the uprights, the Broncos could then laugh over gin and tonic about the time they almost blew the season because Rahim Moore is an idiot. But head coach John Fox didn’t trust Manning to make those completions without throwing an interception, even after he led an 88-yard touchdown drive moments earlier to give Denver a chance to choke. He ordered a kneel down, letting half a minute harmlessly tick off the clock.

Peyton Manning was sent to the sideline.

Remarkably, there were 10 touchdowns in this game, two of which came from Broncos return man Trindon Holiday, who became the first player in NFL playoff history to have a punt and kickoff return touchdown in one game (even more impressively, with his combined 194 yards on his scores, he’s now the first player to have two +90 yard TDs of any kind in a playoff game). But a Broncos defense that gave up the third fewest points per game during the regular season with only 18.1 surrendered 28 points if we exclude Corey Graham’s first quarter pick six.

Peyton Manning was on the sideline.

During the allocation of blame, let’s make sure it’s widespread and distributed equally. Or we can just hate on Rahim Moore. I’m cool with that too.

Pic via The Associated Press