Throughout his career, quarterback Peyton Manning's regular-season success has been well documented.
Since 1998, Manning has thrown for 440 career touchdowns and nearly 60,000 yards and has earned four league MVP awards.
When it comes to the playoffs, however, Manning has a losing record:
Similar to how John Elway was known as the best quarterback "unable to win the big one" throughout much of his career, Manning has been unable to buck the trend of suffering at the hands of the postseason's evil grip, emerging once as a Super Bowl champion (XLI) but finding little consistency in the playoffs throughout his career.
What makes Peyton so potent in the regular season? Surprisingly, simplicity is the answer.
Over at Grantland, Smart Football's Chris Brown published a brilliant piece on Denver's Peyton-led offense on Wednesday morning. A snippet of the article can be read below (but the entire article deserves your read here):
(...) By using a small number of personnel groups—typically either three wide receivers and a tight end, or two wide receivers and two tight ends—it limited the number of possible responses from the defense and made it easier for Manning to diagnose its weak spots from both a speedy no-huddle (used whenever a defense tried to substitute) and a regular pace of play.
The small number of plays essentially put the full offense at Manning's disposal at any time, and by combining few formations with few plays, both veterans and newcomers to the offense had their acclimation eased by the small number of tasks. There were just a handful of routes, typically from one side of the field or the other, run just the way Manning liked them. Despite media intimations to the contrary, the most sophisticated quarterback in the NFL ran what was arguably its simplest offense. It also just happened to be the best. (...)
The simplicity and execution of the offense is what makes Peyton so potent in the regular season. Coupled with Manning's predictability, though, it this simplicity that makes him beatable, said former Green Bay Packers and New Orleans Saints safety Darren Sharper on NFL Network earlier this week.
"Peyton Manning has go-to routes," Sharper said on NFL Network on Wednesday. "In crucial situations, he always wants a go-to route that he has run time and time again."
The above statement is backed up by Brown's piece on Denver's offense and it was the downfall of Peyton in Super Bowl XLIV, when New Orleans cornerback Tracy Porter jumped a route that the Saints were expecting Indianapolis to run in that situation.
He's a creature of habit and likes to have that timing down...So, the Ravens defense has one of the best safeties in Ed Reed (and) he knows how to anticipate routes...so the defense has to be aggressive and if they see something that they saw on film, go get it and make a play.
For Manning and the Broncos, who have found success this season by perfecting a handful of plays and routes designed specifically for certain situations, the simple offense will either lead to a 12th straight victory or Peyton's 11th playoff defeat this weekend against Baltimore.
"I always try to prepare every single week as if it was a playoff game or the Super Bowl," Manning told DenverBroncos.com earlier in the week:
Whatever it is, that’s your job I think as an NFL player so when you get to the playoffs, that’s really the mindset again, ‘Hey, let’s keep doing the same things and we’re playing an excellent opponent and you’ve got to study hard and you go out there and play,’ and you certainly know what the stakes are but you have to go out there and play like you’ve been practicing and playing all season. I think that’s really the key—who can do that the best.
The Broncos and Ravens will kickoff the first divisional game of 2013 on CBS this Saturday at 4:35 p.m. ET. The Ravens will be looking to defeat Manning for the first time in the postseason and for the first time overall since 2002.
Manning will be looking to buck his trend of postseason miscues by defeating Baltimore the same way the Broncos have won every other game this season—by running Peyton's offense to perfection.
Whether or not the Ravens are able to outsmart Manning at his own game will likely decide the outcome on Saturday. As Sharper said, "he's a creature of habit."
This season, Peyton has had a habit of carving up defenses. Have fun trying to slow him down, Baltimore.