In less than a week, the Packers offense went from potent and in the firm command of the efficient and spectacular Aaron Rodgers to punchless, adrift, and down to a third-team quarterback whose last extended playing time was in college, nearly three years ago.
It's the possibility you don't want to consider if you bleed Broncos orange, Patriots red, white and blue, Saints black and gold or Seahawks neon green. And it's one hit away.
And that's why the defining image of the Broncos' 28-20 win over the Chargers wasn't
No, it was
That meant the Broncos could not simply kneel away the final one minute and 44 seconds. They had to get one more first down before going into victory formation -- and did, powered by two
But if you're looking for a positive in light of the MRI examination that Manning said he will undergo this week, look at two circumstances.
1: He stayed in the game.
"He wanted to be in. he wanted to be with his guys, man," said defensive tackle
2. Even after the hit, he was focused on the game and his team, and not his own pain.
"It killed me that we took the timeout," Manning said. "I saw them call timeout, so I was going to take a moment to kind of get it together and then they stuck us with a timeout. I was arguing with the ref over that. I hated to make us call a timeout."
Forty-five minutes later, Manning's ankle was "sore," and he expected it to be the same Monday -- a setback from when it was "feeling better" thanks to the rest afforded by the Week 9 bye, when Manning did not practice in the two sessions before the off weekend.
"I imagine I’ll be pretty sore tomorrow," Manning said. "Hopefully tests show nothing and it’s just kind of sore and aggravating."
It's a hope shared by the Broncos and their backers near and far -- especially after that moment Sunday afternoon when Manning was slow to arise, and their title aspirations stared into the same abyss that the Packers now face, and that every contender hopes above all to dodge.