New Details From The Top-Secret Simulated Game That Launched Peyton Manning’s Historic Comeback

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The NFL Network aired a great segment this afternoon about how Peyton Manning rehabilitated the neck injury that caused him to miss the entire 2011 season.The most incredible detail: On March, 3 2012 — at the very end of his rehab — Manning and Duke coach David Cutcliffe (who had been working with Manning for three months) set up simulated game that recreated the 2009 AFC Championship Game between the Colts and the Jets.

Manning put a Colts helmet and shoulder pads (that was a week before Indianapolis cut him), and threw the same exact passes — play by play — that he threw in that game. If Manning threw a five-yard comeback to the left sideline on the 5th play of the ’09 game, Manning threw that same pass on his fifth play of the simulation, and so on.

Manning and Cutcliffe also brought in some of his former teammates to play themselves. centre Jeff Saturday, wide receiver Austin Collie, tight end Dallas Clark, and wide receiver Brandon Stokley were all there. 

There wasn’t a full offensive line and no defenders, but Cutcliffe told NFL Network, “I don’t think I’ve ever won a game that I felt any better — after what he accomplished — in this ball game that nobody watched.”

Nobody knew about it until now.

Cutcliffe coached Manning when he was at Tennessee. Between December 2011 and March 2012, Cutcliffe was in charge of rebuilding Manning’s throwing ability from the ground up. He says it wasn’t until February 2012 that he knew for sure Manning would be able to play in the NFL again. The simulated game was the climax of their de facto boot camp.

A week after the simulated game, the Colts cut Manning to make room for Andrew Luck. He quickly signed with the Broncos, and now — 10 months after building his confidence in an obsessively-recreated fake game — he is the quarterback of a 13-3 team, will probably finish No. 2 in MVP voting, and is the favourite to win the Super Bowl.

Watch the entire NFL Network segment here >