The intertwined narratives postulating that Peyton Manning struggles in cold weather and that he simply can't get it done vs Tom Brady and the New England Patriots have reared their ugly heads again, as the Denver Broncos were trounced 43-21 yesterday at Gillette Stadium.
Manning's record vs Bill Belichick and company isn't exactly a highlight of pride on his NFL resume. In his 16 matchups vs Brady and company, including last night, Manning is 5-11. The Patriots have long been his nemesis.
However, as it stands, Manning can say that he has the last laugh, as it was the Broncos, not the Patriots, who won the AFC Championship last January, to advance to the franchise's 7th Super Bowl appearance. Nonetheless, as a Bronco, in regular season play (all on the road), Manning is 0-3.
In his post-game presser last night, Manning was quite candid in divulging how he felt about his performance.
"Well, I don't usually stink, but I stunk today. I don't make any excuses. The quarterback stinks, usually you're not going to win many games." - Peyton Manning
I wouldn't go quite that far, but Manning's performance certainly wasn't one of his best. On the day, he went 34/57, for 438 yards, 2 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. This netted him a quarterback rating of 80.9, his lowest of the season.
Yesterday marked the second time this year he eclipsed the 400-yard passing mark and it also happened to be his season-high in attempts. That comes as no surprise, as the Broncos were fighting to overcome a three-touchdown deficit to start the second half.
On Manning's first interception, it was a poor decision and clearly on him. He failed to locate Patriots linebacker, Rob Ninkovich, as he dropped into coverage down the right seam. It was an easy pick for Ninkovich.
On his second, Manning hit Wes Welker in the chest on a crossing route that bounced off the shifty receiver's pads and into the waiting arms of cornerback, Brandon Browner. Welker was tagged on the play by Devin McCourty and left the game with a back bruise, never to return. He is currently day-to-day.
Manning was playing from behind for most of the game and the Patriots did a great job of pressuring him. Uncharacteristically, he missed a sure-fire touchdown in the 4th quarter, when Emmanuel Sanders beat his assignment down the right sideline on 4th down. Manning overthrew the pass and the Broncos turned the ball over on downs.
As frustrating as yesterday's performance was for Broncos Country, it's important to remember that there's still half a season left to be played. The Patriots might be in the driver's seat for the AFC's 1-seed, but they face a much stiffer schedule moving forward, than the Broncos.
The Broncos have already played the toughest stretch of their schedule, going 4-2 against 6 teams who made the playoffs last year. They also took down the Arizona Cardinals, who won 10 games in 2013, but missed the playoffs.
If there's anything to be alarmed about, it's that the personnel moves that John Elway made in the off-season, specifically made to combat the Patriots, did not come through when the team needed them yesterday. T.J. Ward (-2.7) and Aqib Talib (-3.4) were the defense's two worst-rated players via ProFootballFocus.
Relax. There's a lot of football left to be played.