Last Sunday night was without question the biggest game of the season so far for Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos, and based on Manning’s track record in big-time games, his performance and a Broncos loss was as predictable as the sun rising in the East and setting in the West.
Manning has without question been one of, if not the, best quarterbacks of this generation.
He has been a pioneer in changing the way the quarterback position is played and will likely have an entire room reserved for him in Canton, Ohio when he eventually decides to retire.
That being said, the one knock (and some might say a rather significant knock) on Manning’s otherwise storied career is that he has, for the most part, not performed particularly well in big games.
Manning has a career 88.4 postseason quarterback rating, which is significantly below his career regular-season rating of 96.7. In his two Super Bowl appearances, Manning has had an average quarterback rating of 85.15, which is again well below his regular-season rating of 96.7. In fact, there have been just three seasons during Manning’s entire 15-year career where he has had a quarterback rating below 90, and one of those occurred during his rookie season.
Manning has thrown 21 interceptions in 20 career playoff games. That is an average of 1.05 interceptions per game which is well above his regular-season average of just 0.92 interceptions per game.
Manning’s career touchdown to interception ratio is 2.17 TDs for every interception. However, during the postseason that number drops to 1.52 TDs for every interception.
Even when the Colts won their Super Bowl title back in 2006, albeit it was a rainy and windy night, but Manning threw for just 247 yards and had a quarterback rating of 81.8.
During the Colts entire 2006 Super Bowl run, Manning had an average quarterback rating of 68.1 and threw for just three touchdowns against seven interceptions. It was the Indianapolis defense that really led the Colts to that 2006 Super Bowl title as they gave up a mere 14 points during the first two rounds of the playoffs and just 17 points versus Chicago in the Super Bowl, seven of which came against their special teams unit when Devin Hester opened the game with a 92-yard kickoff return.
And then of course there was Super Bowl XLIV in South Florida. With 3:12 remaining in the game and the Colts trailing New Orleans by a touchdown, Manning threw a disastrous pick-six to Tracy Porter deep in New Orleans’ territory which sealed the deal for the Saints.
In eight of the 12 years Manning has brought his team to the playoffs, he has lost during the first round, and he has a career postseason record of 9-11.
Since returning to the field in 2012, Manning has played in three really big games for the Denver Broncos. The first was the second game of the 2012 season which was a much anticipated Monday night game against Atlanta. This was meant to be Manning’s comeback party in front of a national television audience, but Manning threw three interceptions that night, passed for just 241 yards and had a quarterback rating of 58.5. In fairness, it must also be noted that this was only Manning’s second regular-season game back after a year away from the game due to a neck injury. But having said that, it was yet another poor performance in a big game when just the previous week Manning had thrown 253 yards and two touchdowns against Pittsburgh.
The second big game since Manning’s return was of course the Broncos playoff game against the Ravens last season where Manning threw a pick-six, fumbled and then threw a game-losing interception in overtime.
The third was this past Sunday night against his former Indianapolis Colts team, which was a super-hyped national television game in a building that Manning had essentially built. Manning threw for 386 yards last Sunday but completed just 59 percent of his passes and threw a very costly interception during the fourth quarter. In the biggest game of the season for the Broncos, and for Manning in particular, Manning had once again not performed up to the standard that most would have expected, especially when considering that Indianapolis would have been viewed by most as the inferior team heading into Sunday night's game.
This trend was prevalent during his 13 seasons in Indianapolis, and unfortunately for Broncos fans, it appears to have followed him out West to Denver.
Manning will without question go down as one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game, but unless he is able to have some success with Denver in the postseason, there will always be that “but” associated with Manning’s name.
He was a tremendous quarterback, “but” he was never a great big-game player.
Of course, one great Super Bowl run with Denver could go a long way toward changing all of that, “but” that is where Manning currently stands, and it is a position that is rather unexpected considering how dominant he has been week in and week out for more than 14 years now.
Unless otherwise specified, all statistics for this article came from pro-football-reference.com (http://www.pro-football-reference.com/players/M/MannPe00/gamelog/post/ & http://www.pro-football-reference.com/players/M/MannPe00.htm)