Peyton Manning proved last Sunday that he is the leading candidate for Most Valuable Player. The Denver Broncos stuffed the Colts running game all day, Manning’s best receiver—Reggie Wayne—and Pro Bowl tight end—Dallas Clark—were hindered by Champ Bailey, arguably the best cornerback in the NFL, and Pierre Garcon was out with an injury.
But those factors didn’t stop Manning. He did what he does best—gradually pick apart the opposing defense. When he’s throwing to a guy by the name of Blair White, who caught one of Manning’s three touchdown passes, you know you’re in trouble.
Even with a star receiver and tight end in Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark, Manning doesn’t necessarily need them to succeed. He’ll do what it takes to find a way to win the game. Wayne and Clark were held to four and five catches, respectively, and no touchdowns between them, but Manning still threw for 325 yards and three touchdowns.
Against the Broncos, it was Austin Collie who Manning looked to the most. He quickly discovered where the weaknesses were in the Broncos' defense and exploited those weaknesses throughout the game. Manning connected with Collie on two key plays late in the game, one was a touchdown that Manning laid right over the defender into the arms of Collie and the other was a third-down conversion in which Manning found Collie deep, a throw that hit Collie in stride where not even perfect coverage would have helped.
At the beginning of the game, if you were to tell me that Colts gained a meager 40 rushing yards, Wayne and Clark were held to nine catches between them, and Denver Broncos' quarterback Kyle Orton threw for 476 yards, I would have guessed the Broncos won handily. But the Colts' master and commander knows what it takes to win.
The performance of the Colts' defense in this game, especially their red-zone defense, cannot be underestimated. The Broncos were 0-5 on scoring opportunities in the red-zone, which gave Manning plenty of chances to score. However, the ultimate factor in determining the outcome was the mind and magic of Peyton Manning, who is well on his way to his fifth MVP award.
If seeing his on-field leadership hasn't been enough to convince fans that he deserves his fifth MVP, check out the stats he's put up through the first three weeks (the numbers in parentheses are the rank among quarterbacks): 116.9 rtg. (first), 1,013 yds. (third), nine TD (first), zero INT (tied for first).
My MVP rankings through the first three weeks of the 2010 season:
- Peyton Manning, QB, Indianapolis Colts: see above.
- Arian Foster, RB, Houston Texans: 406 yds., three TDs, 2-1 record.
- Clay Matthews, LB, Green Bay Packers: six sacks, relentless pressure, 2-1 record.
- Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers: 68.6 pct., five TDs, 2-1 record.
- Mark Sanchez, QB, New York Jets: 104.9 rtg., six TDs, zero INT, 2-1 record.
All time MVP awards leaders: