Was Peyton Manning To Blame For Superbowl 48 loss?

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It’s been 3 days since we all saw the career defining performance of Peyton Manning in Superbowl 48. I purposely waited this long before writing my recap because I wanted to get all my thoughts together and remove any emotion or bias from the situation so I can be objective, but I’m fully aware that I’ll still be labelled a “hater” for this article. I don’t care. In a game that was heavily promoted as a “career defining” game for him, Peyton Manning didn’t just come up short, he didn’t show up at all (he finished with a QB rating of 25!).

And that, my friends, is unforgivable.

Before I go any further, I feel the need to point out that I think Manning is in fact a top 5 quarterback of all time, and what he did on Sunday doesn’t change a thing. In fact, it reinforces everything we knew about him; he does not deliver in big games. This is not a new development, he’s been doing this ever since he was in college, but with the way the media have glorified him the past two years, it needs reminding. You might be thinking, “hold on, Peyton has won big games. He’s won a Superbowl and a MVP”, we need to apply to appropriate context to that playoff run. Indy beat Kansas City at home, then went into Baltimore and took care of the Ravens before winning at home against New England and then capturing the Superbowl over Chicago. Sounds impressive, right? Well don’t be so quick. Manning had only 3 touchdowns to 7 interceptions in that run.

This has been the only time Peyton has tasted success in the NFL Playoffs

This has been the only time Peyton has tasted success in the NFL Playoffs

You might want to re-read that last sentence; 3 touchdowns to 7 interceptions. And that’s meant to be the feather in his cap? It becomes even more unimpressive when we look at the teams they went through. Baltimore, had absolutely no quarterback in that game when Steve McNair’s body broke down. New England had thrown everything into their win against San Diego the week earlier (they were starting Troy Brown, their WR at CB, that’s how depleted they were). And then in the Superbowl, The Colts faced a Bears team with a dominant defence and Rex Grossman starting at QB. That Colts team, in my opinion, was the weakest Superbowl champion team in the last 25 years. Manning threw for 250 yards and 1 TD and 1 INT that game (which was actually an improvement over his performance throughout the playoffs) and came away with the MVP, but is that even noteworthy? Brad Johnson and Trent Dilfer actually had higher QB ratings in their Superbowl performances, and nobody particularly rated them as MVP candidates for their victories.

The point I am making is people are quick to associate every Colts/ Broncos as evidence of Manning’s “brilliance”, but when they lose, it’s the team’s fault (which of course is true, it is a team game. But the same goes for when they win…)

Let’s go a bit deeper with this and look at his entire playoff career (and sorry in advance for the stat orgy that is about to take place):

Year Opponent Stats Result Favourite
1999 Tennessee 227 Yards (19/42) 0 TD 0 INT (1 rush td) 16-19 L Yes
2000 @Miami 194 Yards (17-32) 1 TD 0 INT 17-23 L No
2002 @N.Y. Jets 137 Yards (14-31) 0 TD 2 INT 0-41 L No
2003 Denver 377 Yards (22-26) 5 TD 0 INT 41-10 W Yes
2003 @Kansas City 304 Yards (22-30) 3 TD 0 INT 38-31 W No
2003 @ New England 237 Yards (23-47) 1 TD 4 INT 14-24 L No
2004 Denver 458 Yards (27-33) 4 TD 1 INT 49-24 W Yes
2004 @ New England 238 Yards (27-42) 0 TD 1 INT 3-20 L No
2005 Pittsburgh 290 Yards (22-38) 1 TD 0 INT 18-21 L Yes
2006 Kansas City 268 Yards (30-38) 1 TD 3 INT 23-8 W Yes
2006 @ Baltimore 170 Yards (15-30) 0 TD 2 INT 15-6 W Yes
2006 New England 349 Yards (27-47) 1 TD 1 INT 38-34 W Yes
2006 Chicago 247 Yards (25-38) 1 TD 1 INT 29-17 W Yes
2007 San Diego 402 Yards (33-48) 3 TD 2 INT 24-28 L Yes
2008 @ San Diego 310 Yards (25-42) 1 TD 0 INT 17-23 L Yes
2009 Baltimore 246 Yards (30-44) 2 TD 1 INT 20-3 W Yes
2009 N.Y. Jets 377 Yards (26-39) 3 TD 0 INT 30-17 W Yes
2009 New Orleans 333 Yards (31-45) 1 TD 1 INT 17-31 L Yes
2010 N.Y. Jets 225 Yards (18-26) 1TD 0 INT 16-17 L Yes
2012 Baltimore 290 Yards (28-43) 3 TD 2 INT 35-38 L Yes
2013 San Diego 230 Yards (25-36) 2 TD 1 INT 24-17 W Yes
2013 New England 400 Yards (32-43) 2 TD 0 INT 26-16 W Yes
2013 Seattle 280 Yards (34-49) 1 TD 2 INT 8-43 L Yes

 

As a whole, these numbers are mediocre (and don’t be fooled by the inflated YPG average he has. His average, per attempt, is 7.4, which is below the average), and not what you’d expect to find for someone who so many people are quick to say is the greatest. His record is 11 wins out of 23 games, and that is not a small sample size (I should know, I just typed all those stats out!) People can make all the excuses in the world they want for him, but the numbers do not lie. For his team to be the favourite in 18 of those 23 games, and to only have one championship, is enough ammunition to question his legacy. And they get worse when we have a look at the big (championship games, or games against rivals such as Brady for example, where expectations are at their highest) games that he’s been in:

Year Opponent Stats Result Favourite
2003 @ New England 237 Yards (23-47) 1 TD 4 INT 14-24 L No
2004 @ New England 238 Yards (27-42) 0 TD 1 INT 3-20 L No
2005 Pittsburgh 290 Yards (22-38) 1 TD 0 INT 18-21 L Yes
2006 New England 349 Yards (27-47) 1 TD 1 INT 38-34 W Yes
2006 Chicago 247 Yards (25-38) 1 TD 1 INT 29-17 W Yes
2009 New Orleans 333 Yards (31-45) 1 TD 1 INT 17-31 L Yes
2013 New England 400 Yards (32-43) 2 TD 0 INT 26-16 W Yes
2013 Seattle 280 Yards (34-49) 1 TD 2 INT 8-43 L Yes

 

And then, it gets even more miserable when you look at the win/loss record when his teams were virtually un-backable favourites:

Year Opponent Stats Result Favourite
2005 Pittsburgh 290 Yards (22-38) 1 TD 0 INT 18-21 L Yes
2007 San Diego 402 Yards (33-48) 3 TD 2 INT 24-28 L Yes
2008 @ San Diego 310 Yards (25-42) 1 TD 0 INT 17-23 L Yes
2010 N.Y. Jets 225 Yards (18-26) 1TD 0 INT 16-17 L Yes
2012 Baltimore 290 Yards (28-43) 3 TD 2 INT 35-38 L Yes

 

Unlike Manning, Lebron has learned how to elevate his game in big moments

Unlike Manning, Lebron has learned how to elevate his game in big moments

I’m aware that the picture that I’m painting is one that insults Manning, and that is not my intention. It is out of sheer frustration. When we look at his success in the regular season, there shouldn’t even be a debate of who the best QB of all time is. But he has disappointed on so many different levels, and continues to do so. His performance was reminiscent of Lebron James in the 2011 finals, where he looked completely lost on the court against Dallas. But here’s the difference, Lebron has learnt how to win and deliver in big games. Have a look at how he played in game 7 of last year’s Finals. Peyton, on the other hand, he’s won before (in 2006) and yet he continues to under deliver. I cannot, and will not, look beyond it anymore. When the spotlight shines the most, he throws game changing interceptions that literally break the back of his team. Think back to Sunday, when Denver was down by 15 points in the second quarter. The Broncos were moving the ball and on the verge of reaching the red-zone when Manning through an interception that was returned for a TD. The game went from being potentially 15-7 (or 15-3, at the worst) to 22-0, and it was essentially over at that point. Same thing happened in 2009 when Tracy Porter picked him off and sealed the victory for New Orleans. He has cost his team in massive moments more than he has actually helped them (granted he has been a primary reason for getting them to that position, but the point remains that he is as just as much to blame for the playoff failures as anyone else on the Colts or Broncos)

Manning is very lucky to have that one championship to his name, otherwise I have absolutely no idea where I’d rank him. But for now he is in my top 5, trailing Montana, Brady (I know, I know. This makes me sick, too), Favre (even with his playoff fuck-ups too) and Bradshaw.

If you want to rank him higher, you’re essentially saying that you prefer regular season records to big time performances in big games, and that’s fine, but just remember “we play to win the game”, not to accumulate statistics. Yes, it is incredible that he has been able to put up the numbers that he has over his career, especially after the multiple neck surgeries. But it’s also a giant kick in the balls to see him trip over his own feet when he is so close to finish line, over, and over, and over again.