Grading Peyton Manning's Performance in Yet Another Playoff Loss
How much of this was Manning's fault? It depends on the person you ask. Many will blame coach John Fox for his ultra-conservative play-calling to end the fourth quarter, while some will blame the Broncos' secondary for allowing so many big plays by the Ravens.
But we will be focusing mainly on Manning, yet not exactly putting blame on him for the loss. We will grade Manning's performance in Denver's playoff game on a few categories that are important to a quarterback's success.
Arm Strength: C+
Since coming back this season, we knew that Peyton Manning's arm strength wouldn't be what it once was.
He can't grip the ball as tight as he used to and he can't rifle the ball the way he did earlier in his career.
That comes with the territory of undergoing four neck surgeries; we knew his strength would suffer a bit.
Add in the biting-cold weather and altitude of Denver, and this would only be exacerbated.
So when Manning committed a fumble in the third quarter due to his inability to get a good grip on the ball, it shouldn't have come as a surprise.
Other than that, Manning was at least decent in that aspect. He made throws he has made all season long, and still inspired enough confidence to make people question John Fox's play-calling at the end of the game.
The fumble knocks this down to a C+, but considering what Manning has worked with all season and the cold weather, it wasn't too bad.
Usually when Peyton Manning completes 65 percent of his passes the way he did against the Ravens, Denver should come out victorious.
Manning didn't seem to have many bad throws throughout the game, but the game itself will be defined by one bad throw (that was more the result of arm strength than accuracy, Manning completes that pass pre-neck surgery).
As for his first quarter pick-six, blame a tipped pass for that, although it wasn't exactly the best place to go with the ball.
Overall, a B+. When throws had to be made, Manning made them.
Decision Making: D
Here's where Manning really slipped. His decision making wasn't exactly the best, but you could say that about the entire Denver Broncos during this game.
His first interception of the game was the result of a tipped pass, but his receiver was well-covered and it wasn't necessarily the best throw Manning could've made.
His second interception came from Manning thinking he could put more on the ball than he really could. In his prime, that pass is an incomplete pass at worst, but since there wasn't the same Manning-zip on the ball, it wound up intercepted.
Knowing the limits of his strength, why would Manning attempt such a pass? You could say he attempted the throw on memory (he had made a similar throw lord knows how many times in Indianapolis), but that doesn't necessarily make it the best one.
Considering the pressure surrounding him on the play, the best thing to do would have been to throw the ball away and then punt it away.
Pocket Presence: C
Baltimore's pass rush was no less relentless against the Broncos as it had been all season. Despite how well the Broncos offensive line has been all season, they could barely contain the Ravens.
Baltimore still managed to sack Manning only three times though. When it counted the most, Manning was under fire in the pocket, which led to Manning's fumble and his final interception of the game.
Manning is usually calm, cool and collected while in the pocket, but as the pressure got more intense throughout the game, more mistakes were made.
Denver's playoff run is over because of it.