No Matter What Happens in Super Bowl, Peyton Manning Has Answered Doubters

Christopher Hansen@ChrisHansenNFLNFL AnalystJanuary 20, 2014

Jan 19, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning (18) signals at the line of scrimmage in the second half against the New England Patriots during the 2013 AFC championship playoff football game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports
Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

It’s pretty hard to criticize a likeable, amazing player, but Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning still has his doubters. Manning’s performance in cold weather and the postseason have been criticized—even though that criticism often lacks perspective.

With a 26-16 win over the New England Patriots and their quarterback Tom Brady in the AFC Championship Game, Manning has told his critics to shove it where the sun doesn’t shine for the second time this season. No matter what happens in the Super Bowl, Manning’s ability to perform in any situation should no longer be in doubt.

Critics sometimes even noted how the Super Bowl would be played outdoors in the cold weather of New Jersey. That’s funny, because the only way the Broncos could earn a trip to the Super Bowl was if Manning performed in two playoff games in Denver.

Manning threw for 400 yards and two touchdowns against the Patriots after throwing for 230 yards and two touchdowns last week. Even though it wasn’t cold, Manning already answered those critics by throwing for 397 yards and four touchdowns in 18-degree weather in Week 14 against the talented secondary of the Tennessee Titans.

Playoff Struggles???
GameYardsCompletion %TouchdownsInterceptions
vs. Chargers23069.4%21
vs. Patriots40074.4%20

Manning also moved to 11-11 in postseason games Sunday, effectively erasing eight one-and-done performances. It will be Manning’s third trip to the Super Bowl in the past eight years.

If you discount the year he lost to a neck injury, Manning and Brady have both made it to the Super Bowl twice in their last seven seasons. Manning was also the last one of the two men to win a Super Bowl, since Brady hasn’t won one since the 2004 season.

If the measure of greatness is Super Bowls, consider that Manning, his brother Eli, Ben Roethlisberger and Brady are the only four quarterbacks to make it to the Super Bowl multiple times in the past decade. Eli has won two, Roethlisberger two, Brady two and Manning one.

Manning has also made the Super Bowl with two different franchises, becoming just the second player ever to do so. If you want to put all the blame on Manning for his lack of postseason success, he also deserves the credit for all that he has been able to accomplish in the postseason.

With just 116 passing yards in the Super Bowl, Manning will pass Brady for the most postseason passing yards in history. Manning will likely get that record in just 23 postseason games compared to Brady’s NFL-record 26 postseason games.

Quarterbacks w/ 20 Postseason Starts
QuarterbackGamesComp. %Yards Per GameTD %INT %YPA
Tom Brady2662.11%247.14.61%2.32%6.76
Brett Favre2460.81%244.05.56%3.79%7.4
Joe Montana2362.67%251.04.61%2.86%7.86
Peyton Manning2264.05%286.84.29%2.62%7.51
John Elway2254.53%225.64.15%3.23%7.63
Steve Young2062.00%166.34.61%2.76%7.06

Of the six quarterbacks with 20 or more postseason appearances, Manning’s 286.8 yards per game passing is the highest mark by nearly 30 yards per game.

Some of that has to do with how the league has changed, but Brady is still second to Manning.

Manning also has the highest completion percentage of any of those six quarterbacks at 64.1 percent. Statistically, Manning has carried over his greatness to the postseason—his teams just haven’t always carried over their success.

Yards aren’t everything, but Manning’s touchdown rate and interception rate are also similar to Brady’s. Manning has a higher postseason touchdown rate than John Elway and a lower postseason interception percentage than Joe Montana.

Manning’s yards-per-attempt average is also much higher than Brady’s by 0.75 yards. Brady isn’t criticized for his postseason performance because he has multiple Super Bowl rings, but there’s really no other reason. Their performances have been nearly the same, and Sunday’s game proved how much their supporting cast plays a factor.

In his career, Manning has had to carry his team a lot more than Brady. The average rank in points allowed of Brady’s defenses is seventh. Manning’s average defense has been 13th in playoff years.

Brady vs. Manning Supporting Defense
SplitBrady (Patriots)Manning (Colts/Broncos)Difference
Average Defense Rank (Playoff Years)7135
Avg. in SB Appearance61812
Avg. in SB Win32320

In trips to the Super Bowl, Brady’s worst defense was ranked 15th with an average ranking of sixth. Manning has now taken two below-average defenses to the Super Bowl, and the best defense he made it with was ranked eighth in the league.

While some may argue that Manning needs to win another Super Bowl to quiet his critics, even a terrible performance isn’t going to change the numbers drastically. He is widely regarded as the best regular-season quarterback of all time, and his performance in the postseason is now starting to mirror that dominance.

A second ring will certainly cement Manning’s legacy, but to say he struggles in the postseason is simply not true. Manning is one of the best quarterbacks ever to play the game no matter when or where that game is played.


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