By Scott Kacsmar
Cold Hard Football Facts’ Comeback King (@CaptainComeback)
Peyton Manning is a choker, because he is only 9-11 in the playoffs and has gone one-and-done a record eight times. He has the most home-playoff losses ever with the fifth and latest exit coming in Denver.
If only things were that simple.
There are many people naïve enough to buy every word of that. Manning did not win soon enough in his career to change the narrative. He was in his second act by the time he won a playoff game, and the climax apparently came in 2006 when he won his one Super Bowl ring.
Despite the fact that since Super Bowl XLI Manning has done nothing but put his team ahead late, with a good stat line in every playoff game, a lot of people are unsatisfied, because they continue to hold Manning to the most ridiculous of standards of which no other player is held.
But even when the evidence all points to Manning being much better than his playoff record suggests, it’s that record that continues to haunt him, and what brands him.
Frankly, it’s nothing but a load of crap. When the caliber of quarterback does not match up with the playoff record or number of championships, then that poses a problem. Rather than rationally analyze the situation, the easy way out is to keep blaming the quarterback as the problem. They are the most important player, so the failures must be on them.
But that would ignore the various playoff records he holds, leading the largest comeback in championship game history, or the fact that he is a Super Bowl MVP. From playoff drive stats we know he has been very successful despite being stuck with terrible field position, which is out of his control.
Manning has an 88.4 passer rating on 761 pass attempts in the playoffs, which is 11th best all-time (half the players ahead of him do not even have 300 attempts). That sits right between three-time Super Bowl winners Tom Brady (89.1) and Troy Aikman (88.3).
Manning’s numbers are not positively gained through garbage time either, as his five playoff losses at home have been by a combined 14 points, which is the smallest margin ever (min. two losses).
It is all about the 11 losses, even though the key is he makes the playoffs almost every season of his career. You don’t hurt your playoff record if you fail to qualify. Ask Ben Roethlisberger, Drew Brees or his brother Eli this year.
Every playoff game has its own story, and to just sum things up with 9-11 would be so wrong regardless of the player. Since the eight quick exits are the latest figure, we are going to specifically look back at all eight times Manning went one-and-done in the playoffs, and the real reasons his teams lost.
It is hardly the full Manning playoff picture, as we are not focusing on the nine wins, his infamous losses in New England (2003-04), or Super Bowl XLIV. These games are also deserving of their own story. Truthfully, Manning’s playoff career deserves a book-sized account some day. It really is that unique of a tale that a quarterback this good could be 9-11 through 20 playoff starts.
But a fact-based trip down memory lane for 73 percent of the losses is a start.
1999 AFC Divisional: Indianapolis Colts (13-3) vs. Tennessee Titans (13-3)
Result: Tennessee (19-16)
Line: Colts -5.5
Manning’s first playoff game foreshadowed the future as the Colts could never catch a break against the Titans, who were coming off their Music City Miracle win and had the best record ever for a Wild Card team (13-3).
The Colts took an early 3-0 lead, and made it 6-3 in the second quarter, but lost starting receiver E.G. Green after he injured himself on an impressive 33-yard reception. Rushing champion (and rookie) Edgerrin James was held to 56 yards on 20 carries, and dropped several passes.
Leading 9-6 in the third quarter, the game changed in favor of the Titans when Eddie George ripped off a 68-yard touchdown run. Teams who get a 50+ yard touchdown run in the playoffs are 26-4 (.867), as it usually is a sign of rushing dominance, which George had with 162 yards in the game. Tennessee never relinquished the lead.
After James was stuffed for no gain on 3rd-and-1 again, Indianapolis had a play set up for 4th-and-1, but Adam Meadows was penalized for a false start, resulting in a punt. After Tennessee took a 16-9 lead in the fourth quarter, Manning’s 3rd-and-10 pass to Jerome Pathon was dropped.
When Tennessee punted, Terrence Wilkins returned it 87 yards to the TEN 3, but replay showed he stepped out back at the IND 34, which is where the ball was correctly re-spotted. Marvin Harrison, who had a rough day (this would be a big problem moving forward in the playoffs), was flagged for a false start, and a holding penalty set the offense back 10 more yards after Manning had a completion that would have set up 3rd-and-1.
Instead, it was 3rd-and-22, and Manning threw a good pass despite being pressured. But Harrison dropped the ball about 30 yards down the field, and the Colts had to punt.
“Oh my goodness this is just not the Colts’ day. When Marvin Harrison drops one like that, you can forget it,” said Bob Lamey, Colts’ play-by-play announcer.
Tennessee got the ball on a short field and added a field goal for a 19-9 lead. Down to just 4:19 left, the Colts went four and out after Manning’s pass on 4th-and-4 went through the hands of James down the right sideline.
The Colts dropped seven passes in the game, including three in the fourth quarter on third or fourth down that would have went for a first down. They got the ball back one more time, thanks to a George fumble, and drove 61 yards for a touchdown (Manning ran it in from 15 yards out).
But Tennessee recovered the onside kick to put this one away, 19-16.
2000 AFC Wild Card: Indianapolis Colts (10-6) at Miami Dolphins (11-5)
Result: Miami (23-17 OT)
Line: Colts -1.5
Coach Jim Mora’s last chance for a playoff win (he went 0-6) may have been his best shot. Teams leading by exactly 14 points at halftime are 37-3 (.925) in playoff history, but here is the first loss. The Colts led 14-0 in Miami at halftime, but the lead should have been even bigger:
- Instead of kicking a 45-yard field goal, the Colts tried a fake that lost six yards on fourth down. There’s three points.
- On 3rd-and-goal at the MIA 8, Manning had Pathon wide open for a touchdown, a game announcer even called touchdown, but Pathon dropped it. There’s four more points.
- After Miami scored a touchdown in the third quarter, Harrison dropped a pass on 3rd-and-2 at midfield.
- Manning had a 38-yard pass to Harrison in the fourth quarter, but it was wiped out with Harrison’s offensive pass interference.
Mike Vanderjagt kicked a 50-yard field goal, giving the Colts a 17-10 lead with 4:55 to play. But when the defense had to stop Jay Fiedler from driving Miami 80 yards, it failed. Fiedler threw a 9-yard touchdown on third down to tie the game with 0:34 to play.
Manning handed off to James for a 3-yard gain, and let the clock expire for overtime. Miami punted, and Manning came out with a 30-yard pass to Harrison. On a 3rd-and-12 at the MIA 42, Manning threw to Harrison for 11 yards, but the Dolphins were offsides. Rather than replay the down with a 3rd-and-7 attempt, Vanderjagt had convinced Mora he could make the kick, so they sent out the kicking team.
Vanderjagt’s 49-yard attempt, after previously making from 50, was embarrassingly wide right. This was before the days of high-definition television, but here’s a marker for where the ball landed. You could tell immediately it was wide right.
Manning never touched the ball again. The Dolphins went 61 yards for the game-winning touchdown, with Lamar Smith taking it 17 yards to the end zone. Smith finished with 40 carries (playoff record) for 209 yards, which are the second most yards in playoff history.
2002 AFC Wild Card: Indianapolis Colts (10-6) at New York Jets (9-7)
Result: NY Jets (41-0)
Line: Jets -6.0
Now it was Tony Dungy’s turn, and the Colts were never less prepared for a playoff game than this trip to New York.
The Colts won one more game in the regular season, but the Jets won the AFC East and finished 8-3 after the bye week, leading the league in scoring differential (+110) in that span. The move to third-year quarterback Chad Pennington was a great success.
This is the easiest way to sum this game up. Trailing 7-0 in the first quarter, Manning converted a few third downs and set up Vanderjagt for a 41-yard field goal. The next time Manning took the field, it was 17-0 Jets with 9:36 left in the second quarter.
Yep. The win was a pipe dream already. Vanderjagt was wide left on the kick, the Jets made their 41-yard field goal, Troy Walters fumbled the kickoff return, and the Jets scored a touchdown. At that point Manning was 4/9 for 42 yards, three dropped passes, and some soft receiver play to say the least.
Manning was pressured on third down on the next drive, and on the opportunity after that, James lost three yards on a 3rd-and-1 carry. James finished with 14 yards on nine carries. The Jets added another touchdown, and with the Colts having little time to do anything, it was 24-0 at halftime. A long kick return to start the half made it 27-0, and at this point the Colts just went through the motions in a lifeless performance.
Down 34-0 in the fourth quarter, Manning forced a pass for his first career postseason interception. It came on his 102nd postseason pass, which ties Roger Staubach for the second most pass attempts without an interception to begin a playoff career. Jeff Hostetler still holds the record with 115 attempts.
That pick did not matter, and neither did the next one just inside the red zone with 3:16 to play. That was down 41-0, which would be the final score in an embarrassing loss for the team.
Manning was 14/31 for a career-playoff low of 137 yards, but the receivers struggled again with seven drops. This was just never a game after that early implosion, and it falls on Dungy, who knew it.
This is Dungy quoted from The Indianapolis Star:
"I don't think any of us played as well as we can play, for whatever reason," said Dungy. "I have to take the blame for that. We weren't ready. We didn't get the job done and we didn't play the type of football we needed to play in this kind of environment. I don't think there's a man in there who's satisfied with his performance, including myself and the rest of the coaches."
2005 AFC Divisional: Pittsburgh Steelers (11-5) at Indianapolis Colts (14-2)
Result: Pittsburgh (21-18)
Line: Colts -8.5
The 2005 Colts were the first 21st-century team to really chase the perfect season. After starting 13-0, they fell in a heartbreaker to San Diego, who gave the Steelers a good blueprint for success. Tony Dungy’s son committed suicide, ending the regular season on a solemn note as the Colts rested Manning and key players for much of the last two games.
Over a month after their last strong performance, the Colts hosted the No. 6 seed from Pittsburgh. The game would become the ultimate case of rust vs. momentum, as the Steelers won five straight games just to get to this point. They came out strong with Ben Roethlisberger passing for 147 yards and two touchdowns in the first quarter alone to lead 14-0.
The Colts became known for crazy comebacks under Manning, but the 2005 team was more of your dominant, front-runner type. They rarely trailed all season.
Manning started the game missing his first four passes, as the offense was all out of sorts. They rebounded in the second quarter, driving 97 yards to the PIT 1. But a false start on Tarik Glenn on third down moved things back, and James was stopped on a run at the PIT 2.
A third-quarter sack of Manning nearly caused a safety, and the Steelers used the short field to go up 21-3 with 1:26 left, stunning the crowd. Manning waved off the punt team on a 4th-and-2, and converted to Brandon Stokley for the first down. That would set the stage for one of the wildest fourth quarters in NFL history.
Dallas Clark had a big run after the catch for a 50-yard touchdown to make it 21-10. An underrated aspect of the game was Pittsburgh’s answer: 12 plays, 32 yards. It did not lead to points, but it drained 8:06 off the clock as Bill Cowher had his team convert twice on 4th-and-1 runs.
With 5:33 left Manning was ruled to throw an interception to Troy Polamalu, but a lengthy review came back and said incomplete. The NFL admitted to the error after the fact. Manning capped the drive off with big passes to Reggie Wayne, including the two-point conversion after a 5-yard penalty that made it 21-18.
Getting the ball back, Manning was sacked twice, turning the ball over on downs. Manning was sacked a career-high five times in the game. His post-game comments about “protection issues” did not go over well.
Thinking the game was over, Jerome Bettis fumbled, and Nick Harper recovered the ball and started to run down the field. Harper was stabbed by his wife the previous night, adding to the lore of this one. Rather than go down the sideline he stuck to the middle of the field, where Roethlisberger was able to make the season-saving tackle.
After getting one of the biggest gifts ever, Manning hit two passes for 30 yards. Going for the win he threw to Wayne in the end zone, but rookie Bryant McFadden made the play of his career to prevent the touchdown.
Two plays later Vanderjagt came out to attempt the 46-yard field goal that would have forced overtime and perhaps lead to the biggest fourth-quarter comeback win in playoff history. But the results were strikingly similar to the Miami playoff loss.
We have seen numerous chokes by kickers in these spots in the playoffs, including some bigger moments like Scott Norwood in the Super Bowl or Billy Cundiff last year. Those are the only two to happen in a championship game. Nate Kaeding missed in two different games for San Diego, but for different quarterbacks.
Manning is the only quarterback to ever have two playoff losses where his last play was to set up a clutch field goal that was missed.
It was the first time a No. 6 seed beat a No. 1 seed, but since this game the No. 6 seed is actually 5-1 in those matchups. This was Manning’s toughest career loss to date just because of the high expectations the Colts had that season.
2007 AFC Divisional: San Diego Chargers (11-5) at Indianapolis Colts (13-3)
Result: San Diego (28-24)
Line: Colts -11.0
Looking to meet up with New England again in the AFC Championship, Manning and the Colts came out strong as heavy favorites despite his six interception game in San Diego earlier in the season. That was a 23-21 loss the Colts actually still should have won if not for Adam Vinatieri missing a 29-yard field goal.
Manning hit his first 14 passes this time, but driving with a 7-0 lead, his pass to Harrison was fumbled at the SD 23. Harrison was playing for the first time in nearly three months, and he did not help the offense again. Manning is too used to seeing this in the playoffs from his receivers.
Most Fumbled Completions by Receivers in Playoffs, 2000-12
Notice everyone had a losing record when this happened in their games, except for Tom Brady (3-0). Just like clockwork. San Diego turned this particular fumble into a long drive for a tying touchdown.
Manning’s first incompletion of the game should have been intercepted by Shawne Merriman, but he dropped it. Leading 10-7 late in the half and the ball at the SD 35, Manning’s pass was tipped off Wayne’s hands and this time intercepted by Antonio Cromartie, who returned it for a touchdown that was negated by a holding penalty.
After San Diego took a 14-10 lead in the third quarter, Manning drove the Colts to the SD 4. His pass to running back Kenton Keith deflected right off his hands and Eric Weddle somehow made the catch despite being blocked. Bad luck defined.
Manning would regain the lead, but Philip Rivers took it right back on a short pass to Colts-killer Darren Sproles to end the third quarter. Rivers injured his knee and missed the rest of the game. After Manning put the Colts ahead with a 55-yard touchdown to Anthony Gonzalez with 10:07 left, things looked favorable.
But that’s when the league’s No. 1 scoring defense, who never allowed more than 25 points all season, let backup quarterback Billy Volek drive 78 yards for the game-winning touchdown. Volek even snuck it in for the touchdown.
Fewest Pass Attempts in Playoff Game-Winning Drive (Since 1940)
Norm Van Brocklin
Volek that day is the only time in playoff history a quarterback with fewer than 10 pass attempts was credited with leading the fourth-quarter comeback win. Those other two names are legends in the Hall of Fame.
Manning did drive the depleted Colts from their own 23 to the SD 7, converting a clutch 4th-and-5 to Dallas Clark in the process, but he does lose points for the red zone here. After a 2-yard run by Joseph Addai, Manning went back to him on three straight plays with incompletions, including a fourth-down pass that was incomplete after Manning was heavily pressured by Merriman, who beat rookie Tony Ugoh (nice pick, Polian).
Down to 90 seconds and 68 yards to go, Manning drilled Wayne with a pass near the SD 40, but Marlon McCree drilled Wayne harder, causing the incompletion and an injured receiver. With Wayne and Harrison out of the game, Manning had few choices on 4th-and-5 but Clark, who watched the ball bounce off him to end the Colts’ season.
Manning had 33 completions for 402 yards, which are both the most ever for a quarterback in a home playoff loss. But the three turnovers in scoring territory by the offense on a bad day of ball security were too much to overcome, as was San Diego’s passing game (17/23 for 312 yards, 3 TD, INT, 137.2 rating).
2008 AFC Wild Card: Indianapolis Colts (12-4) at San Diego Chargers (8-8)
Result: San Diego (23-17 OT)
Line: Colts -2.5
The Colts got another crack at the Chargers a year later. Despite winning four more games than San Diego, it was a road game against a division winner, and the home-field advantage would turn out to be huge.
San Diego punter Mike Scifres had the all-time playoff performance for his position, pinning the Colts inside the 20 on all six of his punts (51.7 net average). Scifres pinned Manning at his 10, 19, 3, 7, 9, and with the game on the line, the 1-yard line.
This led to the Colts having an average starting field position of 15.7, which is the worst for any team in the playoffs in over 15 years. That makes it hard on any offense to score points.
San Diego had great field position on a night Philip Rivers really struggled, but the offense did come through with a late touchdown to take a 14-10 lead in the second quarter. With only 0:33 and two timeouts left (sound familiar?), the Colts played it a bit cautiously, running six plays before heading into the locker room.
Manning put the Colts ahead when the hurry-up offense undressed Cromartie at the line for an easy 75-yard touchdown to Wayne. The Colts hung onto that 17-14 lead for a while, but it would come down to the final moments once again.
After Scifres pinned Manning at his own 1, the Colts faced a 3rd-and-2 situation with 2:30 left. A first down wins the game. Going with the empty backfield, rookie tight end Gijon Robinson inexplicably forgot the snap count, remained set with the rush coming, and the Chargers easily buried Manning on the quick sack. You can’t even make this stuff up.
San Diego drove for the game-tying field goal. Manning had 0:24 left at his own 19 with two timeouts. Again the offense wasn’t trying to overly force things, and after a bomb that was nearly intercepted, Manning just took a knee.
Though the game went to overtime, Manning never got the ball back. San Diego won the toss and went 75 yards for the game-winning touchdown. The Colts’ defense was penalized three times, and Darren Sproles scored on the 22-yard run. Sproles finished with 328 all-purpose yards.
A punter and midget running back did the Colts in. Manning threw for 310 yards, no turnovers, but it was not enough. Out of 30 overtime games in NFL playoff history, this is one of just six times both teams did not get at least one possession. Of course Manning would join the bottom 20 percent.
ESPN’s QBR stat, available back to 2008, is supposed to correlate well with winning. Apparently teams winning the QBR battle win about 86 percent of the time. But Manning has three of the eight highest playoff losses in terms of QBR.
Highest ESPN QBR in Playoff Loss (2008-2012)
L 51-45 OT
L 23-17 OT
Meanwhile Rivers had a QBR of just 23.5 in this game, which is the second lowest in any playoff win since 2008. If you look at the QBR differential for the last 52 playoff games, the average winning quarterback has about a 30.9 advantage in QBR over the loser.
Only five times has the loser beaten the winner in QBR, and look who shows up with two huge advantages.
ESPN QBR's Biggest Playoff Winner Differentials (2008-2012)
But alas, winning the quarterback battle is not always guaranteed victory. Onto the third game on that list.
2010 AFC Wild Card: New York Jets (11-5) at Indianapolis Colts (10-6)
Result: NY Jets (17-16)
Line: Colts -2.0
Flipping the script from 2002, the Jets went on the road with the better record this time. The Colts fell from their usual 12+ win seasons as a rash of injuries to key starters led to a 10-6 finish.
The last game of Peyton Manning’s career in Indianapolis was an odd one to watch, as he tried to grind out a win while throwing to Jacob Tamme, Pierre Garcon and Blair White (23 of his 26 targets). Reggie Wayne was targeted just one time, as apparently the battle with Darrelle Revis was surrendered to by the Colts.
Stunningly the Colts faced a 3rd-and-1 play on all four drives in the first quarter, and only converted one time. After converting another in the second quarter, Manning’s 57-yard touchdown to Garcon were the first points of the night.
After the Jets tied the game in the third quarter, the Colts again failed on a 3rd-and-1 run, settling for a field goal. The Jets went on another long drive to take a 14-10 lead in the fourth quarter. Manning led the Colts down the field with a sly audible to a run on 3rd-and-7, but it did not work again in the red zone on a very passive series. Adam Vinatieri kicked a field goal. The Colts forced a three and out, but were flagged for running into the kicker. Though it did take away two precious timeouts, the Colts got the ball back to Manning with 2:36 left.
Manning completed four passes for 41 yards, and Bart Scott saved the Jets’ day with a tackle on a screen to White. On 3rd-and-6, Manning went on a designed rollout and threw to White, but the pass was a little low and he could not make the catch. Vinatieri was perfect on the 50-yard field goal, and the Colts led 16-14 with 0:53 left.
But a 47-yard kick return by Cromartie gave the Jets a good shot. After a run, Jim Caldwell (remember him?) called the Colts’ final timeout, and the Jets came back with an 18-yard pass to Braylon Edwards. Running the clock down, Nick Folk came out and kicked the 32-yard field goal for a 17-16 win.
Manning’s 108.7 passer rating is the highest ever for a starting quarterback in a home playoff loss.
Manning’s last drive as the Colts’ quarterback was putting the team ahead in the final minute of a playoff game, but it was for naught in just the second playoff game ever with two lead changes in the last 60 seconds.
2012 AFC Divisional: Baltimore Ravens (10-6) at Denver Broncos (13-3)
Result: Baltimore (38-35 OT)
Line: Broncos -9.5
Having already done a huge recap of this game this week, let’s review the crucial moments.
You have the pick six on Manning’s first possession. Clearly Eric Decker was interfered with, but there was no flag. Not sure how this is not called, as it should have been a first down for the Broncos.
It was the coldest game of Manning’s career (13 degrees at kickoff and dropping), he wore two gloves, but it did not appear to be a problem. He had plenty of zip early on, and was throwing the ball accurately. The two touchdown passes were a thing of beauty, and Manning had 168 yards at halftime.
A lot of the focus is on the lack of a vertical attack, especially later in the game. That may be the impact of losing Knowshon Moreno in the third quarter. Manning’s protection was very good in the first half, but it faltered in the second half, as that’s when all three sacks happened. There was a play with Lance Ball in the backfield that really highlighted the drop-off in pass protection.
When you have more pressure, you want to throw it quick and short, and everyone knows Manning does everything he can to avoid sacks.
Much was made of the return of guard Chris Kuper, but he was brutal with three holding penalties, hampering the offense from ever getting a two-score lead. The biggest Kuper mistake was the hold to negate a third-down conversion, which set up Manning’s fumble, which is the first fumble on a pass play in his 20-game playoff career.
The pass protection issues aside, Denver was supposed to have a great pass rush. Von Miller was a nonfactor as Joe Flacco had plenty of time, and Torrey Smith was roasting Champ Bailey all day. What was supposed to be a great defense suffered their worst game of the season.
After Manning capped off another classic 88-yard touchdown drive to take the lead in the fourth quarter, most expected a Denver win. Long drives in the last 69 seconds are not impossible, but you usually have to drive to do it.
On 3rd-and-3, Flacco stepped up and threw it long as he could, and by now we all know safety Rahim Moore badly misplayed the ball, allowing the 70-yard touchdown, which simply never ever happens. The play is so hard to watch because of how amateur the defense was that no image is required.
There’s the ballgame right there, and Moore blew it. One can talk about conservative play-calling, but simply do not stop yards short of the ball, and we are talking about Manning’s 50th game-winning drive and a legacy game against Tom Brady next week.
Instead Manning goes into an overtime quarter, sees one drive end with another failed run on 3rd-and-1, then makes one of the biggest mistakes of his career with the Favre-ian throw across his body to the middle of the field for the interception. Ravens soon after kick the winning field goal.
That’s a bad decision, a bad throw, but notice it’s the only such play from Manning we talked about this entire time. Why is that? The first two interceptions came in a game when he trailed 34-0 and 41-0 in the fourth quarter. The next two were tipped balls off his receiver’s hands against the Chargers. The fifth was a pass interference call the refs screwed Denver on.
Without the fifth, there probably never is a sixth, which is the lone bad one. Even with the fifth, without Rahim Moore, we still aren’t talking about a pick. It’s a three-touchdown pass night and game-winning drive for Manning. Instead he becomes the first quarterback in NFL history with multiple home playoff losses despite throwing three touchdowns.
Unique team outcomes will never earn Manning proper playoff respect
As you now see, Manning has experienced just about everything in the playoffs, and it usually is something bad for his team. The combination of rare events is the reason for a 9-11 record despite the fact they are not getting 9-11 quarterback play.
In the eight one-and-done games in particular, Manning has completed 58.3 percent of his passes for 2,075 yards (6.87 YPA), 10 TD, 6 INT and a 82.0 passer rating. The staggering number of drops (over 30 in the equivalent of half a season) and tipped-ball interceptions do those numbers little justice. One loss was by 41 points, and the other seven by 26 points combined.
While the stats may not be world-class numbers, they are clearly not the mark of a 0-8 quarterback. Yet for Manning, that has been the result.
Manning has high-quality playoff stats, but they have not led to wins.
- In the regular season Manning wins 82.6 percent of his games when he has a passer rating of at least 85.0 (it is 77.8 percent in the 85.0-110.0 range).
- In the playoffs Manning is 5-6 (.455) with a passer rating of at least 85.0. He has been at least 88.3 in each of his last five playoff losses.
The six losses are as many as Joe Montana (12-3), Tom Brady (10-2) and Brett Favre (11-1) have combined. The only other quarterbacks with a losing record (min. four games) are Warren Moon (2-4) and Ken Anderson (2-3).
If that is not bizarre enough, there is the fact that even when Manning and his entire offense avoids turnovers, he still loses at a most historic rate.
- In the regular season Manning’s teams are 40-2 (.952) when they have zero giveaways on offense. That is the best record in the league since 1998.
- In the playoffs Manning’s Colts were 1-5 (.167) when they had zero giveaways on offense. The rest of the league is 50-5 (.909), and that even includes two games where neither team had a giveaway.
When your defense allows a fourth-quarter comeback 60 percent of the time (6-4), you have a real problem. It is one thing to let Drew Brees do it, but when it’s Jay Fiedler, Billy Volek, Mark Sanchez and Joe Flacco? That is completely unacceptable.
Manning’s had a lead in the final 0:40 of the fourth quarter and lost four playoff games.
The only four times Manning’s teams have held off comeback attempts, they led to three straight wins and a Super Bowl in 2006, and a Super Bowl appearance in 2009 after holding off the Jets.
Traditional stats tell you Manning has been great in the playoffs, and so do advanced stats as already seen with QBR. These are collected from Advanced NFL Stats, which focuses on Win Probability Added (WPA) and Expected Points Added (EPA). Here is the data for all 20 quarterbacks with at least five playoff starts since 2000:
Advanced NFL Stats: Playoff Win Probability Added (2000-12)
Manning comes in third at WPA and fourth at EPA on a per-game basis, which is ahead of multiple Super Bowl winners like Brady, Ben Roethlisberger and his brother. That is elite, and it is no surprise to see players like Kurt Warner, Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees at the top.
No one recently has arguably been better than Brees in the postseason, which makes sense given he lost a playoff game because of a missed 40-yard field goal in overtime (2004), and became the first quarterback ever to lose after throwing two go-ahead touchdown passes in the fourth quarter of a playoff game last year.
But Brees has only been to the playoffs five times in 12 seasons, so we just do not get to see him as often. That’s Manning’s strength, carrying teams no matter how flawed they are to the postseason, but it can also be his downfall when it comes to the playoff record. There have not been many chances for him to beat up on a bad Wild Card team at home.
One quick loss and you have to win at least two games the next time just to get back to .500. Two playoff wins mean at least an appearance in the Conference Championship or Super Bowl, and as many fan bases know, those are not easy to come by.
Now repeat that every year, throw in the ridiculous bad luck Manning has suffered through, and only then does 9-11 start to make some sense.
So 9-11 is not an accident for Manning. It’s a misfortune of unbelievable events, and it’s a call for help in what is proven to be the ultimate team game.
Scott Kacsmar is a football writer/researcher who has contributed large quantities of data to Pro-Football-Reference.com, including the only standardized database of fourth quarter comebacks and game-winning drives. You can visit his blog for a complete writing archive. Please send any questions or comments to Scott at firstname.lastname@example.org, or you can follow him on Twitter at @CaptainComeback.