EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Watch out. Peyton Manning has already traveled far beyond one of the worst football nights of his life.
He's plotting his next opportunity to rule the NFL.
He's looking past a horrific night and instead envisioning another trip to the Super Bowl.
There is no doubt the Seattle Seahawks are the most powerful team in the NFL. And there is no doubt Manning is riled.
So riled he is likely to lead the Broncos right back to the Super Bowl next season.
Manning sat in front of a few dozen reporters, who kept asking questions about his role in a loss that will live in football infamy.
But Manning wanted to talk about the days ahead. He emphasized how this 43-8 loss would "fuel" the Broncos hunger.
He showed little emotion, and there were no tears as he spoke in his twangy monotone.
Manning is the NFL's best-ever quarterback in the regular season, but he continues to trail Joe Montana, John Elway, Otto Graham, John Unitas, Tom Brady, Terry Bradshaw and Troy Aikman as a playoff performer.
This truth must torment him, but in a superb acting performance he expertly hid his pain.
This was a humiliating night for anyone associated with the Broncos, and that list includes each fan and player. The list includes team guru John Elway and owner Pat Bowlen. The list includes Manning.
He fails to see the defeat in those terms.
"It's not embarrassing at all," Manning said. "I would never use that word. The word embarrassing is an insulting word, to tell you the truth."
It's also an accurate word.
But Manning has the correct plan. He's delivered unprecedented thrills during his two-season reign as the leader of the Broncos offense. He's delivered 28 victories and only seven losses.
Let's be clear: I was shocked by Seattle's start-to-finish dominance. The Broncos lost by a total of 41 points in their previous six losses during the Manning era. They had never suffered such devastation with No. 18 leading the offense. The losses this season to the Colts, Patriots and Chargers were filled with drama.
Face it; the Broncos will again be the favorites to rule the AFC if Manning returns, and he almost certainly will be back. I believe he will play until he's physically unable to lead an NFL offense. He'll stay as long as his battered body allows him to stay.
He will lead a team that was smacked upside the head while a big chunk of the world was watching. As an entertainment vehicle, this game fell apart immediately after Renee Fleming's astonishingly wonderful performance of the national anthem.
As a vehicle for future inspiration, this ugly game is as good as it gets.
In Seattle, this game will be celebrated for, oh, the next 150 years or so. In Denver, and in Manning's mind, the details will soon be swept aside. This performance will linger in Manning's mind, but only as an inspiration to find a path to better days.
Tight end Julius Thomas joined in the "tomorrow will be better" chorus.
"When you lose the Super Bowl, you're left with a desire and a hunger, and that hunger isn't going to go anywhere," Thomas said.
The Broncos had virtually no chance to recover when Manning retreated into the pocket midway through the third quarter and delivered a strike to Demaryius Thomas.
Thomas, battling for extra yards, was stripped of the ball by the Seahawks' Byron Maxwell. Seattle recovered the ball. The Broncos ultra-slim chance for a comeback vanished at that instant.
Manning shook his fist in disgust. He knew this chance to rule the NFL had slipped from his grasp.
He's already plotting for his next chance.