Note to readers: Welcome to the 2013 NFL season. Each week, we will highlight the best and the worst Real Quarterback Rating performances from the schedule of games and explain what happened on the road to whatever outcome we witnessed.

We will be focusing on three games from Week 1. All three games had their own element of quarterback dominance one way or the other and are more than worthy of being broken down here at Cold, Hard Football Facts.


By Shaun Church
Cold, Hard Football Facts Real Man of Genius (@church_NFL)

The 2013 NFL season started with a bang, as Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos hosted Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco and his champion Baltimore Ravens on Thursday Night Football.

Manning’s stat-line (27 of 42, 64.3%, 462 yards, 11.0 YPA, 7 TD, 0 INT, 141.1 passer rating) was Madden-like—his seven touchdowns tied a league record no one had touched since 1969.

He joined Sid Luckman, Aaron Burk, George Blanda, Y.A. Tittle and Joe Kapp as the only players in professional football history to torch a defense for seven scores.

For a team to pull out a victory after being completely outplayed by their opponent, something almost magical has to happen. Or, you simply have to have Tom Brady at quarterback. Luckily for the New England Patriots, Brady has been there to bail them out for the past decade-plus, and he did it again against the Buffalo Bills and first-round rookie quarterback E.J. Manuel.

The Bills should have won their home opener against AFC East rival New England. Manuel was not dominant, but he was efficient. He earned a 106.67 Real QB Rating by completing 66.7% of his passes and by not turning the ball over. He also carried three times for 23 yards (7.7 YPC) and was not sacked all day.

In fact, Manuel was hurried just four times and hit four more times, according to ProFootballFocus.

Meanwhile, down in Florida, the Jacksonville Jaguars lost in impressive fashion to the Kansas City Chiefs because their now-benched quarterback, Blaine Gabbert, couldn’t hit an open receiver if the fate of the entire world rested on him doing so.

The Jaguars were so far out of their 28-2 loss to the Chiefs that they should have employed the mercy rule and called it early—that’s how pathetic the offense was with Gabbert throwing ducks.

Now, we will break down these games statistically to explain each outcome.


Peyton’s Historic Night (Broncos 49, Ravens 27)

You read it above. Manning is the sixth quarterback in professional football history to throw seven touchdown passes in a single game. It was fun to watch because nothing like that happens in the NFL today. Teams are not supposed to allow a quarterback to bend them over and statistically rape them the way Manning did the Ravens Thursday night.

Peyton’s night at the office in review:

  • 462 passing yards was 2nd-highest single game total in career
  • Tied NFL record for most career 4-TD games (23)
  • Tied NFL record for most career 5-TD games (7)
  • Set NFL record for most career 6-TD games (3)
  • Tied NFL record for most career 7-TD games (1)

The Broncos won 15 out of 18 Quality Stats in their 49-27 bullying of the Ravens, including generating the highest Real QB Rating Differential of the week (+68.72).

Because he cannot beat teams with his legs, Manning’s Real QB Rating was only 132.36—“only” because it wouldn’t even top the rankings from 2012.

It’s the 10th-highest Real QBR since the start of last season and is Manning’s second-best QBR performance over that time; he accumulated a 135.94 Real QBR during a 34-14 beat-down of Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints Week 8 of last year.

(You can track annual leaders and losers from No. 1 to No. 512 in each of our Quality Stats, including Real QB Rating, in the statistical "Big Boards" we offer at CHFF Insider.)

It’s amazing to think that Baltimore held a field-goal lead at halftime over Manning and the Broncos. No. 18 sported a 111.81 Real QB Rating at the break after tossing two touchdowns but completing only 57.9% of his passes. His second half?

In a word: Legendary.

He completed 16 of 23 (69.6%) for 302 yards, 13.1 YPA, 5 TD and 0 INT, leading to a 142.63 second-half Real QB Rating while leading Denver to outscore Baltimore 35-10. To put into perspective how good a performance it was, consider that Houston Texans quarterback Matt Schaub threw five second-half touchdowns all of last season (Manning led the NFL with 22 second-half scores in 2012).

What’s even more chilling about the seven touchdown passes is that they came against a Ravens defense that allowed just 15 touchdown passes a year ago (second-fewest in the NFL) and didn’t allow its seventh until Week 10.

Baltimore’s coverage was so bad that even AT&T had to laugh at them.

Having lost future Hall of Fame MLB Ray Lewis to retirement and a slew of other offseason losses on defense could be used as an excuse.

The front seven for the Ravens did not get enough pressure on Manning. They blitzed only nine times and did not bring him down once when doing so. In fact, Manning was at his best when Baltimore brought five or more. He completed 6 of 9 (66.7%) for 143 yards, 15.9 YPA, 3 TD and 0 INT for a 149.3 passer rating, according to PFF.

He was sacked three times, but one was a coverage sack, two came following offensive linemen being beaten almost instantly and all three were the result of a four-man rush.

Manning’s historic performance could be telling for both teams. Denver should be considered the frontrunner in the AFC and could be on their way to crushing the AFC West once again, while Baltimore could struggle just to make the playoffs in the always-tough AFC North division.

You could chock it up to being “just one of those games” where everything works for one team and everything goes wrong for the other. But you’re a reader of the Cold, Hard Football Facts and you’re smart enough know better than that.

These things don’t just happen.


Brady’s Improbable Road to Victory (Patriots 23, Bills 21)

In short: New England had zero business winning this game, at least according to the statistical norms that separate winners from losers nearly 100 percent of the time.

Brady put together a mediocre performance throughout, completing 29 of 52 (55.8%) for 288 yards, 5.5 YPA, 2 TD and 1 INT for a 76.4 passer rating. He was sacked twice and was credited with five carries for minus-four yards (-0.8 YPC), and lost a fumble, adding up to a 66.28 Real Quarterback Rating.

We went back and looked at all games last season on the 2012 Real QB Rating Big Board, and teams sporting a Real QB Rating in the 60s went just 14-45 (.237) and lost by an averag escore of 26.6-16.9.

Doing the math from Manuel’s numbers above and comparing them to Brady's, New England posted a  -40.39 Real QBR Differential. Yet somehow, they pulled it off with two fourth-quarter field goals from Stephen Gostkowski—the second of which came with just five ticks left on the clock.

Of 81 games in 2012 that featured a differential of -40 or worse, just one team walked away with a win. It was a meaningless Week 17 game between the Saints and Carolina Panthers and won by Cam Newton and Co., 44-38.

In that game, Brees completed 67.4% of his passes for 396 yards, four touchdowns and a pick, leading to a 111.16 Real QB Rating. Newton, on the other hand, completed just 50.0% of his passes for 260 yards, no touchdowns and an interception for a 68.65.

What was the difference?

Carolina’s DeAngelo Williams rushed averaged 10.0 YPC and rushed for 210 yards, and he and Mike Tolbert combined for five rushing scores. New Orleans’ atrocious defense let down the entire city a year ago.

What, then, is Buffalo’s excuse? Manuel’s fourth-quarter execution was not up to par, and his defense allowed Brady to march down the field twice to steal the victory.

Through three quarters, Manuel had completed 15 of 21 (71.4%) for 130 yards, 6.2 YPA, 2 TD and 0 INT. He carried three times for 23 yards (7.7 YPC) and earned a three-quarter Real QBR of 120.38. His 3 of 7 (42.9%) for 20 yards, 0 TD and 0 INT in the fourth quarter adds up to a 50.3 Real QBR and played a major role in the breakdown.


Gabbert Pathetic in Opener, Benched (Chiefs 28, Jaguars 2)

The Chiefs utterly dominated the Jaguars for four quarters Sunday. The game was at no point in doubt for Kansas City. 

The Chiefs topped Jacksonville in every single Quality Stats that we use to measure teams in our CHFF Insider post-game reports, and by a wide margin for most of them.

Jags quarterback and former top-10 pick Blaine Gabbert should quit football, because he’s simply that bad at it. He completed 16 of 35 (45.7%) for 121 yards, 3.5 YPA, 0 TD, 2 INT and was sacked six times. His 42.36 Real QB Rating was last among all quarterbacks for Week 1.

If not for his benching and Chad Henne playing less awful, the Real QBR Differential of -57.11 would be even worse—maybe worse than that of Denver vs. Baltimore above.

A rundown of how piss-poor Jacksonville’s offense was with Gabbert under center:

  • 7 three-and-outs, including first 3 drives
  • 4 drives resulting in negative yards
  • 2 plays in Kansas City territory; 0 until 7:47 mark of fourth quarter
  • 5-18 (27.8%) on third down; 2-9 (22.2%) in first half
  • 2.54 yards per play is 2nd-worst for single game in franchise history
  • 4th offensive shutout in franchise history; 1st at home since 2004

Kansas City’s front seven is good, but they’re not that good. Keep in mind, the Chiefs were also 2-14 last year, just like the Jaguars, and battled them for the title of worst team in football just last season.

Things are clearly different this year.

Ladies and gentlemen of Jaguars Nation, we present you with the first overall pick of the 2014 NFL draft. Now pray owner Shahid Kahn and general manager David Caldwell understand they must draft Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater if they want the franchise to stay in Jacksonville.