I'm writing this article in response to Andrew Nuschler's The Long, Sad Story of Peyton Manning's Demise in 2009 (and Possibly Beyond). I respect both the hard work and effort that was put into Andrew's Jan. 6 "Pick of the Day" winner.
His article was good but I happened to disagree with him on a few things, so I felt it would be negligent for myself as a Colts fan to let this one slide.
For one, I'm so tired of hearing the sports writers gossip about the destruction of Peyton Manning. It seems as if whenever the Colts as a "team," and the key word being "team," fail to reach their preseason expectations, everyone is all too quick to attack their efforts and label their quarterback as something he isn't.
Now, in all due fairness to Andrew's article, I felt he did an excellent job at attempting to remain impartial. Unlike other writers (and I'm not just talking here on B/R), Andrew did not rush to tag Peyton Manning with the unwarranted choker label. Rather, he did an excellent job analyzing the entire game in an effort to display the flaws present in Manning's post season loss.
So I'll begin with presented the statistics for each and every reader to fairly analyze.
Peyton Manning: 25 of 42 (59.5 percent) for 310 yards, 1 touchdown and 0 interceptions. Quarterback rating of 90.4.
The Colts as a team rushed for only 64 yards, the Chargers rushed for 167 yards.
Now Andrew said that Peyton Manning's stats "lie like a dog," which I assume is a reference to the fact that his numbers are impressive but he disagrees that Manning had as good of a game as the numbers indicated.
In my opinion, Manning did a very good job playing in the circumstances presented to him. His numbers to me seem to reflect exactly how well he did. A good (but not great) completion percentage, a good amount of yards, a touchdown and no turnovers. That certainly warrants a quarterback rating of a 90.4.
Andrew did a good job of defending the Colts defense. They did not do a horrible job by any means but I do not believe they played as well as their numbers indicated. They did hold the Chargers to only 23 points in five quarters but they also allowed (and I mean no offense by this) a 5'6" man to run for almost 350 yards both on offense and special teams.
Had the Colts managed to hold Darren Sproles to only 250 yards, they probably would have won the game. Certainly both Sproles and Scifres deserve monumental amounts of credit for playing fantastic games. I won't take a thing away from them. I see this game more as being a situation where the team that played better in all aspects of the game (offense, defense, and special teams), won.
Another thing I disagree with was Andrew's insinuation that since Manning calls his own plays, the lack of rushing productivity should be put on him as well. True, you can hold him responsible for the plays he calls but regarding the running plays, it wasn't like either Addai or Rhodes were doing a fantastic job moving the ball. Credit is certainly due to the Chargers defense who did a great job stopping the run.
I feel however, that it is unfair to view the lack of rushing productivity as a failure on Manning's part. He called enough running plays to keep the defense honest and had his backs been more productive, we wouldn't even be having this conversation.
Then Andrew went as far as to say that Peyton Manning was "outplayed by Philip Rivers." It was at that point that I felt a follow-up article needed to be written.
Philip Rivers had a lower completion percentage for less yards, less touchdowns, more interceptions and posted a lower quarterback rating.
Now, I was told that his reason for this statement was because Rivers made the plays when he needed to where Manning did not. I'll start by saying the following...
It does not matter when production comes in a game. A touchdown counts as a touchdown whether it's in the first quarter or the fourth quarter. It just so happens that Rivers' team kept him in the game long enough to enable him the opportunity to win in overtime, and he deserves credit for that. The entire concept of playing well "when he needs to" is a ridiculous way to look at things. Like I said, Manning was more productive and it has just as much an impact on the game in the third quarter as it would have in overtime.
Because the set of circumstances allowed Rivers to play the hero in overtime, it's much easier to view him as having had more of a clutch performance than Manning. Had Peyton posted the exact same numbers as Rivers, the Colts would have never made it past the third quarter and would have lost far before overtime became an option.
Football is a team sport and the Chargers deserve a lot of credit for playing the better-rounded team game.
I myself am not saying that Manning played a flawless game. But to proclaim the Colts loss in overtime as being the "demise" of a future Hall of Famer is beyond far-fetched.
To Andrew, I mean this article as no attack on you personally as I really do respect the effort you put into your article. This article is just meant to tell the other side of the story in an effort to present what I feel to be a more fair picture of what happened to Peyton Manning in the AFC Wild Card game.
Peyton Manning won the league MVP, is the starting quarterback on the Pro Bowl roster, and won the NFL Alumni award for Quarterback of the year.
He's coming off a season that included seven fourth quarter comebacks, coming back from margins as high as 21, 17, and 14.
This is not a man anywhere near the realm of being on the brink of a demise. Even the disappointment of losing to San Diego in the post season was a game where he played good football and led his team to one overtime possession away from victory.
Demise? I don't think so.