Peyton Manning finally looked like Peyton of old last week vs. the Oakland Raiders, but the Raiders defense also allowed Ben Roethlisberger to have one the best games of his career the week before, and the unit made Ryan Tannehill look as good in Week 2 as the Houston Texans made him look bad in Week 1.
Going into a matchup against his nemesis, New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, this week, let's take a look back at Manning's turnover-filled Week 2 performance to get a clue as to whether Manning's problem was in his arm or his head.
On this third down, Manning attempts to look William Moore off to his left to open up some space for Jacob Tamme out of the slot. Moore is not having any of it, and he keeps his body oriented toward Tamme.
Manning delivers the ball anyway, perhaps out of habit of being used to defensive backs always trying to read his eyes. As you can see, Moore is already well on his way to getting in position for the easy interception.
On this play, Manning is facing a vanilla defense with both safeties out of the box. He attempts to draw William Moore out of position with a play-action fake out of the shotgun. He bites, which would indicate that the route is about to be coming open for Tamme downfield.
As you can see, the result of this play is all kinds of bad.
Moore was able to recover and blanket Tamme. Thomas Decoud was able to get across the field from the other side because Manning threw a flutter ball. Even if the ball was on target, Moore might have had his second interception.
By the time we get to interception No. 3, Manning is clearly flustered. He can't help but go back to that same seam route. This time the ball is overthrown, making for another easy interception.
Is Manning's diminished arm strength to blame for his three-pick quarter, or is it his decision-making?
The answer is both.
On the first interception, Manning looking off the safety is plain disrespected, probably in part due to his inability to prove that he is a dangerous downfield thrower again.
The second interception is a poor decision to throw to a receiver that isn't open, and the throw is so weak that both safeties actually have a play on the ball.
The third interception is probably Manning trying to prove that he can make the seam throw, which is a combination of a poor decision and poor arm strength, because the arm strength issue induces Manning to make a bad throw to try to prove that he can make a good throw.
Heading into the showdown with Belichick, we're reminded of how Manning looked before he finally triumphed over him and the Patriots in the 2006-07 AFC Championship game, but not before digging himself a big hole.
In a lot of ways, the neck surgeries have put Manning back to square one, and that includes conquering old enemies like Belichick. Look for the Patriots to a take a similar approach to the Atlanta Falcons by not respecting Manning, forcing him to prove that he can make stick throws downfield before they honor his attempts to misdirect their attention.
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