QB Peyton Manning, Free agent
HT: 6-5, WT: 230, Born: 3-24-1976, College: Tennessee, Drafted: Round 1, Pick 1
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Average draft position
Current as of August 25th. [Full ADP list]Overall: C Johnson (5), E Lacy (6), Peyton Manning (7), J Graham (8), D Thomas (9)
Position: Peyton Manning (7 - QB1), D Brees (16-QB2), A Rodgers (17-QB3)
Click here for a comparison of these players.
Under first-year offensive coordinator Adam Gase, Peyton Manning had the best statistical season of his future Hall of Fame career. Manning was simply on another level in 2013, and there’s not many reasons to think he won’t come close to the same size of numbers in 2014. In 2013, Manning threw for NFL single-season records in both passing yards (5,477) and passing touchdowns (55). He began the fantasy season by throwing for seven touchdowns against the Ravens in Week1, and that was good for around 50 (or more) fantasy points. Manning only had one game below 20 fantasy points (Week 12 at New England) all season long. Not only is Manning spectacular as a “set-it-and-forget-it” fantasy starter, but he’s also incredibly consistent. The Broncos offense runs through Manning, and they have no problem running up the score on an inferior opponent. During the offseason, the Broncos lost starting wide receiver Eric Decker and starting running back Knowshon Moreno in free agency. Neither were courted by the team to stick around, and the Broncos have plans in place to replace both players. The offense should look the same as it did last year for the most part. Emmanuel Sanders has speed that Decker did not. He’s already working to establish strong chemistry with Manning, and he could actually be an upgrade over Decker. Montee Ball is likely to be the lead back for the Broncos. So long as he proves himself in pass-protection, Ball should be able to put up better numbers than Moreno did as a runner. It will be tough to duplicate what Moreno did as a receiver (60 receptions), but Ball could easily catch over 40 passes this year. Manning is showing no signs of throwing down. It wasn’t that long ago that some questioned whether or not he could continue playing after four surgical procedures to fuse his neck. Now, Manning is back on top of the mountain—and he’s gunning for some of Brett Favre’s all-time records. At this pace, it won’t be long before he owns every important statistical record for quarterbacks in the NFL. It’s a no-brainer to add Manning as your QB1 at any point in your draft.
2013 Game Summaries
Week 1 - Peyton Manning produced a stat line for the ages, but the truly scary thing for defensive coordinators has to be that he could have been even better. After a thirty-minute lightning delay, Denver's offense got off to a slow start against Baltimore as Manning's rhythm with his outside receivers was just a little bit off. Early rain prompted Manning to wear a glove for much of the first half, and while he looked efficient and effective with it, the fireworks really started once the weather dried enough for Manning to take it back off again. Manning threw five touchdowns after halftime, the last of which was a simple screen to Demaryius Thomas which was blocked well and which Thomas took 78 yards to the end zone. Most importantly, Manning was pushing the tempo all game, with each of Denver's seven scoring drives taking less than 2:30 off the clock.
Week 2 - While he didn't finish with seven touchdowns again, Peyton Manning was his usual, efficient self, avoiding mistakes and consistently moving Denver's offense into scoring position. Manning's offensive line stepped up their play from the opening week, where they struggled against the pass-rushing duo of Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil, and managed to keep Manning upright the entire day, allowing no sacks, one hit, and just five hurries on 43 pass attempts. Unfortunately for Peyton, as his line was stepping up, his receivers were letting him down, as each of his top three receivers finished the day with dropped passes. The fact that Manning has been so effective even while pieces of his offense have had off days highlights just how good his numbers could be if every part of Denver's offense had a good day on the same week.
Week 3 - Peyton Manning is a four-time league MVP, and last year he came close to adding a fifth trophy to his case, so saying that Peyton Manning is off to the best start of his career is no small claim. Manning currently leads the league in every single quarterback statistic except for attempts (6th), yards per completion (9th), and sack percentage (3rd). Peyton Manning's 3 touchdown passes in week 3 bring his season total to 12, an NFL record to start the season. Manning has yet to throw an interception. As a whole, Denver has scored the second most points through 3 games in NFL history behind only the 1968 Dallas Cowboys. Against Oakland, Peyton Manning threw just five incompletions, and four of those passes hit his receivers in the hands. Even more impressive than his passing is how Manning sets his teammates up to succeed, at several points making changes to the play at the line of scrimmage and personally lining up his teammates properly to take advantage of what he sees in the defense. After losing All Pro left tackle Ryan Clady for the season, Peyton Manning responded by running a quick passing offense to keep the pressure off of backup tackle Chris Clark; Manning threw the ball, on average, in 2.12 seconds, the lowest total in the league this week. With all of the big things and the little things adding up, Peyton Manning is well on his way to having the best season any quarterback has had in the history of the league.
Week 4 - Peyton Manning continued his march towards his fifth MVP award with a clinical dissection of the Philadelphia Eagles. Manning's dominance, as always, extends well beyond the box score. For instance, Manning was able to earn a first down three times simply by drawing the Eagles offsides on the hard count. After the third offsides, microphones picked up Manning laughing on the field and saying "there you go". With only seven incompletions vs. 4 TDs, Manning continues to make everything look effortless. In the seven drives for Denver where Peyton Manning was on the field, the Broncos scored 5 touchdowns, gained 62 yards on a sixth drive before being forced to punt, and had a three-and-out… but the three and out came following a 2nd down play where Eric Decker was wide open with nothing between him and an 80-yard touchdown, only to have the ball fall off his fingertips. It was one of just a handful of deep attempts for Manning, who continues to move the ball and score points almost entirely through the short and intermediate game. Peyton Manning is in the kind of zone right now where he can practically just name a score before kickoff.
Week 5 - Manning continued his assault on the record books against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday. Manning's four passing touchdowns give him 20 so far, which isn't just a record through 5 games, it's only one touchdown shy of tying the record through 6 games. Manning's NFL record of touchdowns without an interception came to an end at the close of the third quarter, as Peyton committed his first turnover of the season on a badly underthrown pass that Eric Decker seemed to lose in the sun. Despite the rare miscue, Denver's 51 points were the second most in franchise history, behind only the 52 points Manning and the Broncos scored against Philadelphia last week. While Peyton's arm strength is probably among the bottom third of the league's starters at this point, and while he doesn't throw the prettiest spiral, Manning is picking apart the league simply by being miles ahead of everyone else mentally. No play typified this better than when Manning ran a naked bootleg at the goal line to score his first rushing touchdown since the 2008 season. To make the play action more believable, Manning didn't tell any of his teammates he planned on running the ball. The play was such a surprise that the cameraman remained focused on the scrum in the middle of the field for several seconds before realizing Manning had the football by the sideline and was walking across the goal line for a score. Questioned about the play after the game, Manning simply said "If you do it every five years, it's a good tendency-breaker". Peyton Manning is busy setting up offensive plays five years in advance. It's small wonder the rest of the league can't keep up.
Week 6 - For the first time in a long time, Peyton Manning and the Broncos offense looked out of sorts at times against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Jacksonville's game plan coming in was clearly to get some bodies on Peyton Manning early, and Denver gave up an uncharacteristic 5 QB hits on just the first two drives before the offensive line settled down and started protecting better. Center Manny Ramirez had played so well this season that it's been easy to forget that he'd never played center before this year, but he reminded everyone with a series of bad snaps in this game, two of which were fumbled by Peyton Manning. While the offense typically recovers over 75% of faulty exchanges, Jacksonville managed to come away with both balls, one of them ending a drive that was already inside the 5 yard line. Manning made several errors of his own, too, including an ugly interception over the middle that was underthrown and hung in the air waiting for the defense to make a play. In addition to the turnovers, Denver also punted as many times against Jacksonville (3) as they did in their previous three games combined, and Denver lined up to punt a fourth time but called a successful fake, instead. Still, Peyton Manning finished the day with two touchdowns and very easily could have had more, as Denver opted to go run-heavy in goal-to-go situations, finishing with more touchdowns rushing than passing. On one sequence, Julius Thomas had a touchdown reception that was bobbled and incomplete, then followed that up by drawing a pass interference penalty in the end zone on the next play, only to see Knowshon Moreno come on the field and run it in from the one. Lest anyone believe that Peyton Manning is concerned with his own stats or chasing records, several of those goal-to-go runs were audibles called by Manning at the line of scrimmage based on what he saw from the defense. On the whole, it's a testament to Manning's play this season when it must be explained why he "only" had 295 and 2 touchdowns passing.
Week 7 - Obviously his return to Indianapolis was not just another game for Peyton Manning. Whether due to understandable emotion or not, though, Peyton Manning had perhaps his worst game of the season, and one of the worst games of his short career with the Broncos. Indianapolis was able to achieve the most critical goal for stopping Peyton Manning; they were able to consistently bring pressure with a four man pass rush. After yielding just five sacks in the first six games, Peyton Manning went down four times against a Colts defense that largely refrained from blitzing, as Denver's patchwork offensive line finally began to show some cracks. Of Denver's five projected starters on the line entering the season, only two were active against the Colts, and only one was playing in his natural position. Left tackle Chris Clark, starting since Ryan Clady was lost for the season, was badly beaten by Robert Mathis to allow a fumble and safety. Louis Vasquez struggled at times against edge rushers in his first career start at right tackle after having started his previous 60 games at right guard. Reserve guard Chris Kuper, pressed into action after Vasquez was shifted outside to replace tackle Orlando Franklin, was pushed around by stronger and more aggressive defensive linemen all night. By the middle of the second quarter, it was clear that Indianapolis' pressure was getting to Manning, who stood head and shoulders above the field in terms of accuracy and ball placement through six weeks, but who repeatedly over-threw or under-threw receivers against the Colts.
Denver's game plan also did not help Manning overcome his struggles. Coming into the game, Peyton Manning had thrown deep (15+ yards down the field) on just 16.7% of his pass attempts, an average of 7 such attempts per game and a lower percentage than all but three regular starters (Tony Romo, Alex Smith, and Matt Ryan). Against Indianapolis, Denver clearly had a different game plan, and 19 of Manning's 49 attempts were 15+ yards downfield. Manning's 38.8% deep passing rate was the second highest rate in the league this week, behind Geno Smith. Perhaps it was a result of the game plan, or perhaps Denver's earlier focus on short passes had only served to hide the issue, but Peyton Manning's deep passes lacked both accuracy and zip. While Manning has never thrown a particularly pretty ball, a lot of his deep passes were hanging up and dying on him, limiting yards after the catch as receivers were forced to adjust to the ball and giving defenders chances to recover and make a play after they'd been beaten.
The bright side for Peyton Manning is that, with the game becoming desperate in the fourth quarter, he finally broke out some vintage play, covering 80 yards with a pair of deep completions for one late touchdown, then working the Broncos down to the goal line with a series of intermediate daggers to Wes Welker before his RB fumbled away a chance at another touchdown.
Week 8 - The Denver press managed to break a couple of bombshells about Peyton Manning prior to his game against Washington. Early in the week, a Peyton Manning profile mentioned that, as a result of his neck surgeries, Manning’s right arm still is not as strong as his left. Later in the week, Peyton Manning sat out his first complete practice in years, and the Denver Post reported it was because he had sprained both ankles two weeks ago against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Despite the myriad ailments he faced, pre-game reports said that Manning was looking healthier than he had a week ago, and his play on the field backed those reports up. Peyton Manning largely continued his record-setting pace, although his stat line this week was marred by three interceptions. Rather than terrible decisions or horrible throws, Manning’s INTs were mostly the result of simply trusting his receivers too much to make a play. On his first interception, Peyton threw with anticipation, but Demaryius Thomas fell down coming out of his break, leading to an easy pick six for DeAngelo Hall. On his second, Wes Welker faced high-low coverage in the middle of the field, and Manning overestimated his ability to fit the ball in a tight window. Instead, the low defender tipped the pass, and the high defender was able to field it for another takeaway. On Manning’s final interception, he threw the ball to Demaryius in one-on-one coverage with DeAngelo Hall, and Hall simply managed to out-muscle the much larger Thomas for the football.
Peyton Manning attempted fewer deep passes than he did a week ago, and he still had a couple attempts flutter on him, but a week after a string of under-thrown balls raised questions about his health and his arm strength, most of Manning’s misses were of the over-thrown variety. Much of Manning’s yardage came from phenomenally-executed screen passes, and his offensive line did a wonderful job buying him time in the pocket. Add in that he was facing a defense lacking both of its starting safeties, and Manning had a pretty forgettable day, outside of providing positive answers to some of the questions that had swirled around him in recent weeks.
Week 10 - Coming out of the bye week, Manning remained razor sharp in the short-to-intermediate passing game, with two thirds of his total yardage coming after the catch, including 100 yards on a pair of TD passes to Julius and Demaryius Thomas. Manning remains a master of diagnosing a defense and checking into the right play, and Denver’s entire offense has been masterful all season long at executing screen passes. Those tendencies can make Peyton Manning’s life easy, as they get the ball out of his hand quickly, easing the burden on a suddenly struggling offensive line. Nowhere was the efficiency of Denver’s short passing game on better display than on the final drive of the first half. Beginning on his own 26 yard line with 98 seconds remaining, Denver called nine consecutive passing plays. Manning completed passes for 12 yards and 7 yards, threw incomplete once, then had completions of 6, 2, 3, 8, and 28 (on his lone deep attempt of the drive) before tossing a 7-yard touchdown to end the drive.
While his overall game was again extremely strong, there remained areas of concern. Peyton Manning’s deep passing game is still hit-and-miss, although he is no longer consistently underthrowing receivers. Manning tied his single-season high in fumbles after yet another blindside sack, giving him seven for the season (as many as in his last three seasons combined). Most troubling, Peyton Manning received a couple of low hits late in the game, and the second one clearly left him hurt. He stayed down on the turf grimacing in pain for several long moments before getting up and walking it off. He felt good enough to stay in the game as Denver secured one final game-sealing first down (and felt good enough to gripe at the refs about having to use one of Denver’s timeouts because of his injury). Manning went in for an MRI on Monday, and the early returns suggest that while he aggravated his previous high ankle sprain, he should be able to play through it in week 11.
Week 11 - For another week, Denver demonstrated that Peyton Manning at 80% is still quite a lot better than most other quarterbacks at 100%. With his injured ankles heavily taped and clearly still affecting his movement, Peyton delivered a gutsy effort against a fierce Kansas City defense. As expected, Denver attempted to slow the Chiefs’ pass rush with a heavy dose of screens, 3-step drops, and run plays. Their efforts were wildly successful, as Peyton Manning was neither sacked nor hit all game, although the pass rush was always in the back of his mind, as several times he was skittish about stepping into a clean pocket or he rushed a play in which he still had plenty of time out of concern that the Chiefs’ defenders might be closing on him.
While Manning wasn’t flawless, he managed the game well and kept Denver ahead of schedule for most of the evening. The biggest error on the night was a fumbled handoff with rookie Montee Ball, which Manning took responsibility for after the game, saying “I was just trying to hurry to get the ball in Montee’s hands. They were kind of blitzing, and I rushed the handoff and didn’t give him a good handoff at all.” With that one miscue aside, Manning took excellent care of the ball, largely avoided risky plays, and made Kansas City pay on one of his few gambles, as he threw a deep pass to Demaryius Thomas on 3rd and 5 that was perfectly placed, hitting his receiver in stride and letting him run for 70 yards. Manning followed that up two plays later with his only touchdown of the night, a quick strike over the middle to Julius Thomas in front of the Chiefs’ safety.
Week 12 - With temperatures in New England scheduled to be well below freezing, much attention was paid to Peyton Manning’s career performance in cold games. ESPN provided a graphic saying Peyton Manning was actually the highest rated quarterback in the league in games that were below freezing at kickoff, but that provided cold comfort against New England as Manning had what was by far his worst performance of the season. In addition to the frigid temperatures, the winds in Foxborough were up to 20 miles per hour by late in the game, and the vast majority of Manning’s attempts downfield either died in the air or sailed well past their intended target. Seemingly no one could hold on to the frozen football in a game where both teams combined for 11 fumbles, and Manning’s woes were exacerbated by key drops from all three of his primary receivers. Poor play by his blockers up front was also a problem, as Peyton Manning frequently had to do his work in a muddy pocket. His lone sack of the day came just 2.7 seconds after the snap, as his linemen let several defenders through nearly immediately.
It seemed like Denver’s game plan from the beginning was to limit Manning’s workload, as Denver called a pass on a mere 10 of their 39 first down plays, including just 2 of their first 22. The running game was largely effective, managing to get a few first downs every drive, but eventually it would stall out and leave Manning trying to convert on 3rd down. A third of Manning’s passes came on 3rd down plays with 4 to 8 yards to go. Manning converted on just 5 of the 12 attempts, with all 5 conversions coming at the hands of Jacob Tamme (4 receptions and one drawn pass interference penalty). In addition, Manning’s interception came on a poor decision on one of his few 1st down throws. All told, whether it was the weather or New England’s fantastic man-to-man coverage, Peyton rarely looked like his usual self outside of Denver’s penultimate drive of regulation, where he fit several balls into incredibly tight windows to march the Broncos down the field for the overtime-forcing touchdown.
Week 13 - Peyton Manning’s game against the Chiefs started very slowly. He was intercepted on the first drive on a pass intended for Demaryius Thomas, who was injured and unable to do anything more than tip it to the defense. He was intercepted again on the 3rd drive on a ball that was badly under thrown. He spent the entire first quarter and the first part of the second struggling badly with his accuracy, with nearly every pass winding up overthrown or under thrown, with the exception of a beautiful 41-yard strike to Eric Decker. By the middle of the second quarter, with Kansas City leading 21-7, Peyton found his rhythm and the Chiefs didn’t stand a chance. By the end of the afternoon, Peyton had tossed five touchdowns on drives that spanned a remarkable 75, 70, 80, 92, and 95 yards. Manning had a field day picking on rookie CB Marcus Cooper again, abusing him repeatedly down the field on passes to Eric Decker, and also connecting with Demaryius Thomas for a 77-yard gain in his coverage. In a rare week where Denver decided to feature the deep pass, Peyton Manning for much of the game could do no wrong, and the barrage of deep completions led to Manning posting by far the highest yard-per-completion average (18.3) of his Denver career, topping his 17.1 ypc mark in the season opener against the Ravens. His day wasn’t just deep bombs, though, as Manning set up a pair of perfect screen passes that both netted 30+ yards in 2nd-and-very-long situations, and also tossed a pair of touchdowns from a compressed field inside Kansas City’s 5 yard line. Even including his early struggles, Peyton Manning played what was easily his best game since the first quarter of the season, and he did it on two bad ankles with Demaryius Thomas injured, Julius Thomas inactive, and Knowshon Moreno struggling. Peyton Manning and Denver’s offense both remain on pace to set a bevy of new league records in the 2013 season.
Week 14 - If last week against the Chiefs was not Peyton Manning’s best game of the season, then Sunday against the Titans certainly was. After hearing for weeks that he couldn’t play in cold weather, Peyton Manning and offensive coordinator crafted a game plan designed to show everyone how wrong they were. Manning had 38 pass attempts in the first half, which was more than he had in five entire games so far this year, and he finished with a new career-best 59 attempts. Those 59 attempts produced 20 incompletions, but 7 of them were dropped passes, one was a spike, and one was an intentional throw-away. Manning only threw one pass all game that had a chance of being intercepted, and otherwise worked his way up and down the field at will. Discounting kneel-downs at the end of the game, Manning led Denver’s offense to scores on 9 of their 11 drives (6 touchdowns, 3 field goals). Denver scored 51 points for the third time this season after never scoring more than 50 in the team’s 52-year history prior to 2013. Denver’s 39 offensive first downs was another team record, and the second-highest total in NFL history. Peyton Manning didn’t throw deep as often as he did against Kansas City, but he picked his spots and was very successful when he did, completing passes of 24+ yards to each of his three wide receivers, and throwing another great deep pass to a wide-open Montee Ball that the rookie dropped on 3rd-and-3. The Tennessee Titans entered Sunday’s action having given up 8 passing touchdowns all season long. By the time Peyton Manning had continued his march into the record books, they had given up 12.
Week 15 - Against the woeful San Diego Chargers’ defense, Peyton Manning and the Denver offense had by far their worst game of the season. What is telling, however, how their worst game of the season was still a fairly solid game. Even including a desperation drive at the end of the first half with 80 yards to go and 30 seconds to play, Denver averaged 2.2 points and 32.8 yards per offensive drive, totals that would rank among the top 10 over a full season. Denver’s offensive statistics were partially depressed by a successful ball-control offense in San Diego that slowed the pace of the game. Denver’s 54 offensive snaps were by far their fewest of the season, a full 20 snaps fewer than any game other than their first meeting with the Chargers. Perhaps the Chargers just have their number, as Denver’s two games against San Diego have resulted in the two lowest yardage totals of the year. Still, given the quality of the defense he was facing, Peyton Manning’s day could not be considered anything but a major disappointment.
Peyton threw a few wounded ducks during the game, but by and large, his accuracy was just fine. Peyton’s biggest achilles heel was his inability to diagnose and dissect San Diego’s defense, especially on 3rd downs. Manning converted a 3rd and 5 on his team’s first drive of the day en route to a touchdown. His next 3rd down attempt drew a defensive holding penalty. After that, Denver put the ball in Manning’s hands for its next six 3rd downs, and Manning failed to convert each time. Peyton Manning did not convert another 3rd down until under 3 minutes remained in the game and Denver was in desperation mode. Manning’s woes largely stemmed from a pair of receivers either missing or playing out of position and an offensive line that suddenly struggled to protect him. His interception came on a play where his backup left tackle got beat inside and a defender hit Manning as he was throwing. At the end of the day, though, Peyton failed to step up and play like he has all season long when the Broncos needed him the most.
Week 16 - Any look at Peyton Manning’s day wouldn’t be complete without first acknowledging it in the context of his entire season, as Manning’s four touchdowns gave him 51 for the year, setting a new NFL record in the process.
For the day, Peyton Manning was sharp, and continued his success in recent weeks when taking shots deep down the field. His first touchdown of the day came on a 30+ yard throw down the seam as Demaryius Thomas split two defenders. Manning’s last touchdown of the day came on a 25-yard fade pass placed perfectly on the outside shoulder after Julius Thomas found himself in 1-on-1 coverage outside with a linebacker. In between, Manning threw a pair of strikes to Eric Decker. Manning’s woes on 3rd down carried over from the San Diego game, and Denver once again stalled out with three consecutive 3-and-outs on offense, but outside of those brief struggles to begin the 3rd quarter, Peyton was crisp enough on 1st and 2nd down to keep the ball moving all day long, as he threw for 296 yards in the first half and Denver rolled up 511 total yards on the day.
Week 17 - Peyton Manning wrapped up his surreal, record-setting season in typical Peyton Manning fashion against the Oakland Raiders; Manning was ruthlessly efficient, accomplished what needed to be accomplished early, and then shut down for the rest of the day. In a first-half onslaught, Peyton Manning more touchdown passes (four) than incomplete passes (three)… and one of those incompletions came on a play where Eric Decker, the intended receiver, had his face mask pulled and his head turned around as the ball arrived. Manning did most of his work with his preternatural pre-snap recognition and his precision short passing, with 149 of his 266 passing yards coming after the catch, but just in case anyone worried about his arm strength heading into the playoffs, Manning also uncorked a 63-yard touchdown to a streaking Demaryius Thomas that traveled over 30 yards through the air. Manning led Denver to four touchdowns and a field goal in five drives in the first half, then sat out after halftime with Denver holding a 31-0 lead.
Week 19 - His statistics might look pedestrian compared to his usual production, but Peyton Manning’s playoff game against the San Diego Chargers was one of his best games of the season. Because of the game’s slow pace and a successful onside kick by the Chargers, Manning and the Broncos were limited to 8 offensive drives. While Peyton’s stat line will show an interception, the play came on an end-zone pass that hit Eric Decker in the hands and was deflected to the Chargers. Peyton also had a pass to Julius Thomas ruled a fumble, costing him another drive. In addition, not shown in Peyton Manning’s numbers are the 5 drops by his receivers, or the five times he baited the Chargers into a neutral zone infraction with his hard count.
Peyton Manning was accurate enough on his deep and intermediate throws, but continues to excel most on short targets to move the chains. Peyton Manning completed passes for a first down on 6 of his 9 third down attempts, with the three exceptions being two passes that hit his intended receiver in the hands and were dropped, and a third pass that sailed high after the defense was flagged for pass interference. In addition, Peyton Manning was masterful at avoiding pressure, and even more masterful when pressure did get to him; on plays where he was under duress, Manning completed all three of his attempts for 40 yards and a touchdown, including a 19-yard conversion on 3rd-and-17 that might have been the most important play of the game.
Week 20 - On an unseasonably warm winter afternoon with little breeze, Peyton Manning and his Denver Broncos rolled up 507 yards against New England, the most allowed by the Patriots in any game under coach Bill Belichick. As has been the case for most of the season, Manning only attempted a few deep passes to keep the defense honest, doing the majority of his damage on surgical passes close to the line of scrimmage, including getting both of his touchdown passes on shallow crossing patterns over the middle. The final point total might not seem impressive, but it underrates Peyton’s offensive excellence, as the Broncos finished the game with scores on 6 of their 8 offensive drives, with the exceptions being a punt on the first drive of the game and a kneel down on the last drive of the game. Denver averaged over 60 yards per drive for the day, and the only blemish on an otherwise spotless offensive performance was a tendency to settle for field goals upon reaching the red zone, although Peyton Manning did have a perfectly-thrown touchdown pass dropped by Julius Thomas from the 1 yard line.
Week 21 - On Denver’s first play from scrimmage, Peyton Manning approached the line to change the play call, and his center mistakenly snapped the ball early and over his head, resulting in a 14-yard loss for a safety. Everything went downhill from there, as Seattle was able to take away his receivers deep while still swarming to the ball to prevent yards after the catch on short routes. After being pressured 12 times in his last two games combined, Peyton Manning was pressured 15 times against Seattle, posting a passer rating of 99 when he had a clean pocket and just 33 with defenders around him, including an interception that was tipped at the line, a pick-6 when he was hit as he threw, and a blindside strip by an on-rushing defender. Even those figures understate the impact of Seattle’s pass rush, as many of the clean pockets Manning saw came late in the contest with the outcome already decided and the Seahawks defense backing off. Seattle managed to get the pressure without blitzing, as every Broncos lineman struggled in pass protection. Peyton was able to string together stretches of success, and even set a Super Bowl record for completions, but invariably it always ended with a major breakdown somewhere along the line and a drive-ending mistake. In their last game of the year, Denver’s record-setting offense came to a screeching halt, as their receivers couldn’t get open, their line couldn’t protect, and their quarterback couldn’t overcome any issues to make something happen.