Peyton Manning looked like a four-time MVP last Sunday against Oakland, and he will continue his excellent play for the Denver Broncos in their Sunday matchup with Tom Brady and the New England Patriots.
Manning is yet to find the consistent arm strength of his days in Indianapolis and, really, probably never will. He’s thrown balls that you’d have thought came from R.A. Dickey. But of all the quarterbacks in the game today, Manning is able to handle diminished arm strength better than anyone else.
The pre-snap reads have always dictated what happens once the ball is in Manning’s hands, and by making the correct one—which he almost always does—Manning can put himself in positions where arm strength is not at a premium.
We saw this in Denver’s opening game against the Steelers. This long touchdown to Demaryius Thomas was the result of a late adjustment and came on a very makeable throw for even the most mediocre of JV quarterbacks.
Expect to see more big gains, particularly with YAC-heavy receptions, against New England.
The Patriots upgraded their defense through the 2012 NFL Draft, but did little to address their secondary. They remain in the bottom 10 in pass defense and, largely because opposing quarterbacks can quickly locate open receivers, have recorded just seven sacks. Only six teams have fewer.
Peyton has always had the ability to make his offensive line look like a top unit because of his quick release and decision-making. The phenomenon continues in Denver as he has been sacked eight times through four games, despite left tackle Ryan Clady being the only consistent member of the O-line.
An inability to disrupt Manning will be a huge problem for the Pats. Manning was hit 12 times in Denver’s two loses compared with just three hits in their two victories.
Even more disheartening for New England has been the almost-guaranteed success good AFC quarterbacks have had against them.
Going back to last season, Philip Rivers, Ben Roethlisberger and Joe Flacco have shredded New England’s secondary. In four games, the three QB’s combined for 1,431 yards and nine touchdowns. This is as much a result of talent as it is experience playing against what has become an over-matched, simplistic secondary.
Manning, of course, has come to understand New England’s defense better than any of them. Even in seasons when the Colts had competition within their division (a rare occurrence over the last decade), their games with New England always carried more significance.
The outcomes of effectively the annual determination of the league’s best team were always decided by which quarterback out-thought the opposing defense.
What do you think Peyton did all of last season? Maybe even a better question: why do you think he turned down San Francisco? You can bring up John Elway or Eli Manning, but Manning chose Denver because he spent 13 years of his life learning all the intricacies of AFC defense and he was not about to throw that away.
Peyton seems increasingly coordinated with his receiver each week. He comes off as an “oh shucks” kind of guy, but Manning is as competitive as they come. Even though he has one of the most complete careers in the history of football, a retro performance against his old enemy in Week 5 would be a sweet, sweet accomplishment.