Where Does Peyton's 7-TD Game Rank Among Greatest QB Performances of All Time?

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Where Does Peyton's 7-TD Game Rank Among Greatest QB Performances of All Time?
Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

Peyton Manning went berserk against the Baltimore Ravens to start the 2013 NFL season, but his 462-yard, seven-touchdown performance wasn't the most incredible quarterback performance in league history. 

Manning became the sixth signal-caller to throw seven touchdowns in one outing, but his yard total placed him in a tie for 45th in regard to the most passing yards accumulated in a single game.

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Somehow, Manning's QB rating was a less-than-perfect 141.1, which, on the surface, doesn't make much sense. 

It's not every morning football fans can wake up and legitimately ponder if an individual performance they witnessed the day before was the greatest of all time. 

Using research and an admittedly subjective process of elimination, let's try to decide where Manning's 2013 season opener ranks among single-game NFL quarterback performance lore.

To start, QB rating clearly weighs completion percentage heavily, as all 23 "perfect" 158.3 QB rating masterpieces in league history featured at least a 77 percent completion rate.

But Manning's seven touchdowns, not his 64.3 completion percentage, got us thinking about where his legendary effort ranks in professional football history.

Giving passing yards and touchdowns more significance, here are what seem to be the contenders for greatest single-game quarterback showing ever recorded:

Greatest Single-Game QB Performances in NFL History
Name Year of Game Completion% Yards TDs INTs
Joe Namath 1972 53.5 496 6 1
Tom Brady 2009 85.2 380 6 0
Mark Rypien 1991 51.6 442 6 0
Dan Fouts 1982 68.7 444 5 0
Y.A. Tittle 1962 69.2 505 7 0
Drew Brees 2009 76.4 358 6 1
Drew Brees 2009 78.2 371 5 0
Peyton Manning 2013 64.3 462 7 0

ProFootballReference

These are each quarterback's yards per attempt from those epic games: 

Yards Per Attempt
Name Year Yards Yards-Per-Attempt
Joe Namath 1972 496 17.71
Tom Brady 2009 380 11.17
Mark Rypien 1991 442 14.2
Dan Fouts 1982 444 9.25
Y.A. Tittle 1962 505 12.94
Drew Brees 2009 358 10.52
Drew Brees 2009 371 16.13
Peyton Manning 2013 462 11

ProFootballReference

More yards on fewer attempts certainly makes for a more impressive outing, but field position plays a major role in any yardage output and is something an offense simply cannot control. 

Based on those two charts, it's clear that Y.A. Tittle's game against the Washington Redskins on October 28, 1962, is still the greatest quarterback performance in NFL history. 

He went 27-for-39 for 505 yards with seven touchdowns and no interceptions. The New York Giants quarterback's 505 yards and seven touchdowns were the most on the above list. His 12.94 yards per attempt were the third-most, and his completion percentage was the fourth-highest. 

After Tittle's gold standard game, the process of elimination continues to find Manning's place in history. 

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Joe Namath threw for more yards and had a much higher yards-per-attempt average against the Baltimore Colts in 1972 than Manning did against the Baltimore Ravens in the 2013 season opener. However, the New York Jets legend's game is thrown out due to his below-average 53.5 completion percentage. 

Mark Rypien trumped Manning in the yards-per-attempt department against the Atlanta Falcons in November of 1991, but his completion percentage, yard and touchdown totals were bested by the Broncos quarterback. 

Drew Brees lit up the New England Patriots for 371 yards, five touchdowns and a perfect QB rating in November of 2009, but throwing two fewer touchdowns and nearly 100 fewer yards gives Manning the nod despite a worse completion percentage.

The New Orleans Saints quarterback started that season with a 358-yard, six-touchdown, one-interception thrashing of the Detroit Lions. However, in this debate, he's outdone by Manning's beatdown of Baltimore due to a lower passing-yard total and the lone interception. 

That leaves the following finalists (excluding No. 1 Y.A. Tittle):

Greatest QB Single-Game Finalists
Name Year Yards YPA TD INT
Tom Brady 2009 380 11.17 6 0
Dan Fouts 1982 444 9.25 5 0
Peyton Manning 2013 462 11 7 0

ProFootballReference

With five touchdowns, fewer yards, a lower yards-per-attempt average and only a slightly better completion percentage, Dan Fouts' 1982 shredding of the San Francisco 49ers is out. 

Tom Brady completed nearly 20 percent more of his passes during a destruction of the Tennessee Titans in 2009 than Manning did during Thursday Night's Week 1 game. Therefore, despite fewer passing yards and one less touchdown, that performance deserves to be labeled as the second-best in NFL history. 

Here are the final top five rankings: 

Final Rankings
Name Year Yards Completion% YPA TD INT
1. Y.A. Tittle 1962 505 69.2 12.94 7 0
2. Tom Brady 2009 380 85.4 11.17 6 0
3. Peyton Manning 2013 462 64.3 11 7 0
4. Drew Brees 2009 371 78.2 16.13 5 0
5. Dan Fouts 1982 444 68.7 9.25 5 0

ProFootballReference

Peyton Manning was magical to start his 16th NFL season, there's no doubting that.

When we look back on the future Hall of Famer's performance, we can say it was the third-greatest single-game performance in league history. 

Thanks, Peyton. 

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