After taking a long look at four of the best clutch quarterbacks of this era, or at least, quarterbacks known for being clutch, we conclude our series with the one and only Peyton Manning. With Manning now fully in the rear-view mirror, its a perfect time to look back at Manning's career with the Colts. While in Indianapolis, Manning often was labeled as a "regular season" quarterback who couldn't get it done in the playoffs. Is this true? How does Manning hold up to the traditional "playoff quarterbacks" like Tom Brady, Eli Manning, and Ben Roethlisberger, or less well known playoff guru Drew Brees?
|Reg. Season||Games||Comp. %||Yds/Attempt||Yds/Game||TD%||Int. %||Sack %||Rating|
One of the things I love about Peyton is his Sack Rate. By far the best among the quarterbacks surveyed, Brees is the next closest at 3.7%. Brady and Eli both sit at 4.7%, while Roethlisberger is well over eight percent. That's why Manning's Net Yards/Attempt are the only one over 7.0 for this group.
Fun Fact: Manning's Sack Rate of 3.1% is 2nd all time to Steve Walsh, a journeyman quarterback who only started 38 games in the NFL, and also backed up Manning in 1999.
But regular season isn't why we're here:
|Playoffs||Games||Comp. %||Yds/Attempt||Yds/Game||TD%||Int. %||Sack %||Rating|
It's very clear that Manning's playoff numbers are nowhere near his incredible regular season numbers. Unlike Drew Brees, who has done a fantastic job of keeping his playoff numbers at or above his regular season numbers, Manning has a clear drop in production, with a six-point drop in rating, largely due to a percentage and a half drop in touchdown percentage, and slightly worse completion percentage, YPA, and Sack Rate. Manning has, however, done a surprisingly good job of lowering his interception rate during the postseason, albeit only a tenth of a percent.
Where do Manning's totals fall in our clutch quarterback posse? Well, Manning is second only to Drew Brees in completion percentage (66%) and yards/game (323). He is third in Yards/Attempt, behind Brees and Roethlisberger, but with sacks taken into account (as they would be in N Y/A) Manning would certainly pass Roethlisberger, and likely Brees as well. Manning is fourth in interception rate, way ahead of Roethlisberger, but slightly behind Eli and Brady (Brees kills everyone here). Manning is last in touchdown rate, with Brees again well ahead of the pack. In playoff quarterback rating though, Manning is third, just behind Eli and way behind Brees.
The most concerning piece of information among these statistics is Manning's touchdown rate, which is by far the biggest drop in his regular season vs. playoff performances, as well as the only place where Manning is lacking in comparison to the other four quarterbacks. While Manning gets plenty of yards per attempt, those attempts don't turn into touchdowns nearly enough.
Why is this? Well, I believe the answer has several parts.
First, Manning's playoff performance can't be taken as a whole. Manning's performance in the playoffs, at it's most basic level, can be broken down into two parts: 1998-2002 and 2003-present. Although it may seem like I'm simply trying to take out Manning's worst years, I assure you that my intentions are pure. Manning is the only quarterback in this group to have a trend like this. Manning's first five years in the league are clearly far inferior to his last five, both in the post season and the regular season. Manning was awful in the playoffs in 1999-2000, and 2002, but since then he has been one of the best in the league during the postseason. Look at how drastically different Manning's career looks in retrospect:
|Regular Season||Games||Comp. %||Yds/Attempt||Yds/Game||TD%||Int. %||Sack %||Rating|
And the playoffs during that time:
|Playoffs||Games||Comp. %||Yds/Attempt||Yds/Game||TD %||Int. %||Sack %||Rating|
While there is still an obvious drop from the regular season to the postseason, this gives Manning's work over his career a much better picture, in my opinion, than the overall numbers. While Manning only played in three playoff games in his first five years in the league, it created a stigma among the media that Manning was a poor playoff quarterback (fairly, because he was during those five years). Unfortunately, over the last nine years he's been one of the best in the league during the post season, I'd say only Brees has out performed him overall.
But, that key statistic, touchdown rate, while much closer to his peers now, is still the worst among the five quarterbacks, dragging down his overall rating. Manning gets a lot of yards, and very efficiently (Brees gets more yards in the postseason, but Manning is more efficient), but it hasn't translated into scores as often as it should have. While looking at the bulk of Manning's career in proper context has helped us get part of the way there, Manning is still lacking.
The reason why lies in the context of the games themselves.
First, Manning has faced far superior defenses during his time in the league. Let's take a look at the defenses the quarterbacks have faced in the playoffs:
Opponent's Average Defensive Ranking (Passer Rating)
Opponent's Average Passer Rating Allowed
Opponent's Average Defensive Scoring Rank
|Opponent's Average Score Allowed|
*As stated above, we're just talking 2003-2010 here. The total numbers, including 1999-2002, bring Manning's averages up, but just slightly. He is still easily ahead in all categories. But, since we're just looking at that period now, I only listed the numbers from that year.
Overall, Manning has faced much tougher defenses during his trips to the playoffs. The difference is actually quite astounding, especially with a player like Drew Brees, who has faced much easier defenses, and feasted upon them. He has faced several top notch defenses (2011 49ers, 2006 Bears), and has put up solid numbers. But, they were nowhere near his average playoff numbers, and his team lost both games.
Manning, on the other hand, has faced twelve top ten defenses out of his 16 games from 2003-2010 (both in scoring and passer rating), most of which were in the top five (Seven in passer rating and nine in scoring). Against those defenses, he has done pretty well, having great games against the 2010 and 2009 Jets and 2007 Chargers. He really only had two bad playoff games from 2003-2010: against the 2003 and 2004 Patriots, who had the number one rated defense in 2003, and another top five one in 2004.
You could point to Manning's low 39.6 game against the 2006 Ravens as well, but that game was wonderfully played by Manning, an incredible chess match against the #1 defense that year (and the best scoring defense out of any in this sample, allowing just 12.6 points per game).
As telling as those defensive numbers are, there is another contributing factor to Manning's low touchdown numbers in the playoffs: drive context.
Colts Authority's Scott Kacsmar has done some fantastic work on clutch quarterback play, and last year compiled a tremendous group of quarterback drive statistics for the playoffs that is quite telling, especially when it comes to Peyton Manning. Although these statistics do not include 2011, they are helpful nonetheless. In the group, Kacsmar charted two dozen quarterbacks over the last thirty years.
Some of the facts that are relevent here:
- Manning has had the worst starting field position of every quarterback surveyed. Combining that with the best defenses faced, and you get a very difficult time of scoring.
- Despite playing those tougher defenses, Manning was second among the quarterbacks in yards per drive, easily topping the other four quarterbacks in this study. Brees was second, then Roethlisberger, Brady, and Eli.
- The worst field position of any of the 314 games in the study was the 2008 Wild Card game in San Diego, where the Colts average starting field position was their own 15. This explains why the Colts only scored 17 points against a defense that wasn't that great (Manning still posted a 90.3 rating).
- The second worst game was the 2009 Super Bowl against the Saints, where again the Colts only scored 17 points.
- Manning's average touchdown drives have been 70.6 yards, second longest in Kacsmar's study, and longest among the five quarterbacks here.
This just goes to show that Manning has faced a much longer field in the playoffs than his competitors, which helps explain why his scoring percentage is lower.
Combining this with the defenses faced shows us that Manning has really done an incredible job in the playoffs. I'm not sure if you can push him past Drew Brees, simply because Brees has never had a truly bad game, although he has had a limited sample and faced easier defenses. But Manning, at least from 2003-2011, has been a simply wonderful playoff quarterback, despite facing very difficult circumstances. I would definitely put him ahead of Brady and Roethlisberger, and Eli, until he proves that his playoff stats are more than just streaky performances.
I never thought of Manning as a "Bad" Playoff QB, nor does any analyst I've seen on TV. I just don't think he's much of a Clutch Playoff QB.
QBs like Brady and Eli have reputations as Clutch Playoff QBs because of their Signature drives in the last half of the 4th Qtr of big playoff games. Eli now has two Clutch SB winning drives in the last few minutes of the game, that's enough for him to be considered Playoff Clutch forever unless he has some major chokes in the future, which will never happen.
But I'll compare Peyton to Brady because that's the QB rivalry I have followed and am more familiar with.
Brady had that SB drive as a virtual rookie to win SB36, then he put together a TD drive + 2 Pt conversion, and a FG drive in the last 6 minutes of SB38 for the win. Combine that with winning drives after some serious luck, the two drives in regulation and O.T. in the tuck rule game, the game winning drive vs Charges in 2006.
Then people saw Brady finish a TD drive in the last half of the 4th in SB42 which he lost but still kind of looked Clutch in defeat. Then he doesn't finish the drive in the last half of the 4th in SB46 but people only remember the Welker drop as being the factor. So all of that makes Brady look playoff Clutch even when he loses. He's been very lucky that way. But his legacy as a Clutch Playoff QB is pretty much sealed (unless he blows it later) because of the drives he finished, and the fact that he never really had a Signature choke Drive like Manning did in SB44. Manning has played in two SB games and didn't score in the 4th Qtr of either one, and had a Huge Choke in in one of them. He has the AFCC comeback in 06' but he needs more than that to stack up against Brady or Eli as a Playoff Clutch QB. This is not to say that Brady is a better Overall Playoff QB than Manning, the article makes a good case for Manning as a great "Overall Playoff QB."
Brady is just more Playoff Clutch. I believe there is a difference.
@DavidBecker How many clutch opportunities has Manning had, and how many were his fault? I'll give you 07 Chargers. But I think you're off the mark with the Saints Super Bowl. None other than Steve Young came to the conclusion that Wayne was at fault there. The play has been broken down frame-by-frame both on this site and Rufio's Dog Pound (a Cleveland Browns' site, which was VERY good), if you'd need any kind of reference. And seeing as most (but not all) of his playoff losses came as a result of his team messing up in the clutch, he's had a lot less opportunities to have those game winning drives. If you think I'm wrong and am just being a complete homer about this then let me know, because if any of what I'm saying is wrong then it's better to realize that than live in a hopeless fantasy world.
As for Brady, he's had his share of failures. That 06 Chargers drive was only made possible because what should have been the game-ending the interception he threw was fumbled back to the Pats. With the game still in hand against the Jets in his second-best season ever, he displayed horrific clock management and just looked like a mess. Against the Ravens this year, he completed one pass in the entire fourth quarter, played like complete crap, and still got carried to the win. Welker drop be damned, he still played like crap on those last plays in the Super Bowl this past year. He's been no better than Peyton in the clutch.
Yes, I think you're being kind of a homer. Manning's had plenty of opportunities to be clutch. There were the two Chargers losses back to back in the playoffs. In the 1st one he had 1st and goal in the last couple of minutes to win the game turned it over on downs. In the 2nd Charger loss he failed to score in the last Qtr and a half of the game, that's pretty bad for Manning. In SB44, I just can't bring myself to make excuses for him, that was a nasty pick-6 that he shouldn't have thrown. He totally floated that pass, he had Collie open in the middle, and his O-line had picked up the blitz pretty well. Then there was the Steelers loss where the kicker missed it, but that was no gimmie kick, I think it was from like 46 or 47 yds out. Manning has to get him closer than that.
And yeah, Brady's had his chokes, all QBs have them. I fact, Montana is widely considered the Most Playoff Clutch QB ever, and he had some bad chokes. No QB will finish every clutch drive, I don't expect perfection from Manning or Brady.
Brady has finished signature drives (some with a little luck) that have cemented his legacy as a Playoff Clutch QB, even despite his chokes. Manning just hasn't finished enough Clutch drives to cement his legacy as Playoff Clutch, but he still has time. Both of them have some years left. Their legacies are not in stone yet, they can still move their Playoff Clutch Rating up or down.
And also, Brady has had a lot of opponents shoot themselves in the foot in crazy ways. Like the 06' Chargers inexplicably picking him off on 4th down, and fumbling it back to giving him a new set of downs. The Ravens missing a chip shot FG a couple of months ago. Manning uncharacteristicaly tossing 4 picks in the playoffs....
@DavidBecker @dmstorm22 Well, I've got to hand it to you, Dave, you got me. While I still don't think Manning was at fault for the interception, you're absolutely right that he should have run it more. As you said, even if the pick 6 doesn't happen, if we score a TD through the pass there's more than likely too much time on the clock. Of course, Manning probably would have resorted to the run the closer we got to the end zone, but we can't just assume that. There was no reason not to run in that situation, and Peyton was wrong for trying to pass it. I don't think that's the reason for most of our playoff losses, and it wasn't the biggest factor in the loss, but it was sure as hell something that has to be accounted for.
I disagree with you on how Brady ended up playing in 5 Super Bowls in 10 years. I think it's more due to having a team that he can continually rely on to carry him when he's ineffective due to weather or just plain sucking. Every single one of his Super Bowl runs has had a game where Brady sucked except for 04, and even that featured a game in which he had to do very little (vs. the Colts) to lead the team to victory. That ability to lean on a stout defense combined with incredible luck is the biggest factor in those Super Bowl wins/appearances.
Ok, Fondue, I'm gonna give you one example where Manning just got in his own way and totally effed up an opportunity at multiple rings.
In SB44, the running game was working great vs the Saints, with about 7 yds per carry going into the fateful pick-6 drive. Addai was running it so well that there was even a point in the game where they show one of the Colts go up to Addai on the sideline after he just scored a TD and tells him, "you're gonna be the MVP." I was thinking the same thing, and I was kind of bummed cause I really wanted Manning to be the MVP.
Manning had 200 yds passing and 1 TD going into the pick-6 drive with 5:35 in the 4th Qtr. Then suddenly, and inexplicably, Manning refuses to call a running play for the rest of the game. He completely abandons the running game which the Saints had yet to stop, and the Colts became totally one-dimentional the rest of the way. Why???
They had 5:35 left, and running the ball would've allowed the Colts to kill as much of the clock as they wanted to. They could've put together a 5 minute plus drive and got the TD if they wanted to and left virtually no time on the clock for Brees to burn them with a FG drive to win it. Then the cointoss would've given them a 50/50 chance. But at least they would've maximized their chances of winning.
Instead, Manning goes and gets in his own way, and goes pass happy for the rest of the game. The ball got picked at about the Saints 25 yd line with about 3:30 left on the clock. If Manning had converted, they would've had a first down near the 20, with the Saints still having a couple of timeouts, and the 2 minute warning still to come. So even if Manning had gotten the TD, there would've been plenty of time for Brees to kill them with a game winning drive like he did just before halftime. The Colts defense hadn't stopped Brees in the 2nd half, they had just given up a TD drive, and if Manning had scored as quickly as he was trying to score, the D would've gone out there completely gassed. That strategy of abandoning the run game was gonna doom them no matter what, even with no pick-6.
The Saints realized Manning was going all pass and easily picked him off. This was one case where Manning got in his own way, and put the entire team on his shoulders when he had no need to.
We'll never know what would've happened in OT or if Manning would've won the game if they had just killed as much time as they could with a balanced attack. But what we do know, is that Manning put too much on his shoulders, abandoned the run game, tried to do too much, and lost the game. But at least Manning did get another 133 yds passing in those last 5 minutes.
I see Brady, Manning, Brees, and Rodgers try to do too much in the reg season all the time, and they get huge stats. But in the playoffs, Brady somehow knows that he needs to allow himself to get out of the way and not try and be the lone hero if it's not needed. That's how you wind up playing in 5 Superbowls in 10 yrs as a starter. That's the formula I wish Manning would adopt in Denver.
Yeah, I think we can agree that Manning is as great a playoff QB as there's ever been. I'm splitting hairs in giving Brady a slight edge.
The only area where we disagree is in that I think Brady has just been more Clutch.
I think we can also agree that with Manning still playing for another 5 years, anything can happen. He can certainly pass Brady and maybe even Montana as the most Clutch QB in the playoffs. He just has to finish those drives.
@DavidBecker @dmstorm22 The final drive in 2007, which we've gone into a pretty good amount of detail on, actually wasn't the final drive, though I agree that in that one down Peyton was even able to make a play he didn't make it. In the actual final drive, 4th down he hit Dallas Clark in the hands for a first down on the frantic comeback only to see it sail on through. All Peyton can do is get it there.
2008: The 3 and out was Gjion Robinson's fault. Peyton gained nine yards in his first 2 downs. Because the running game was so awful, they were forced to pass for that final yard on third down. The tight end missed the block completely, letting Manning take a hit from the blind side in less than 3 seconds, not enough time for anything to even open up. If you believe that Manning shouldn't even need third downs, then yeah, I guess it would be his fault there, but those are some pretty lofty expectations.
2009: First of all, I'm going to believe Steve Young over Trent Dilfer. What about the frame-by-frame breakdown? That was just some random Browns blogger, no agenda whatsoever. It's not pulling excuses if it's apparent that the choice he made was logical given the circumstances, and given a completely logical alternative as to who was really at fault. Anyway, we have free access to as much detail on that play as we want. No sense in debating this one any further, we're probably just going to have to agree to disagree.
Also, if you're going to count Brady's clutchness in defeat, it's only right that you count what should have been Manning's game winning drives in 2000 and 2010, erased by an inexcusable shank and a 50-second ST/defense collapse, respectfully.
With regards to not running the ball more, I agree with you that it definitely should have been more of a priority against Pittsburgh. But did you even watch the losses in 99, 04, 08, and 2010? The running game was absolutely disgraceful, getting stonewalled time and again. Peyton wasn't "getting in his own way" most of the time, he was putting the team on his back because that was the only viable offensive strategy they had.
Trust me Fondue, If that had been Michael Vick floating that pick-6 there would've been an avalanche of analyses on every sports show, website, and blog that would break down the play by the millisecond to prove that Vick totally screwed Reggie Wayne on that play and didn't give him a chance. I guarantee it. So we have to take all those analyses with a grain of salt.
My only point is that Brady has finished more Clutch drives than Manning has. We can look up every play and find every reason why the universe conspired in Brady's favor and the wind stopped blowing on his every pass. Then we analyze every play and find things to show how the universe has conspired against Peyton on all his ill fated drives, and the wind kicks up on his every pass. But all QBs get good breaks, and bad breaks. In the end, you still have to overcome many things and finish those drives. Brady has shown that he's more willing to get out of his own way and hand it off to the RB, and Manning has a slightly harder time doing that. THAT, is major Factor in Manning not having multiple rings.
Like I said before, neither Brady nor Manning are done playing. They both will have plenty of opportunities to finish more Clutch drives. As of now, I give Brady the edge.
@dmstorm22 @Fondue Hey Fondue, Unfortunately, it's the last drive that counts, the one to win the game. In 2007 vs Chargers, it doesn't matter if he had 10 comeback drives. He didn't finish the one that counted most, that would've been a Signature Clutch drive if he had finished it, but he didn't.
In 2008, you said one of those drives was a 3 and out. Who's fault is that? Peyton is the QB and effectively the O.C.
Many people that aren't Colts fans make excuses for Peyton on the pick-6, that's fine. Manning is a beloved guy, rightfully so. People will always make excuses for Peyton. You think if that was Michael Vick that they would be making that many excuses absolving him of all guilt in that play? Please, Everybody loves Manning, and he deserves all that love, he's earned it. I remember that after of the game, Trent Dilfer (a Huge Manning fan) referred to the pick-6 as "the only mistake Manning made all season long." Clearly indicating that it was a "mistake" by Manning, at least partly his fault. I don't need some analyst to tell me what I want to hear about my favorite players' mistakes. I want to buy all the excuses, I really do, but my eyes and my mind tell me that Peyton choked on that pick-6.
As far as Brady having chokes, clearly he has. I agree with you there. Brady has about 6 chokes in the playoffs that resulted in six losses. But he still has 3 super clutch drives in Superbowl games, plus the two tuck rule drives to win that game, plus others. The guy has just been more clutch than Peyton in the playoffs. Peyton has the Comeback drive vs the Pats and that's a good start.
@chad72 @DavidBecker @Fondue Hey Chad, I agree with you that if the Colts would've ran the ball better they'd have more playoff wins. Brady has more playoff wins, and more rings cause he hands it off when he needs to. He knows when to get out of his own way and run it. I've always felt that Manning pretty much the O.C. has not mastered the art of getting out of his own way to win more playoff games. I also think your comments prove that Manning can be considered to be as good a QB as Brady in the Playoffs. I think Brady is a hair better, but my argument is that Brady is more Playoff Clutch and it's because he has finished more Clutch drives than Manning has. Bottom line, but I reserve the right to change my mind, and maybe the next 5 years prove me wrong and Peyton finishes some signature Clutch drives in the SB like Brady has.
@DavidBecker I'll go game-by-game: 05 Pittsburgh: I'll concede I didn't know a whole lot about football at the time this game was played, but it seemed like Manning had happy feet/nerves most of the game. Except, ironically enough, at the end. Manning didn't have all the time in the world that drive. Vanderjagt was statistically the most accurate kicker in league history, playing at home in a dome trying for a very routine distance. Given that they were playing for OT and had what should have been an easy kick waiting as insurance, can you blame them for wanting to go for the win? If they got to OT, it's very possible the Steelers could win the flip and score right off the bat. Criticize Peyton’s first 3 quarters if you want, but not the 4th.
07 Chargers: This I already gave you. But let's go down-by-down on that goal-line possession. One down was a run. One down was basically forfeited by Ugoh not even touching Merriman, allowing the sack in like 2 seconds before a play was even possible. There was a third down that, going back and looking at old articles with accounts of that game, had literally nobody open. Just coverage played as well as it could possibly be played. That leaves one down, in which Manning DID miss a wide open Dallas Clark. He should have hit him, I'll give you that. But it wasn't some cataclysmic blow to his clutch/choke status either, imo.
08 Chargers: Manning had essentially two possessions in which he failed to score in the fourth quarter. One started at the 21 yard line. While scoring there is not an impossible feat by any means, it’s pretty freaking hard (especially when . Check out this study of expected points based on field position as proof: <http://www.advancednflstats.com/2010/01/expected-points-ep-and-expected-points.html>. The other possession started at the one yard line, and I don’t think anyone could reasonably expect a score from that position.
09 Saints: <http://www.dawgsbynature.com/2010/2/19/1302008/rufios-playbook-breaking-down>. Read it and let me know if it changes your mind at all. The aim was to get rid of the ball as quickly as possible on a 3-step drop. Peyton can’t just stare down Reggie the whole time, he knows that Reg had a matchup that he should have won. If Reggie doesn’t slip/stop/whatever the hell happened on that possession, then that’s a first down.
Anyway, I’d like to cite 18to88’s old motto here: “It isn’t homerism if you’re right!” I’m all for blaming Manning when it’s his fault. He pretty much cost us a chance at a Super Bowl in 03, after all, and he played like crap against the Titans too. But I feel like the criticism in most of his losses is overblown at best or borders on slander/libel at worst. You wanna get deeper, then go ahead. Hell, I’ll admit that I go back and forth on the Saints Super Bowl sometimes. But rather than excuses, I feel like most of what I’m saying just comes down to logic and reasonable expectations with all context taken into account.
In 2008, that encompasses all of three drives. One was a 3-and-out. The other was a nice drive that was ended with a Tony Ugoh holding. The other was Scifres punt to the 1, and where Gijon Robinson forgot the snap count.
Many, many people that aren't even Colts fans place more of the blame for the pick-6 on Wayne. As for Brady, he has thrown 4 career playoff interceptions into the opponents end zone, directly taking points off the board (2003 AFC Title Game, 2003 Super Bowl, 2005 Divisional, 2011 Title Game). Just cause he hasn't thrown a pick-6 (and interception returns have basically been proven as random) doesn't mean he hasn't thrown bad playoff interceptions.
That said, I definitely agree with you. The Colts run game has been awful in a lot of those playoff losses (both Chargers games, Steelers, Pats). Teams can play pass fully because the run wasn't there anyway. The run game was awesome in teh 2006 playoffs. No surprise that was the most successful.
To also be fair, we led 24-21 vs the Chargers in the 2007 playoff game with minutes to go. We led 17-14 vs the Chargers in the 2008 playoff game with minutes to go. We led 17-16 in the Saints SB with almost half the 4th qtr. to go before our missed FG. We led 16-14 with 53 seconds to go vs the Jets.
All the above losses. Then I turn around and look at the Giants. The Pats go up 17-9 in the 3rd quarter of the recent SB. What does the Giants D do? Just shut down Brady and company for the rest of the game (maybe except for the Wes Welker drop that wasn't the Giants D's doing). That allowed the luxury of being able to score 2 FGs to inch back into the game for Eli before getting the game winning drive.
So, it does make you shake your head wondering if our playoff game fates would have been different with a better ability to run the ball closer to the goal line and a D and/or ST that could make 4th qtr. stops. The D played well in 2006 when we won it all but our ST was still horrendous giving Ellis Hobbs good field position several times in the AFCCG and that infamous Devin Hester return in the SB. We won despite our ST thanks to 2 phases working - efficient O and D.
The 2005 Steelers loss was us starting off rusty and thus having to play catch up and going away from the run and checkdowns. Then, Mudd and/or Peyton made absolutely no adjustments to the fact that Lilja was having a terrible time blocking Joey Porter, that was the most appalling part.
I feel that teams that have beaten the Chargers run the ball well against them. In the last 6 games that Peyton played vs the Chargers, we lost 5 and in 1 game that was the 49th TD game vs Brees' Chargers, we ran the ball MUCH better. That was the only elixir to slowing down the Chargers' LB pass rush. Same with any Romeo Crennel coached D, it was Mike Hart that gave us the TD vs the Chiefs when they were always playing double coverage on 3 WRs ALL the time daring us to run.
In 2006, with safeties deep and teams still daring us to run, we FINALLY ran it down their throats and thus won it all. The advantage that NE has, that they can run the ball when the pass is not working, is the main advantage that has led NE and Brady to more playoff wins, IMO.
I think the situational stats study has to be done that will actually prove a point or two in agreement with yours, David. I actually agree with you on both the Chargers 2007 game and Steelers 2005 game. The Steelers 2005 game loss was the reason Manning's movement outside the pocket and taking of checkdowns improved after that. Edge was constantly open on checkdowns but Peyton still continued to look up the field. That was a feature Belichick exploited by playing his LBs slightly deeper, Peyton's checkdowns improved from 2006. Thus, no gaudy stats but better game management vs elite Ds. The problem was, we could not run vs the Chargers or vs the Pats when we got closer to the goal lines, that was an aspect easily exploited and the LBs just played pass rush or defense, Merriman and Philips for the Chargers, Bruschi, McGinnest and Vrabel for the Pats.
Changing perceptions - it's a hell of a thing. No matter how many facts you throw someone, they usually stick to their guns anyway. Meanwhile their whole foundation is built on selective memory.
If you took these 5 QB's and made a list of the best playoff games they had, Peyton would dominate the top 5. In fact he might even have 5 of the top 6 games or so. He'd also probably have a game or two near the bottom of the list, but still, his high's are ridiculous. For that reason alone I don't understand the playoff criticism when he's clearly put together some of the best playoff performances in history. And people love to ignore the facts like the field position and caliber of defenses faced. Look at people that reference his 2006 stats. How many mention that the Bears, Pats and Ravens were the top 3 defenses in the league in 2006? That's based on DPR and points allowed. What other QB has ever got through the top 3 defenses in the same postseason? None.
@ScottKacsmar I don't know who it was at p-r-f who did the study (may have been you) but adjusting for era and opponent, I think the #3-4-5 games of all time (regular or postseason) were Manning playoff games, at least by that calculation.
And yeah, the road to winning a Super Bowl in 2006 was a lot more difficult that people give Manning credit for.
I realize that I have been of mind to say that Manning's play has, over time, become almost overrated against Baltimore that postseason, but his KC game he gets villified though. When Brady throws multiple picks and still wins (SD 2006, 2007, BAL 2011) he gets creditied. Three of the last four QBs to win Conference Title Games have thrown 2 interceptions and no TDs (Rodgers, Ben, Brady), and the mainstream media barely criticized any of them for it.
@ScottKacsmar All of that compounded by the fact that he played the Ravens on the road in the wet and the Bears in a pit of driving rain and mud. Of course, you also have to account for the fact that the Pats' D was a shell of its former self in the AFCCG, but yeah, people REALLY underestimate just how bad the situations were in Baltimore and Miami. Dunno what happened against KC, though.
Ty Law happened. He so often got the best of the 18 to 88. Still, Manning was 30/38, had one spike, one drop, and the offense moved it up and down the field all day. He did throw 3 picks, but they were never in any threat of losing that game.
Very nice article, Kyle. Those numbers are very telling, and you did a great job explaining the TD rate disparity, which is indeed the only stat that rightfully gives anyone pause when examining Peyton´s performance in the playoffs. I agree with you: in terms of playoffs performance, we can´t rate him ahead of Brees (and I think Warner is another generally wonderful QB in the postseason), but there´s little doubt he´s been better than the other three, and in a much more difficult context. His reputation of choking in the playoffs makes no sense at all statistically, and even less contextually, at least once the entire team got over the hump after 2004, thanks in large part in my opinion to Dungy´s steadfast confidence. Oh, and let´s just say, I don´t know how long it will take for somebody to have a better sack rate than 18, if ever.
For what it's worth, my two favorite quarterbacks ever are Steve Young and Peyton Manning. Both players had reputations for choking in the playoffs. In both cases, I think the reputations are partially justified. Statistics aside, their nerves seemed to affect their performance. Just watching them on television, I had the impression that their styles changed under playoff pressure to varying degrees. When Steve Young was in a pressure situation, is there a stat to show how he bounced back and forth between being too tentative in not throwing to open receivers and too bold in forcing the ball into traffic? For Peyton, can you compare the number of dance steps he took in his happy feet playoff performances versus his regular season performances?
For me, what I enjoyed about both of these players is that they learned to overcome their yips when the pressure was on -- especially Manning. The 2010 Manning was an ice-blooded soldier compared to the 2000 Manning.
While Manning has gotten more clutch over time, he still seems to let emotions get the best of him under pressure. Do you remember the 3rd down sack against the Chargers (in the punt game) when a first down could have clinched the game? A tight end whiffed on a blitzing linebacker. In the regular season, Manning is aware of the blitz and gets rid of the ball. In that situation, Manning has tunnel vision and takes a sack at the 2-yard line.
I don't mean to cherry-pick. I'm trying to come up with anecdotes that support the eyeball theory that Manning's nerves impacted his play. It's obvious to anyone who plays or watches sports that pressure affects performance. Most players don't like to admit it, and fans are especially defensive.
In my view, stats or no, Manning used to fold under pressure. Over time, he learned to control his nerves better and eventually became clutch.
Manning's nerves have been non-existent since the 2006 playoffs. Even 2003-2005 they were far less of a factor than is often extrapolated.
@Kyle Rodriguez I thought Manning played pretty well in the 2004 playoff loss. The run game was non-existent. No receiver could get open, and Dominic Rhodes decided to let Tedy Bruschi just take the ball from him. The 40 minutes the Pats held the ball didn't help either. Personally. I think he played better in that game than he did in his win over the Ravens in 2006 (which aside from reading blitzes, and a few clutch throws, he looked confused about coverage).
@dmstorm22 @Kyle Rodriguez Agreed 100%. I don't understand how people could possibly watch that game, with the receivers dropping EIGHT of his passes and fumbling away two other possessions while the running game got stonewalled time and again and conclude that Peyton played all that badly. On the opposite side of that coin, some people say that 06 Ravens was one of the best games he'd ever played. Ludicrous.
Those are good points. One of the things that drew me to Manning and the Colts back in 2003-2004 was when I had to listen to my Bah-ston friends rake him over the coals after that game when the Pats practically tackled the receivers on every down. Whatever caused Manning's bad performances in those early days is nearly gone now. He's become clutch.
I'd like to see a statistical evaluation of Joe Montana. His demeanor was outwardly much calmer than Manning's, but how does he stack up to Brady, Peyton, and Drew? I have a feeling his stats are comparable to Eli's.
See, that's the problem with the eye test though. In the 08 Chargers game, Peyton told the tight end to watch the blitz. The tight end barely laid a hand on him, and Peyton took the sack almost instantly. He can't focus on every minute block that's supposed to be made, he has to trust that he will at least get the minimum time to get rid of the ball (3 seconds). He didn't get three seconds. That's not on him, and Joe Cool and Tom Brady wouldn't have been able to come up with a play either. Anyway, I think you can criticize Peyton for choking (or just playing badly; there's an important distinction) in 99, 00, 02, 03, and 05 (going only your standard of body language), really no worse than any non-Montana QB.
@Fondue Yeah. There is no way Manning could have spotted a receiver in that time, and if he throws incomplete, it would have been basically the same thing (slightly better field position to punt out of, but still a punt nonetheless).
Going on different forums (I know, why bother?), I am absolutely astounded by the lack of critical thinking coming from people who continue to disparage Manning's playoff performances. Being a Colt fan feels like being Atticus Finch defending Tom Robinson or something. The battle's already lost before it begins (though the cause is still noble). They look at 9-10 and the completely contextless 3 TDs and 7 INTs from the Super Bowl run and assume that he was the cause of EVERY SINGLE LOSS. No matter how many facts you throw their way, no matter how many completely reasonable, logical explanations you give for lower point output (less possessions, horrible field position, better defensive opposition), they all uniformly get dismissed as "excuses". Seriously, is there any way to get these articles mainstream once Peyton's career is over and the Tony Kornheisers of the world piss all over him when his legacy comes up? Grantland, ESPN Insider, I don't care, but something has to be done. /rant
@Fondue If Nate´s Marvin Harrison project goes off without a hitch, the media better be prepared for another campaign, because in a few years, a lot of us will repeat ad-nauseam all those arguments Nate, Scott, Kyle, Greg and everyone else are laying out right now.
That is really good stuff Kyle.
In contrast to Kyle's extremely well reasoned post... I'm going to pose a much more subjective question.
Has any pro football player ever faced more pressure than Manning faced in the 2006 AFC championship game? Even the front page of The Star that day basically called him out. (Not the front page of the sports section, but the front page of the paper. I have always thought that was one of the most irresponsible things that a paper has ever done to an athlete.)
Then the Colts fall behind 21-3 partly because of a pick six that Manning threw. At that moment, with all the previous baggage, both fair and unfair, how does any athlete come back?
And yet he did come back. Yes, this victory was the ultimate team win. But save Doug Collins' two free throws for Team USA against the USSR at the end of the Gold Medal game that was stolen, Manning's performance came under the most pressure a player in a team sport has faced.
And you can't measure that in terms of just stats. Manning's performance in the second half of that game, transcends everything any other QB on this list has ever done. By a wide margin. (At least in my totally biased estimation.)
@DougEngland I have to agree Doug. The other quarterbacks on this list have basically gotten a pass from their playoff play by the media: Tom, Eli, and Roethlisberger because their teams had success early, and Brees because he never had the expectations that Manning did. The 2006 AFCCG was a team win for sure, but for Manning to overcome that pressure and play the way he did in the second half... amazing.