Peyton Manning saw the soft side of John Elway in March of 2012 when the Denver Broncos executive vice president of football operations took a patient and empathetic approach toward landing the biggest free-agent fish in NFL history.

That soft side was noticeably absent in August when the Seattle Seahawks -- Denver's eventual Super Bowl XLVIII foe -- manhandled the Broncos in a 40-10 preseason drubbing. Elway used that opportunity to send a message to his team about effort and expectations.

"John pretty much laid it on us. He was not happy with that game," Manning said Wednesday. "It was a butt-kicking, whether it was preseason or regular season. He was just sharing his thoughts that that won't be accepted under his reign as kind of leader of this organization along with (owner) Pat Bowlen. I was taking notes; a lot of players were taking notes."

The Broncos ended up capturing the AFC's No. 1 seed and a host of offensive records. Elway knew by training camp that he had assembled a squad capable of reaching the Super Bowl, and he didn't want to see that potential wasted while falling short of its goal for a second consecutive season.