NFL Preseason 2012: Grading Peyton Manning's Performance for the Denver Broncos
Coming out of training camp, Peyton Manning was impressing his coaches and teammates with his arm power and his leadership skills.
On the field this preseason, Manning has had some ups and downs. Much was made of his so-so performance against the Seahawks, in which he threw two interceptions. At the same time, praise was given after Manning and the Broncos offense completely obliterated the San Francisco defense Sunday afternoon in the first quarter.
This is why the preseason is important but, at the same time, inconsequential.
The preseason is the perfect time to work out the kinks and get everyone fired up for the regular season. Manning had time to shake off a little rust, and he gave a glimpse of what 2012 could bring in his performance against San Francisco.
But, it also doesn't count, so being overly critical or overly positive may not be that useful.
Denver Broncos vs. Chicago Bears
In his first game in a Broncos uniform, Peyton Manning was a bit rusty—something that should be expected after not playing an NFL game since the 2010 season.
But, there were also encouraging passes and plays.
Manning put a lot of doubts to rest in a 31-3 beating of the Chicago Bears. The whole nation was watching to see how Manning's surgically-repaired neck would hold up. He effortlessly converted a third-down pass to Eric Decker to get the Broncos to the Bears' 14-yard line—and, in so doing, managed to complete the pass to the wide side of the field.
But, there were also some mistakes. There were two memorable tips, one that fell back into the arms of a Bronco and another that was deflected.
Manning threw behind Jacob Tamme, but he was able to corral the pass and gain a first down. On a third-down pass, Manning threw behind Brandon Stokley; the ball was tipped by a defender and intercepted by Chicago's Major Wright. This mistake isn't all on Manning's, though, so Bronco fans shouldn't be discouraged.
Coach John Fox had great things to say about his quarterback after his first game in 19 months. "He was remarkable...He came back — he's worked very hard. He hasn't played football in (almost) two years. I thought it was a good first drive in these conditions — it was sloppy. It was sloppy by the receivers as far as the conditions, but I thought it was a very good first outing." (via denverpost.com)
Denver Broncos vs. Seattle Seahawks
In his worst game of the preseason so far, Manning led an 80-yard touchdown drive and finished with 177 yards and two interceptions. Many Bronco fans had a small panic attack at the sight of Peyton making un-Manning like mistakes. True fans know there were actually more positives than negatives.
Manning was intercepted on the third pass of the game after the ball was tipped in the air and brought down by a Seahawk defender. But, he quickly recovered and led the Broncos on a touchdown drive that put the Broncos up 7-3. Later in the game, Manning rushed a third-down pass to Joel Dreessen that was intercepted by Jeron Johnson. Dresseen was in triple coverage and the pass was not a great decision by Manning.
In this game, Manning took his first hit late in the first half. I'm sure many Broncos fans, like me, shared a sigh of relief when he quickly got up and converted a first down on the next play.
This game definitely proved the Broncos needed to shake a little more rust off before the regular season and another week of practice would help before taking on an elite San Francisco 49ers team in the next preseason game.
Denver Broncos vs. San Francisco 49ers
The great Peyton Manning rose from the ashes Sunday afternoon and completely obliterated the San Francisco defense in the first quarter. Manning completed 11 of 12 passes for 122 yards and two touchdowns in just one quarter.
In the first quarter, Manning put 17 points on the board, but also took a really hard hit from Parys Haralson. Haralson's helmet landed near his shoulder, but Manning got up and was unbothered.
Following the hit, he threw another touchdown pass.
This game was Peyton Manning's coming-out party as a Bronco. In his first two preseason games, Manning threw for 221 yards, no touchdowns and three interceptions.
But against the Niners, Manning conducted an offensive clinic, which included a beautiful 38-yard completion to Lance Ball on the second series. He orchestrated the offense almost seamlessly.
With 46 seconds left in the first quarter, Manning took his place on the sidelines.
Preseason Report Card
Throughout the preseason, Peyton Manning has had his ups and downs.
But fans and analysts have to keep in mind that Manning hasn't played in 19 months and was shaking off the rust and cobwebs. He has done a wonderful job adjusting to a new team and offense. It may have taken him until the third preseason game to shine, but he was masterful when it finally happened.
Most importantly, Manning has taken two big hits so far this preseason and has jumped up, unscathed, and performed well in the aftermath. It seems his shoulder and neck will hold up just fine in the regular season.
He has also made an early connection with WR Eric Decker, who caught both of Manning's touchdown passes Sunday. This pairing will be very dangerous in the regular season if both can stay healthy.
Overall, Manning has impressed in the preseason and has shown Broncos fans that he's more than ready to take over the reins in Denver this season. I give him an A for his preseason performance so far.
Go Broncos and go Peyton Manning!