Peyton Manning officially retired Monday having been in the NFL for 18 seasons spanning 265 regular-season starts. His career record in those starts: 186-79, a winning percentage just a tick over 70 percent. Winning 7 of every 10 games in the NFL is a mighty fine way to make a career.
He retires with some impressive credentials and this interesting distinction: there are five NFL teams that never beat Peyton Manning — and one of them is the Vikings. (The other four: Cleveland, Arizona, Detroit and Tampa Bay).
All but Cleveland are in the NFC, meaning those teams only faced Manning on the every four years cycle. (Manning went 7-0 against the Browns, though it should be noted he didn’t play particularly well against Cleveland, tossing just 6 TDs and throwing 10 interceptions in those games).
The Vikings faced Manning in 2000, 2004 and 2008 when he was with the Colts. He was gone to Denver by 2012 when the Colts came up on the division cycle again. The Vikings played Denver in 2011, before he was there, but they got him for the final time in 2015. Each time, Manning’s team won — including the last three times by a field goal. Interestingly, all four of those Vikings teams ended up making the playoffs. Here is a quick recap of those games:
2000: Manning, just 24 years old at the time and facing a Vikings team that would reach the NFC title game, threw for 283 yards and four TDs (plus one INT) in a 31-10 romp in the regular-season finale. Daunte Culpepper and Bubby Brister split time at QB for the Vikings.
2004: Manning again torched the Vikings, throwing for 268 yards and four TD passes while driving the Colts for the game-winning field goal in the closing seconds of a 31-28 victory after an Onterrio Smith rushing TD had tied the score with 3 minutes remaining. This was a Monday Night Football game, and it came during (another) mid-year swoon after a hot start under Mike Tice. The Vikings started 5-1, fell to 5-3 with the loss to the Colts and finished 8-8, sneaking into the playoffs and defeating the Packers before losing to the Eagles.
2008: I remember this game quite well. I watched it in Tom Linnemann’s basement, where I watched many games in 2008. The Vikings were in complete control through most of three quarters, but stalled drives led to five Ryan Longwell field goals and a 15-0 lead that could have been bigger. Sounds like a recipe for disaster against a future Hall of Fame QB, doesn’t it? It was. Manning got his act together. Tarvaris Jackson had an ill-timed turnover and a few bad drives. Ryan Longwell missed an important field goal. Next thing you knew, the score was tied. And then Manning was setting up Adam Vinatieri for the game-winning 47-yard field goal in the closing seconds. The Vikings fell to 0-2 with the loss but somehow rebounded to go 10-6 before again falling to the Eagles in the playoffs.
2015: A grizzled Manning, now 39 years old (15 years older than his first game against the Vikings), helped the Broncos to a 13-0 lead before Teddy Bridgewater rallied Minnesota to tie the game 20-20. Manning calmly led the Broncos on a drive that resulted in the tiebreaking 39-yard field goal with 1:54 remaining; the points stood up when Bridgewater was sacked and fumbled just short of midfield on the ensuing possession. Manning finished 17 for 27 for 213 yards, a TD and two INTs. The Vikings dropped to 2-2 but finished 11-5. I don’t remember what happened in the playoffs.
Add it up, and it’s Manning with a 4-0 record in his career against the Vikings, including three wins on field goals in the final two minutes. Total passing stats in those four games: 91 of 134 (67.9 percent), 1,075 yards, 10 TDs and 5 INTs.