Peyton Manning carves up Tennessee Titans in the cold; Denver Broncos win 51-28
By Johnny Hart
|Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning (18) celebrates a fourth quarter score against the Tennessee Titans at Sports Authority Field Field at Mile High Sunday in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)|
Peyton Manning: Cold weather quarterback.
OK, maybe not quite an accurate moniker just yet. But judging on the Denver Broncos’ output Sunday against the Tennessee Titans it might not be too far off.
Manning and the Broncos weren’t exactly supposed to do what they did Sunday.
In the cold, in the wind, in conditions similar to a specific playoff matchup last January that most Broncos fans wouldn’t mind freezing out of their memory, Denver carved up the Titans defense like blades on an ice rink.
“Well, you score 51 points, so you’re doing something right,” Manning said.
Something right is, well, right.
On a franchise record 39 completions, Manning lead the Broncos to 51-28 trouncing of Tennessee in game that kicked off at 18 degrees (11 degrees with wind chill) and ended in single digits.
The 51-point effort tied for second in club history with this team’s output against the Cowboys in Dallas on Oct. 6 and second to the 52 points put up against the Philadelphia Eagles at home on Sept. 29 –– both games played early on in the season in warmer weather.
“Our offense was rolling pretty good, so we leaned on them, and they came through,” head coach John Fox said of his club, which did trail at halftime 21-20.
Aside from setting a club record for completions in a single game –– just short of his career high of 40 –– Manning became the first quarterback in nearly a decade to toss four touchdown passes in temperatures below 20 degrees since Kerry Collins, then of the Oakland Raiders, did it against the Broncos in November 2004.
Manning’s 397 yards passing was also the most by a quarterback in 20 degree weather or colder since Houston’s Matt Schaub threw for 414 yards against the Green Bay Packers.
The offensive output Sunday from Manning and the Broncos may serve to prove that Denver can win in the cold and the wind come December and January.
But that doesn’t mean Manning wants to hear anymore about cold weather, according to his teammates at least.
“I’m sure he’s tired of hearing it,” said tight end Julius Thomas.
Wide receiver Eric Decker said he wouldn’t comment on any more questions about Manning playing in the cold.
“He’s been playing so great all season,” Thomas said. “He’s been playing great his entire career and just to hear people nitpicking about something like the cold; for him to be able to come out there and put 50 on the board and put that whole cold thing to bed, I’m sure he’ll be happy to see that behind him tomorrow.”
But Manning believes there’s not much to move on from because, in his opinion, there wasn’t much to the idea that he played poorly in the cold.
“Yeah. I wasn’t trying to answer it,” Manning said of criticism to his cold-weather play, “because I didn’t give it validation in the first place. We had a good plan, and I thought we threw the ball well and guys caught the ball well.”
Manning’s Deep Arm is More Than Fine
|KANSAS CITY, MO - DECEMBER 01: Quarterback Peyton Manning #18 of the Denver Broncos passes during the game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium on December 1, 2013 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)|
Before the Broncos’ bye week, I wrote about Manning’s struggles when throwing deep
. The conclusion I came to at the time was his arm strength was fine. I concluded that with proper protection Manning could place the ball accurately on passes that travel more than 25 yards. I also noted that the Broncos receivers needed to do a better job of catching contested passes downfield.
Yet after 150 yards passing in the Patriots game some came out and questioned Manning’s arm strength again. He had not quite looked the same after the team’s Week 9 bye.
The film backs up my original investigation. Let’s take a look at the numbers from the Week 13 game against the Chiefs to show that his deep arm strength is more than fine.
In Week 13, Manning completed 8-of-10 passes 15 or more yards downfield for 268 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions.
Entering Sunday, Manning had been off-target (over or underthrown) on almost 60 percent of his deep attempts in the three games since Denver’s bye. He missed on only one of his 10 deep attempts against the Chiefs in Week 13.
Here’s how the numbers break down since the Broncos bye.
Peyton Manning Passing 15 or more Yards Downfield, Last Four Games:
Yards Per Attempt
Manning completed as many deep passes to Eric Decker (5-of-6, three touchdowns, one interception targeting Decker at least 15 yards downfield) as he had total deep completions in his previous three games combined.
Decker became the first player to catch three passes more than 30 yards downfield in a single game since Malcolm Floyd (Chargers) in Week 5 of 2010 against the Raiders.
Manning’s completion percentage on deep throws (80 percent) was his highest since the start of 2006 (statistics per ESPN Stats & Info) in a game with more than five deep attempts.
So the next time you’re talking about Manning’s deep arm strength make sure to keep this numbers in mind.
Manning has the arm to make most any throw in the NFL. As teams start to play umbrella coverage in an attempt to take away Wes Welker and the underneath routes, Manning will be able to strike deep.
Teams will now have to begin respecting the deep targets. This means safeties will have to stay a bit further away from the line of scrimmage to honor any long route. That creates larger holes for the ground game. It also helps open up routes underneath for guys like Welker or tight end Julius Thomas.
Manning’s deep arm is more than fine. His favorite receiver on the Broncos is the open guy. If defenses give him those deep looks, Manning will take his shots downfield.
It’s all good for the Broncos offense as we enter the final quarter of the regular season. They have an energized ground game with Knowshon Moreno and Montee Ball. They have Manning on a record pace this season, and they have the league’s best trio of wide receivers. Throw in an elite-level tight end like Julius Thomas, and you have the makings of the most dangerous offense in the league.