On Monday night in Atlanta, four turnovers by the Denver Broncos in the first quarter cost them the game. One of the turnovers was a Knowshon Moreno fumble, but the other three were interceptions thrown by Peyton Manning.
During the preseason there was concern that Manning had issues with his arm strength on throws to his right, particularly 15 or more yards down the field. Manning showed no signs of having issues throwing to his right in Week 1, but the one thing he didn’t have to do against the Pittsburgh was throw deep with any kind of regularity.
In Week 2, Manning demonstrated that arm strength is still an issue and he’s going to be inconsistent on deep throws. Manning wasn’t fooled by Atlanta’s coverage as some have suggested, he just lacked the arm strength to beat the coverage. Until Manning learns how to manage his own limitations, making deep throws to his right will be a poor decision.
Interception No. 1
Manning is going to see his receiver—tight end Jacob Tamme—get a release past the cornerback.
When Manning releases the ball, he can clearly see there is a gap between the two defenders. If Manning didn’t think there was a deep defender, he would have given Tamme the ball early to allow him plenty of room to run. Instead, Manning tries to go over the top as the safety.
The throw floats and doesn’t have a chance to hit Tamme in stride. Tamme has to stop and come back to the ball, but the safety sees the floating pass and cuts underneath for the interception.
If the throw was thrown with good velocity, Manning had a chance to hit Tamme over the top for a big play. Instead, the trailing defender has a chance to make a play on the ball for the interception.
Interception No. 2
Manning’s interceptions were all very similar. Again, Tamme is coming from the slot and is the intended receiver. Thomas DeCoud is going to drop first and then cut across the field.
Again, Manning sees the opportunity for the big play. This is how the field looks when Manning releases the pass. Tamme has successfully split the zone coverage and an accurate throw with good velocity will give him a chance to make the play.
As you can see from the following two stills and this video via NFL.com, the throw wobbles considerably.
Tamme doesn’t even have a chance to make a play on the ball because the throw is so short. It’s possible two different Atlanta defenders could have made the play.
Interception No. 3
On Manning’s third interception, his throw is high and over the head of Brandon Stokley. Stokley, like Tamme, was lined up to the right.
Stokley should be able to make the catch easily between three defenders (the yellow box is a target area), but the pass is going to sail on Manning.
Manning decides to throw before going through all his progressions. He had a tight end dragging underneath, so he had to be sure he could complete the pass. Manning isn’t prone to making a lot of poor decisions, so it's surprising he would throw deep if he was confident his receiver was open.
Manning’s pass is high and the defender had plenty of time to come over from his outside position and make a play on the ball. If the pass had more velocity and less hangtime, it would have arrived earlier and Stokley would have been able to make the catch. If the pass is perfect, Stokley would have a chance to split the defense and score a touchdown.
Deep Throw with Velocity
Not every Manning deep throw lacked velocity. Down 20-0, Manning throws the ball 35 yards in the air to Demaryius Thomas. Thomas is lined up in the slot to the left.
Thomas would drop the ball after taking a hit, but the throw got to Thomas in a hurry. It’s noteworthy that this ball was thrown to Manning’s left and not to his right.
Using a sophisticated measuring device (an iPhone stopwatch) this pass to Thomas traveled about 55.1 miles per hour. Manning’s three interceptions traveled an average speed of 46.0 miles per hour.
Obviously, this doesn’t account for trajectory of the throw and the need for touch on the pass, but it shows that Manning does have some velocity variation on deep throws to his left versus his right.
The velocity degradation was definitely more pronounced to the right side on Monday night.
Manning will have to compensate for his arm strength on deep passes and opt for shorter throws to avoid turnovers. Until Manning is able to make the deep pass to his right with consistency, defenses will continue to dare him to throw deep to his right in hopes that a few of them will end up going the other way.