Peyton Manning: Breaking Down QB's Return to Greatness

Zach KruseSenior Analyst IOctober 31, 2012

October 15, 2012; San Diego, CA, Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning (18) walks off the field following a 35-24 win against the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-US PRESSWIRE
Christopher Hanewinckel-US PRESSWIRE

There's no hyperbole needed.

Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning is playing at levels he's only approached during his record-setting season of 2004. 

Through seven games, Manning is on pace to complete 68.5 percent of his passes for 4,830 yards, 39 touchdowns and just nine interceptions. If he is able to finish the season with those numbers, his pace would mark the first time in his Hall of Fame career that he's thrown for over 4,800 yards and 35 touchdowns. Not to mention, it would be the first time he's thrown at least 35 touchdowns and under 10 interceptions in a season. 

Manning's career-high for passing yards is 4,700 (2010). 

His current NFL-high passer rating of 109.1 would be his best since 2004, when he set the NFL record for passer rating at 121.1 (Aaron Rodgers has since broken that record). Overall, it would be his second best rating ever.

Manning can thank the career-best numbers to a four-game stretch of play that rivals any such span of his 15-year NFL career. The numbers are almost hard to fathom. 

Since a 31-25 loss to the Houston Texans, Manning has completed 107 of 142 passes (75.4 percent) for 1,289 yards (322.25/game), 12 touchdowns and one interception. His passer rating during that stretch is 129.4. 

In each of the four games, Manning eclipsed 300 yards, tossed three touchdowns, completed over 70 percent of his passes and finished with a passer rating of 115.0 or better. 

The Broncos went 3-1 during the stretch, with the lone loss coming at the hands of the New England Patriots, Manning's old nemesis.

But he more than made up for that failure a week later, leading the Broncos to arguably the franchise's best-ever road comeback. Down 24 points to the Chargers at the half in San Diego, Manning helped the Broncos score 35 straight points to stun Denver's AFC West rival. 

His ridiculous numbers may just continue this week too, as Manning's career marks against the Cincinnati Bengals include 17 touchdowns against just three interceptions and a passer rating of 106.9. Maybe more importantly, Manning is a career 7-0 against Cincinnati. 

The Broncos are favored on the road.

Manning may be playing second fiddle to Matt Ryan for the early-season MVP, but there's no doubt that he's played at a level that could help him secure an NFL-record fifth MVP trophy later this season. 

The fact that Manning has put together this kind of run so early in his time with the Broncos only adds to how historically great he really is. 

New town, new team, new offense. Same results. And let's not forget that more than a few national analysts were ready to write off Manning in his first year back from neck surgeries that cost him the entire 2011 season. 

The Broncos are now Super Bowl contenders with Manning at the helm, mostly because he's rightfully returned to his spot among the best of the NFL's quarterbacking hierarchy. His return to greatness has come swiftly as a member of the Broncos.