You're Peyton Manning, seeking to prove without a doubt that you're more than just a bunch of pretty numbers on your NFL resume.
He'll never live this down.
While this otherwise extraordinary quarterback for the Indianapolis Colts will reach the Pro Football Hall of Fame someday, he just moved closer to the city limits of the Chokers Hall of Fame.
I mean, you're Peyton Manning, and you're so close Sunday against the New Orleans Saints to becoming Joe Montana, a truly great one, who produced magic 21 years ago down the stretch of a Super Bowl on this same field. Near the end of that one, Montana hit John Taylor in the end zone to push the San Francisco 49ers past the Cincinnati Bengals.
Near the end of this one, Manning hit Tracy Porter for a touchdown. It's just that Porter plays cornerback for the Saints. Worse for the Colts, with the Saints providing little or no pressure at the time, Manning fired into the hands of Porter who jumped Reggie Wayne's route and sprinted 74 yards with the interception for a touchdown.
Just like that, the Colts went from a possible game-tying drive to a 31-17 deficit that became the game's final score.
What happened? Nobody is saying, at least not the truth.
"He made a great play. He made a great play," said Manning, pausing later, before adding, "Uh, that's all I can say about it. Porter made a heck of a play."
Added Wayne, who clearly didn't help matters by running a less-than-crisp route, "We ran that play quite a few times earlier in the game, and Peyton went backside with it, so I think [Porter] kind of had a feeling it was coming, because it was the same formation. He did a good job or recognizing it, and, like I said, he made a good play."
Colts coach Jim Caldwell said something similar, along with Manning's other teammates, but here's the deal: the great ones don't care about cornerbacks jumping routes. And even if their receivers are less than precise, they don't care about that, either. They still find a way to get the job done, and Manning didn't. Not only on that play, but throughout the game -- well, at least after he teased folks by roaring through the first quarter.
There was the Colts' opening drive, for instance, when Manning pushed his team downfield in a hurry while doing all of those Manning things before the snap of the ball -- the slaps to his helmet, the feet stomping, the code words to his teammates that meant something but also nothing. Only a dropped pass by Pierre Garcon prevented the Colts from getting more than a field goal.
Even so, Manning took the Colts 96 yards on their next drive for a 10-0 lead -- a drive that ended when he nicely lofted a throw over Garcon's left shoulder to complete a 19-yard touchdown play.
That's when you thought Manning understood the deal here. And here's the deal: he had to continue along the lines of using his arm, his mind and his guts to win a second Super Bowl -- and then, eventually, a third one. Then a fourth. Oh, and Manning definitely would need a fifth world championship, but only if he wished to leave no doubt for future generations that he is the greatest quarterback of all time.
Manning still has only the one that he managed three years ago against the Chicago Bears, and without a second Super Bowl victory, that one looks like a fluke.
This won't help Manning's cause, reputation or whatever you want to call what he didn't enhance against the Saints. Consider, too, that the mentor was outplayed by his pupil during the game's final three quarters when it counted most. After a slow start, the Saints' Drew Brees, who befriended Manning while playing at Purdue, completed 32 of 39 passes for 288 yards, two touchdowns and a 114.5 passer rating. He also didn't throw an interception.
Not only did Manning have that one, he finished with a passer rating of 88.5 after sitting at 105.7 following the first quarter.
Somebody asked Manning about his legacy right now. He formed a crooked smile, then he said, "I don't know. I'll let ya'll decide that."
We've decided: He's not Montana, not even close.
He's maybe even the antithesis thereof.