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Analyzing Peyton Manning's Super Bowl XLVIII Performance

Posted on February 5, 2014 at 3:00 PM
Much has been made of Peyton Manning's performance in Super Bowl XLVIII and the impact it will have on the "perception" of his legacy. At first glance, most will see that the highest scoring offense in NFL history was held to only eight points as Manning threw two costly interceptions in defeat. If that's all one takes away from the game, they will undoubtedly miss the entirety of the picture. Simply judging the outcome of a game without understanding the context of how that outcome came to be is not only shortsighted, but it also deprives one of understanding the importance of history.

And history is the key word in this situation.


Did you know: Besides Manning in 2006, zero quarterbacks in NFL history have ever won a Super Bowl with a defense ranked below 20th in scoring and outside the Top-10 in forced turnovers.

    • The 2013 Broncos ranked 22nd in scoring defense and 16th in forced turnovers.

Did you know: Zero teams in NFL history have ever won a Super Bowl while giving up more than 31 points.

    • The Broncos gave up 43 points in Super Bowl XLVIII—36 if you exclude the pick-six.

Did you know: Zero teams in NFL history have ever won a Super Bowl when averaging less than 2.2 yards-per-carry.

    • The Broncos averaged 1.9 yards-per-carry despite running into nickel-plus defensive coverages.


Critics can label the realization of history as "excuses" in their attempt to brand students of the game as "apologists", but that doesn't change the reality that no quarterback, besides Manning, has ever been successful facing any one of the above listed circumstances—let alone all three.

After you've graduated to this stage of understanding, you realize that Manning faced circumstances that yielded a 0% win probability three times over—based upon 47 years of NFL history. At this point, it's not a matter of criticizing Manning for not walking away with the "W", as that outcome was never a sensible expectation.

Lets delve into Manning's actual performance—which I've broken down into three seperate contexts.


  • Peyton Manning (entire game): 34 of 49 (69.4) for 280 yards, 1 touchdown and 2 interceptions. 73.5 passer rating.
  • Peyton Manning (second half): 17 of 26 (65.4) for 176 yards, 1 touchdown and 0 interceptions. 97.6 passer rating.
  • Peyton Manning (sans two interceptions): 34 of 47 (72.3) for 280 yards, 1 touchdown and 0 interceptions. 94.3 passer rating.


In all three contexts of measure, Manning was incredibly accurate. He broke the single-game record for most completions in Super Bowl history (34), bettering the mark held by Tom Brady and Drew Brees (32). His two interceptions came in the first half—something I'll discuss later.

Manning posted a passer rating of 97.6 in the second half. He threw a touchdown pass to Demariyus Thomas despite a non-call for pass interference on Byron Maxwell, converted a two-point conversion pass to Wes Welker, and didn't throw a single interception. Still, there was no coming back from the 36 points the Broncos gave up.

The spotlight has been placed on Manning's two interceptions—the first coming after Julius Thomas got tangled up in coverage, failing to finish his route, which is exactly where Manning threw the football. The second, more costly interception, came as Manning's body was sandwiched between Cliff Avril and Chris Clemons—causing the ball to flutter in the air before being picked off by Malcolm Smith and returned for a touchdown.

Manning has thrown almost 10,000 passes in his 16-year career, but to many, these two passes carry enough weight to impact his "legacy."

It doesn't matter if he put the football at the end of his receiver's route. It doesn't matter if his offensive line allowed the opposing defense to run head first into him, after he began to throw the football. The interceptions must fall on Manning—because that's the headline people really want to read. Context be damned, ignored, then forogtten.

The irony is that the outcome of the game would have been no different had Manning thrown zero interceptions. Name-recognition and the ever-popular urge to nonsensically critique Manning's career has birthed a plethora of I told you so's, but that doesn't change the reality of the Super Bowl's lengthy 48-year history.

To critique Manning is to subscribe to the following mindset...

"Despite playing under multiple sets of circumstances that have all yielded zero Super Bowl champions in 48 years, I feel Peyton Manning's legacy took a considerable blow in Super Bowl XLVIII because of two passes he threw behind a non-existent offensive line—even though those two passes would not have changed the outcome of the game. His vastly superior regular season resumé, which accounts of 90.5% of his career's passing attempts, is overshadowed by his postseason win/loss record, even though his playoff passer rating (89.2) is higher than Troy Aikman's (88.3), Tom Brady's (87.5) and Ben Roethlisberger's (83.7), who willed their team's to championships with their less productive, less accurate and less efficent offensive outputs." -Graduates of Popular Opinion Community College

Dissatisfied with the views presented in this article? You may select a retort from the list below:

  • "Make excuses for Manning all you want because he's now lost two Super Bowls!"
  • "All people will remember are Manning's two pick-six's on the game's grandest stage!"
  • "Who cares about NFL records and MVP trophies? Manning only has one ring!"

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