Peyton Manning: Does He Deserve the Heat He Gets for His Playoff 'Struggles?'

Baily DeeterSenior Writer IIIFebruary 3, 2013

We've seen this look before in the playoffs. But did Peyton Manning have anything to do with it?
We've seen this look before in the playoffs. But did Peyton Manning have anything to do with it?Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

I'll admit it: I wasn't too happy with Peyton Manning for throwing a pivotal interception in overtime against the Ravens in the divisional playoffs. 

However, I was able to see that he didn't cost the team the game. Unfortunately for the star signal-caller, not many other people see it the way it do.

Manning threw for 309 yards and three touchdowns, but had two costly interceptions. One wasn't his fault, as Eric Decker was clearly grabbed as the well-thrown ball deflected off Decker and into the hands of Corey Graham for a pick-six. It should have been pass interference, but the perfect throw ended up going against Manning and the Broncos.

It was obvious to even the most casual football fan that Manning was not at his best against the Ravens, as a lot of his throws were a bit harder to catch than usual. He was making every throw catchable, but at times, he looked a bit rattled. Some throws were perfect, and others weren't. 

In the end, it was a poor decision and a poor throw that combined for another Graham interception, and this one set up the Ravens' game-winning field goal. Some say Manning deserves the blame, and there's no doubt that the interception was his fault. Others say Rahim Moore and/or Tony Carter deserve the blame, for combining to allow the Hail Mary touchdown to tie the game.

And to me, while Manning made mistakes and wasn't all that great, it's quite obvious. This is just like a lot of other Manning playoff games: he gets blamed, but doesn't deserve the blame.

So maybe Trindon Holliday helped Manning out a bit, but Manning still made some perfect throws (to Brandon Stokley and Knowshon Moreno for touchdowns) and had them set up for a field goal which Matt Prater shanked. But was he playing safety when Jacoby Jones, barely even a pass-catching threat, caught the tying Hail Mary? Was he getting burned on seemingly every play for two easy touchdowns? No. That was on the defense.

In Indianapolis, the same thing happened. Manning's final game as a Colt was a very good one for him, as he tossed a touchdown pass while completing 18 of 26 throws for 225 yards, which is very good. But he didn't let Mark Sanchez pick him apart for a game-winning drive, the same drive Manning had just led. However, Manning didn't get the win, even though he deserved it.

Two years earlier, Manning threw for 310 yards, a touchdown and no interceptions against the Chargers, but because San Diego won the overtime coin toss and scored first (different overtime rules) Manning never got a chance to show his stuff. His season was over, and he didn't have anything to do with it.

Manning is 9-11 in the playoffs, but it's absolutely not his fault. Fellow Bleacher Report writer Sam H. Quinn breaks this issue down in much more detail, noting that Manning has been very unlucky in close games and has had bad luck in close games. It's far from only Manning's fault.

Let's not forget that this is the same guy who won Super Bowl 41 with the Colts while rallying them from down by 18 against the mighty Patriots while also propelling them to convincing playoff victories over Kansas City, Baltimore and Chicago, while winning Super Bowl MVP honors. It's not like he's never won the Super Bowl: he's been there twice and taken home the prize once.

Against the Bears, in sloppy conditions, Manning got the Colts downfield often, called a great game and made some nice throws, including a perfect one for a touchdown. He got the MVP honors for that game, and he deserved them. However, it's one of the few times he's been recognized. 

Manning has looked the exact same in the playoffs. He isn't scared of the playoffs, and he has made clutch plays. Manning has led tons of go-ahead drives in the playoffs, including this year, when he orchestrated an 88-yard drive to put Denver ahead in the fourth quarter. His teammates have struggled in the playoffs, but he really hasn't.

Knowshon Moreno was hurt for the majority of the game, so Manning had to deal with a defense that wasn't even worried about Ronnie Hillman. Baltimore has a strong defense, but they had trouble stopping Manning. He lit them up in regulation, with the referees clearly costing him on his first interception.

Manning had an MVP-caliber year, and I believe he should have won MVP. The Broncos defense had lots of trouble stopping Joe Flacco, and Manning doesn't play on defense, as I've said so many times. He has played well enough to win in tons of losses, and he has led potential game-winning drives before the defense ruins everything for him. Manning is a good playoff quarterback, but unfortunately, it will take another ring for people to realize it.

And that's just fine. If Denver steps up around its quarterback, Manning will win another one.