Amid the fluttering confetti and euphoria of Denver's Super Bowl victory Sunday night, Olivia Manning didn't disguise her feelings.
She had just watched her son, Peyton, win the second Lombardi Trophy of his storied NFL career from a suite on the seventh level of Levi's Stadium — seventh heaven for the Manning family.
Peyton, who turns 40 next month, hasn't officially decided whether he wants to continue his playing career. But his mom, speaking to two reporters, weighed in with her opinion.
"I would like for him to retire," she said. "I would. Physically, I just don't think it's worth going on. He won a Super Bowl — it's the best way to go out."
This win, she said, was the sweetest of all of them, even though it's tough to imagine anything being more satisfying to the Mannings than the first Super Bowl win — Peyton's Indianapolis Colts over Chicago — or younger brother Eli's leading the New York Giants to two title victories over New England.
How much did Olivia want Sunday's win over the Carolina Panthers?
"Oh my goodness," she said. "I guess more than I've ever wanted any of them. Just because he's been through a lot, he's going to be 40 years old. To get a win for the Broncos, Denver's a great city and great team. He loves this team. To get a win for them."
Predictably, Manning didn't indicate which way he's leaning.
"I'll take some time to reflect," he said. "I have a couple of priorities first. I want to go kiss my wife and my kids. I want to go hug my family. I'm going to drink a lot of Budweiser tonight, I promise you that. I'm going to take care of those things first, and say a little prayer to thank the man upstairs for this great opportunity."
The game was far from a tour de force for Manning, who set an NFL record with his 200th career victory. He threw for only 141 yards, with no touchdowns, and Denver had just 11 first downs compared to 21 by the Panthers.
But Manning has carried teams throughout his 18-year career. It's only right that somebody carry him this time, and Denver's smothering defense did just that. The Broncos sacked Carolina quarterback Cam Newton six times, and stripped him near the goal line, scoring the first touchdown on a fumble recovery in the last 23 years of Super Bowls.
"Your roles, sometimes they change," said Peyton's older brother, Cooper, standing near the dais and watching Peyton tuck his twin 4-year-olds, Marshall and Mosley, under his arms. "Different teams, different personnel. The role here was to try to get a lead, hold onto it, and don't do anything stupid and let the defense attack. And that's what they did. The defense went after them."
Archie Manning didn't come down to the field to watch the postgame celebration. He recently had knee-replacement surgery, so it's a little tougher to get around these days. Instead, he waited to visit his son in the Broncos locker room.
After congratulating Peyton, Archie emerged from the locker room, leaned on a wall just outside it, and basked in the warm afterglow of the 24-10 victory.
It wasn't so long ago that Archie thought his son's playing career was probably over. Peyton had suffered a torn plantar fascia in his left foot, and the Broncos seemed to have moved on with Brock Osweiler, their quarterback of the future.
"Absolutely not," Archie said when asked if he could have envisioned his son reaching the NFL mountaintop again this season. " I didn't think he was going to play again. His foot was bothering him, Brock was playing well, and I just said, well, that's football. You look at all the good times he had and all the great health he enjoyed for so many years."
Manning sat out six of the final seven regular-season games, but he replaced a struggling Osweiler in the finale against San Diego — a game the Broncos needed to win to stave off Kansas City for the AFC West title — and directed Denver to a 27-20 victory. That was a turning point.
Even though he holds the NFL career records for passing yards and touchdowns, Manning had a terrible year statistically — he had nine touchdowns just two years after he threw for 55 — and had to adjust to a new reality. For the first time in his career, he ran the scout-team offense, and dressed as a backup.
"Through it all," Archie said, "best I could tell, he tried to remain a good team player and make a contribution."
Archie gets nervous watching his sons play, and he's a pacer. He often has to step out of the family's suite and listen to the game on the radio, or listen for the crowd's reaction. At the most stressful times Sunday, he just lowered his head and averted his eyes.
"I got a little nervous tonight," Archie said. "We couldn't move it. We couldn't run it. I got so tired of hearing, 'No gain.' He must have said that a hundred times tonight: 'No gain.' They had some protection problems. But that defense was so good.
"That Carolina bunch is a good team, but I think Denver shocked them a little bit. . . . They were 17-1, I take my hat off to them. But I don't think they thought they could lose this game. I think Denver shocked them."
Archie played 15 NFL seasons — three fewer than Peyton has played — and he said he doesn't plan to give him advice on his future.
"He's 40 years old, he's played so much more football than me," he said, stopping to note his text messages just hit 200. "I always tell him to keep the faith and have fun. . . . At some point, we'll talk about some things and he's got some decisions to make.
"I want to hear his side of it first. I've got some ideas. I would never tell Peyton what to do, what not to do. I'll lay some things out for him. But he knows what to consider. If he wants to play some more football, he's going to have to go to another team. He'd be 40. . . . First thing I'm going to do is say, 'Talk to me. Tell me what's on your mind.'
"But he needs to enjoy this. Not too many people get to do this twice."