Peyton Manning lost another playoff game. Starting as a common quarterback narrative, the story has breathed too many years without more Super Bowl success to dispel, because we all know the “NFL For Dummies” handbook says to judge a quarterback based on championships won in the ultimate team sport.
So when Manning loses a playoff game, the popular thing to do is bash his reputation as a postseason quarterback, bash his losing playoff record (9-11), and call him a choker. The latest loss was probably the most painful one yet, and it gives Manning 11 playoff losses (tied with Brett Favre for record) and eight one-and-done postseason’s (another record).
But when someone throws that last fact out, they clearly do not realize what they are criticizing. If you want to bash the Colts and No. 1 seed 2012 Broncos for losing these games, five of them at home (by a combined 14 points), as a team, then feel free. They probably should have won at least 5-6 of them.
Though if you are bashing Manning based on his performances, then you need your head examined. Which other QB in NFL history could possibly produce these numbers and go 0-8 in the process without getting royally screwed over by his teammates and various other factors in a way no player ever has?
This is what you are knocking when you throw out the eight one-and-done seasons and 0-8 record:
- 176/362 (58.3 percent) – This includes over 30 dropped passes in what equates to half a regular season
- 2,075 passing yards (6.87 YPA)
- 10 TD passes, one TD run
- 6 INT – Three deflected off his own receiver’s hands, two thrown vs. 2002 Jets when Colts trailed 34-0/41-0 in 4th quarter
- 82.0 passer rating – This would rank 23rd all time in postseason history (min. 150 attempts).
- Six games with rating of 82.0 or better (five over 88.3, which is roughly career rating).
- Seven losses by a combined 26 points; one other loss by 41 points.
- Led in final 5:00 of fourth quarter five times.
- Led in final 0:40 of fourth quarter four times.
- Three overtime losses.
- Two games where Manning’s last possession resulted in a missed field goal by Mike Vanderjagt (2000 MIA, 2005 PIT).
- 2002 at Jets: Manning set Vanderjagt up for 41-yard FG, trailing 7-0. The next time he took the field, it was 17-0 Jets.
- A memorable play where Nick Harper could have returned Jerome Bettis’ fumble for game-winning TD, but was tackled by Ben Roethlisberger.
- Billy Volek came off the bench for Philip Rivers to lead Chargers on fourth-quarter comeback win (2007).
- The worst average starting field position for any road team in the playoffs in the last 30 years (2008 San Diego).
These are not normal occurrences, and somehow the same quarterback keeps experiencing them, and becomes the easy target every year.
Saturday was the ultimate bow on top. Rahim Moore had a shot at a game-ending interception, and instead offers up what will go down as the worst ball misjudgment in NFL playoff history, resulting in Baltimore’s 70-yard game-tying TD. That is “Game Over” for any other quarterback. This was supposed to be “Manning’s best defense ever,” yet they suffered the biggest lapse and letdown in his career.
The game incredibly continued into overtime, and on Manning’s second possession, he went Favre and threw a bad interception. Immediately this cues the “Manning with another crushing playoff INT” talk, yet look at the list. This is the first time he’s ever thrown an interception in a close game like this that was actually his fault.
Just like how the Tracy Porter play in Super Bowl XLIV was the first time Manning ever turned the ball over in the fourth quarter/overtime in a one-score game in the playoffs. Yet the narrative is he always does these things. How does that happen when the facts show otherwise? These plays are first’s, not repeats.
What Manning usually does in the playoffs is give his team a chance to win the game in a way no other quarterback has. When they don’t, he takes the blunt of the criticism regardless of his play.
This stuff isn’t that hard to analyze. They only play 11 playoff games a year. Blame the quarterback when he deserves it. Don’t just blame Manning because of his status, and that you expect a touchdown every single drive from him. He’s not perfect. No one is in the playoffs.
In a 20-game sample, things are not going to even out, and they certainly have not evened out for Manning just yet, and he is really running out of chances. If the playoffs are supposed to be so important, so micro-analyzed, why are we seeing more garbage analysis than ever before? Just saying “9-11” does not prove a thing.
You know why quarterbacks who win a lot of playoff games do so? It’s not because they statistically out-produce Manning, because few do in the postseason. It’s because their teammates don’t muff onside-kick recoveries like Hank Baskett in the Super Bowl, miss clutch field goals like Mike Vanderjagt, forget a snap count on 3rd-and-1 with a chance to clinch the game, or allow a back-breaking 70-yard touchdown bomb.
Winning playoff teams limit their mistakes and finish games in the playoffs. There is no magical playoff quarterback formula about it. Manning was just over 30 seconds away from clinching his 50th game-winning drive, moving onto next week’s AFC Championship, and then disaster struck. A disaster other quarterbacks simply don’t have to deal with, because games never end that way.
Stop writing your stories before the game even starts, and pay attention to what actually happens. Be a defensive writer; one who reacts to what they see. Otherwise, you end up with garbage that truly defines the word “offensive.”