Stat Analysis
Advanced analytics on player and team performance

Solving the Peyton Playoff Puzzle: Part II

by Scott Kacsmar

In Part I of this piece on Wednesday, we solved the puzzle of how Peyton Manning became a .500 quarterback in his postseason career despite the highest standard of regular-season play and an underrated individual playoff resume. His ability to carry many flawed teams to the playoffs was one problem. The record six losses after leading in the fourth quarter show that he could have easily been above .500. The biggest problem was the distribution of those blown leads: five times in one-and-done situations. Had the blown leads still happened, but been more evenly distributed throughout the playoffs, Manning would have that precious winning postseason record.

The distribution of stats is an area where I feel we could be doing a better job as analysts. If a defender sacked a quarterback on three consecutive plays, it would be a great spectacle to watch, but those three sacks would have only destroyed one drive in the game. Unless it was the last drive of a tight game, that is not ideal. Had the defender been able to sack the quarterback on three different drives, he would have helped his team more by impacting three drives instead of one.

This can be applied to most counting stats, or even a concept like luck, which we defined in the context of events that work for or against a quarterback that were out of his control. The good luck in Manning's playoff career often came in bunches, but some was also offset by some of the worst moments for his best teams.

Below, we are going to experiment with the frailty of playoff win-loss records for Manning and four other Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks from this year's divisional round. The goal of this exercise was never to try to inflate Manning's playoff record to an incredible level. It was to show just how misleading any quarterback's playoff record can be.

Note: parts of this article previously appeared on ESPN Insider. References to win probability are from Brian Burke's calculator, formerly at AdvancedNFLStats.com.

Why So Many Close Losses for Manning's Teams?

Most games can be grouped into four categories: big wins, big losses, close wins, and close losses. You could also work in a "comfortable" category for games that stayed at a two-score margin for the fourth quarter without ever turning into blowouts.

Manning's postseason results are different from those of most quarterbacks in that he has a lot of comfortable or big wins. For example, nine of his 13 playoff wins were wire-to-wire, while only two of the other four were fourth-quarter comebacks. Ten of his 13 losses, though, have been close. Compare that to his current boss, John Elway, who had 14 wins with six game-winning drives and five wire-to-wire wins. Out of the six losses he finished as a starter, only the first one was a tight game in the fourth quarter. While the Super Bowl losses were routs, Denver's defense was 7-0 in Elway's era when holding a one-score lead in the fourth quarter.

[ad placeholder 3]

Before these last two games when Manning's Denver defense held up leads of 7 and 8 points, his teams were an abysmal 5-6 when having to defend a one-score lead. That includes a stop against the 2003 Chiefs, who trailed 38-31 and only had eight seconds left to drive 73 yards. That also includes stopping the 2009 Jets, who were within one score for one drive before Manning extended the lead to a comfortable 10 points with another touchdown pass.

A blown fourth-quarter lead does not guarantee that the offense should be free of criticism, nor does it always mean the team should have won. We expected that Indianapolis' 1-point lead in Super Bowl XLIV would not hold up against Drew Brees and the Saints, but that was the only blown lead for a Manning team that did not come in a one-and-done scenario. The leads were usually more solid than that. While most offenses turn towards the run in these situations, we can look at playoff stats for a select group of quarterbacks to see how they did with a one-score lead in the fourth quarter. The sample sizes are small as you would expect, but the results are still interesting. Success rate (SR) is included, though failed completions actually hold a little more value here than usual since these teams wanted to run clock.

Playoffs: Leading by 1-8 Points in the Fourth Quarter
Quarterback Att. Comp. Pct. Yds TD INT PR Sacks SR
Peyton Manning 50 35 70.0% 367 2 1 96.0 2 50.0%
Ben Roethlisberger 12 8 66.7% 96 0 0 91.0 2 43.8%
Aaron Rodgers 23 14 60.9% 189 1 0 101.5 3 40.7%
Tom Brady 46 24 52.2% 247 2 3 55.3 0 40.4%
Russell Wilson 21 8 38.1% 117 1 0 72.9 0 21.7%

It still usually falls on the defense to protect a lead, and these numbers certainly do not instill much confidence in the offenses to close things out. They also do not fit the narrative, with Manning having the best statistics. His interception did not hurt much, as it served as a 49-yard punt on third-and-17 against the 2006 Ravens. The missed play of significance from a loss was the sack Manning took on third-and-2 with a chance to ice the game in San Diego in 2008. However, tight end Gijon Robinson (among others) botched the snap count on the play and left an easy path for Tim Dobbins to get Manning down. San Diego tied the game, leaving Manning only 24 seconds to answer, and then he never got the ball in overtime. You just do not see games like that too often.

Whether it was the defense having to come up with the key stop, or Mike Vanderjagt needing a big kick, or Marvin Harrison needing to make a catch on third-and-22, or when you expected to get a penalty call go your way, those plays often backfired against Manning's teams. Those mistakes will usually catch up to you in tight games.

A Play to Glory; A Play to Ruin

Most quarterbacks are going to win some playoff games that they easily could have lost, and lose some games that they easily could have won. When I wrote about this glory vs. ruin concept for ESPN Insider, a commenter (he's not getting any name pub here) complained that I only focused on the former for Tom Brady, and the latter for Manning. But that's because these are the types of playoff games these two specific quarterbacks have in abundance. If we're going to talk Brady and Manning, this is what we're going to get, and that ESPN article was very much a comparison between the two. It is hard to take away from Manning's wins, but it is pretty easy to take away from Brady's (and those of some of these other quarterbacks we will be looking at). This goes back to Brady getting breaks in the earlier rounds to which allowed for longer playoff runs, while most of Manning's bad luck happened in first-round playoff games.

(Ed. Note: Why only Brady and Manning? Because that was the AFC Championship matchup: Scott was writing the AFC for ESPN, and I was writing the NFC. A further exploration of the concept that would include other quarterbacks was planned for Football Outsiders from the beginning; we all know ESPN has space considerations that FO does not. -- Aaron Schatz)

I came up with the idea of glory vs. ruin as looking at what happens when you change the significant plays that have had the most impact on the quarterback's playoff win-loss record. The most important idea is that the play you select to change must be something out of the quarterback's control. We are not going to give Manning a retry on the Tracy Porter pick-six. As discussed in Part I, we focus on plays that came late in the game, since that left the quarterback with the least time to overcome the failure of teammates. We usually focus on low-probability events such as return scores, drops, or difficult field goals, so nobody can say "boy, [quarterback] sure is lucky his defense didn't give up a 90-yard touchdown pass on the last play!" No, he would be extremely unlucky if they did give up such a play. A stop there is expected.

If you tried to do this with Cam Newton's five playoff games, you wouldn't be able to change any of the outcomes. You would basically have to restart the games from scratch. It just so happens that Manning and Brady are the easiest quarterbacks to use in this analysis since they have the most (and most close) playoff games. Another rule I put in was to limit changes to no more than three plays in either direction, though it's hard to change even one for some players.

Obviously we can play the "what if?" game all day, but I like to think it can be done sensibly. Scott Norwood made the field goal to win the game, or he didn't. Earnest Byner fumbled at the goal line, or he didn't. Sure, we can say Rex Grossman had the ball in a 22-17 game against Manning's Colts in Super Bowl XLI, but it is too far into fantasy land to say "instead of a crushing pick-six, the Sex Cannon throws a 62-yard touchdown to take a lead with 11:44 left and Manning never wins a ring!" For one, that's a lot of time left for Manning to have the ball to come back from a 23-22 or 25-22 deficit. Two, we can easily watch this game today. The only way a Chicago touchdown is coming out of that Kelvin Hayden interception is if he had fumbled it. Grossman threw a terrible jump ball. Again, the less you have to distort the reality of the play, the better.

Let's start with Manning. When I did this for ESPN, my choices were to basically swap the playoff fates of Manning and Brady. I wanted Adam Vinatieri to shank two field goals from 45 and 46 yards away in brutal kicking conditions the same way Mike Vanderjagt shanked kicks from 49 yards away in Miami and 46 yards away in the RCA Dome. There is a lot of equivalency there, and lest we forget, Vanderjagt was one of the most accurate kickers in history. Even better, I wanted the two to switch defenders named Moore and how they defended a crucial Joe Flacco pass. Sterling Moore knocked the ball away from Lee Evans in the end zone with the Patriots nursing a 23-20 lead in the 2011 AFC Championship Game. Rahim Moore had that terrible judgment on the deep ball for Jacoby Jones with Denver ahead 35-28 in the 2012 AFC divisional round. If Brady's Moore had failed to make a play and Manning's Moore had done his job, voilà, you have two quarterbacks with similar playoff records now.

What was interesting to me was how the two best teams of Manning's career, the 2005 Colts and 2012 Broncos (yes, DVOA agrees), suffered two of the most devastating playoff losses this century. Had they come through in those games, you had to like their chances of going the distance with some favorable matchups in the next two rounds. But they blew it, and we now see another parallel in that the two weakest Manning teams to make the playoffs (the 2006 Colts and 2015 Broncos) may be in the best positions to win titles.

The other thing about the 2005 Colts and 2012 Broncos is that Manning had some damn good fortune going into those games. Against Pittsburgh, he erroneously got an overturned Troy Polamalu interception from the referees with 5:26 left, and he got a massive gift when his defense forced Jerome Bettis to fumble with just over a minute left. This was going to be Manning's Tuck Rule game, a controversial finish headed to overtime. But Vanderjagt embarrassingly shanked that field goal, and that was the end of Manning's best Indianapolis team. Like I said earlier, even when he got lucky, he still got unlucky in the end and lost.

The same thing happened with the 2012 Broncos. Manning got two return touchdowns from Trindon Holliday on special teams. In 26 playoff games, Manning's teams only have three return touchdowns, and here were the last two. That's great, but Denver never really took advantage with some questionable calls (and a no-call) on pass interference leading to two Baltimore touchdowns. But nothing was bigger than the epic letdown by Moore in coverage when it looked like the Broncos had it wrapped up (win probability: 0.94).

In the ESPN article, I still gave Manning a loss for the Pittsburgh game, because I did not want to speculate on overtime had Vanderjagt made the kick. Having gone through the games of the other quarterbacks, I say give him the win now, and make it on Nick Harper's fumble return going down the sideline for a touchdown instead of getting tackled by Ben Roethlisberger. It would be one of the cheapest, most controversial, and memorable outcomes ever, but any other player would take it. Did we not just see this year where Roethlisberger got a very similar Jeremy Hill fumble break, followed by those two moronic penalties from Vontaze Burfict and Adam Jones? Did Carson Palmer's first playoff win not come after another dropped interception in the red zone and a deflected pass going for a touchdown?

Some teams double down on luck in the playoffs. Remember when the 2000 Ravens beat Tennessee by returning a blocked field goal for a touchdown, and Ray Lewis snagging a pick-six after Eddie George tipped a pass? By the way, in this alternate universe where Vanderjagt comes through in Miami, the 2000 Colts would have gone to No. 1 seeded Tennessee that week instead of the Ravens.

Here is what Manning's playoff career looks like with the ruin-to-glory (R->G) and glory-to-ruin (G->R) plays changed. Some other noteworthy plays are in red. The "Breaking Point" is the play out of the quarterback's control that would change in this scenario. You can see what the records would then look like whether it was a path to glory or ruin, along with the range. I do not speculate on any of the additional games that would have been earned with these wins.

We spent enough time on the R->G plays, so let's look at which win we took away from Manning. I say win, because upon further review, I could not find a breaking point from the 2006 AFC Championship Game that makes sense. Luck is really not a proper term to describe that final quarter. More than anything, it was the Patriots failing to take advantage of the Colts' incompetency.

There are three plays worth mentioning from that quarter. Some would say Dominic Rhodes fumbling at the 1-yard line with 13:24 left was a breaking point with the Colts down 28-21. Center Jeff Saturday recovered for a game-tying touchdown. However, the Patriots scored on a similar fumble in the first quarter, so we can consider the two teams even there. Later, with the scored tied at 28, the Colts left Reche Caldwell completely uncovered for at least 10 seconds. By the time Brady got the pass to him, Antoine Bethea was in a good position for the tackle. Caldwell dropped the ball anyway.

For years I have mis-remembered this as a third-down play that would not have scored, but would have extended the drive. However, this was first-and-15, and Caldwell at best would have made it second-and-medium. That's not a breaking point. The Patriots kicked a field goal on the drive, and you can definitely argue the Colts got away with some pass interference in the end zone on third down.

Finally, in the last two minutes Reggie Wayne was running well after the catch and lost control of the ball in the air. Manning and company talk a lot about this play in the America's Game for the 2006 Colts, but it was really a moot point since the Patriots were penalized for a (weak) roughing the passer call. Still, I find it odd that this is not credited as a fumble in the play-by-play.

So to recap, Manning's running back fumbled at the 1-yard line, his defense did not even bother to cover the leading receiver on the field, and Wayne got loose with the ball in scoring territory in a 3-point game. Had the Colts lost for any of those reasons, it would have just cemented Manning as the unluckiest quarterback ever, and this game was nine years ago. I thought Caldwell gave us a reason to credit this win away, but he just gave us an incredible facial expression.

Glory-to-Ruin Play No. 1: 2015 AFC divisional round vs. Pittsburgh

I fundamentally disagree with taking away this win too, but that just shows that even Manning's closest wins are on steadier ground than most. Pittsburgh was driving with a 13-12 lead when Fitzgerald Toussaint fumbled and Denver recovered. Manning turned that into a 65-yard game-winning touchdown drive and a 20-13 lead. If Pittsburgh had recovered the fumble that went backwards, it would have been third-and-medium, slightly out of field-goal range. Let's just say that Toussaint had not fumbled and set up third-and-1 at the Denver 31 with just under 10 minutes left (win probability: 0.72). Maybe Pittsburgh would have gotten a touchdown to go up 20-12 or a field goal to go up 16-12. Maybe the kick would have been no good. Maybe Roethlisberger would have thrown a pick-six to Aqib Talib on the next play. The uncertainty is rather high here, but it was definitely a big blow for the Steelers to lose that fumble.

If you think about it, this could go down as the biggest break in Manning's playoff career that he was actually able to capitalize on.

Tom Brady: Should Trade Last Names with Andrew Luck

Take your pick. The most important application of the controversial Tuck Rule ever? Check. Beneficiary of only the second missed field goal in a do-or-die situation in championship game history? Check. In fact, no quarterback has benefited from more clutch field goals going his team's way in the playoffs than Brady. (Early-game extra points are now a different story.) You want to start a game-winning drive in the Super Bowl after the opponent's kickoff goes out of bounds? Brady did it. How about throwing a fourth-down interception that gets fumbled back to you in good field position late in the fourth quarter? Only Brady. What about when the team with "Beast Mode" in the backfield throws a pass at the 1-yard line to Ricardo Lockette with the Super Bowl on the line? Brady celebrated that interception, the costliest in NFL history.

Those moments did not make our list of changes either. I won't detail Brady's ruin path, since we know it as basically Manning's real path. If Vinatieri misses his two big clutch field goals, then Brady starts his playoff career possibly at 0-2, depending on the result of overtime with Tennessee in 2003, instead of 6-0. Then the Sterling-turned-Rahim Moore defense fails to slap the ball away from Lee Evans, keeping Brady out of Super Bowl XLVI, which is a game I refuse to add to his glory path. Even if Wes Welker had made that (rare) deep catch, there were more than four minutes left and the Giants had two clock stoppages. Eli Manning's pass to Mario Manningham was a beautiful throw and catch. At worst, had it fallen incomplete, that would only have made it second-and-10, as it was the first play of the drive. There is a far easier change to make from the other Super Bowl loss here.

Ruin-to-Glory Play No. 1: Super Bowl XLII vs. New York Giants

My play is not the Asante Samuel "dropped" interception, because I am not sold that Samuel would have gotten both feet in bounds even if he had managed to catch the ball. More than that, the pass hit off of his fingertips while his arms were fully extended and he had both feet off the ground. It would have been an incredible pick, but not one you would even chart as a dropped interception. I go to the David Tyree helmet catch, which probably would have best served the Patriots if "in the grasp" had been called by Mike Carey (yes, him), setting up a fourth-and-13 or so. If the pass had been incomplete, then it is hard to say the Giants would have lost for sure, because fourth-and-5 would have been a favorable conversion. It is still hard to say which part was more unbelievable: Eli escaping the sack or Tyree pinning the ball to his helmet. But both happened, and that is why it is one of the all-time breaking points in playoff history.

Aaron Rodgers: Sideline Viewer Extraordinaire

It sounds hard to believe now, but there was a time when Aaron Rodgers got the ball last in a playoff game. It was his first game, and he caught a huge break too, when Arizona's Neil Rackers missed a 34-yard field goal with nine seconds left in the 2009 NFC wild-card game. However, in overtime Rodgers missed a wide-open Greg Jennings for a deep touchdown before coughing up the only strip-six in playoff overtime history. Rodgers would look better if Rackers had just made the kick. The next year, Rodgers started watching Green Bay's pivotal playoff moments from the sideline. The defense was fantastic at creating takeaways and return scores in the 2010 Super Bowl run, but not much has gone right for Green Bay in the playoffs since, outside of drawing a home game against Joe Webb.

Rodgers is the only quarterback in NFL history to lose two playoff games in overtime without getting a possession. Those are two out of the eight times it has ever happened, and those are Green Bay's last two postseason losses (in Seattle and Arizona). Rodgers also watched a last-second field goal by the 49ers in 2013. In that one, Colin Kaepernick got away with an interception dropped by Micah Hyde with 4:09 left. That might have led to the Packers taking a late lead, but it was not decisive enough to include here. When A couple weeks ago, I published a table of Rodgers having five "never got ball back (NGBB)" losses in his career, and three of them are his last three playoff losses. That is pretty incredible, though we still see the problem where Green Bay has not done a good job when the chance to win the game was there. Rodgers is good at getting the team a tie, but when it was 17-13 in Arizona this year, he short-hopped a pass on fourth down, basically gifting the Cardinals a field goal. That is why his incredible Hail Mary only forced overtime instead of winning the game.

I only changed one play either way for Rodgers, and it was not the Dez Bryant catch in the 2014 NFC divisional round. Sure, I still think a play like that should be a catch, but it would have given Dallas a first-and-goal from the 1 with just over four minutes left. Maybe the Cowboys would have gone up 29-26 or 27-26 and won, or maybe Green Bay would have come right back for the winning drive. Or maybe DeMarco Murray would have fumbled at the 1-yard line. Dallas' win probability was just about 0.50 had that been ruled a catch, so we'll just leave it as is.

Glory-to-Ruin Play No. 1: 2010 NFC wild-card game at Philadelphia

There have been some really huge passes thrown into the end zone in the last few postseasons, and the offenses are rarely ever catching them. Michael Vick, trailing 21-16 with 44 seconds left, had a chance to be the hero in his best season for the Eagles. From the 27-yard line, he might have gotten a little greedy in going for it all, but there was single coverage from Tramon Williams on Riley Cooper, who could have fought more for the ball.

There is the game-ending interception to prevent the Packers from a quick wild-card exit. Vick needed to get more air on that ball towards the back pylon to give Cooper a great shot. The 2010 defense still remains by far Dom Capers' best work with Green Bay.

Ruin-to-Glory Play No. 1: 2014 NFC Championship Game at Seattle

The Packers had a lot of chances to put away Seattle, but recovering an onside kick with 2:07 left could have been enough. Brandon Bostick blew the recovery and Seattle had life, down 19-14. Amazingly, it was Green Bay that had to score again just to force overtime, and Rodgers led a drive for a field goal. He just never got the ball back again as Russell Wilson threw a 35-yard touchdown to Jermaine Kearse in overtime. Assuming Rodgers would have gotten healthier for the Super Bowl, Green Bay would have had a decent shot to beat New England again in a rematch from the regular season that year and from Super Bowl XXXI.

Ben Roethlisberger: The Running Back Fumbles

Trailing 17-10 just two plays into the fourth quarter of his first playoff game, Roethlisberger handed the ball off to Jerome Bettis, only to see him fumble at the Jets' 23. Little did the rookie quarterback know how big a role running back fumbles would play in his postseason career. Since 2004, there have been 34 total lost fumbles in the fourth quarter or overtime in the playoffs within a 16-point window. The Steelers have been involved in 11 of those 34 plays (five on offense, six on defense).

Oddly enough, perhaps the two most egregious playoff fumbles since the aforementioned Byner play came in two wins for the Steelers, both occurring in the final 100 seconds: Bettis fumbled in Indianapolis in 2005 and Jeremy Hill lost the ball this year in Cincinnati. Roethlisberger was able to save the day with a tackle the first time before seeing Mike Vanderjagt miss a game-tying field goal. Roethlisberger was the hero again this year, coming off the bench to lead a game-winning drive that was helped tremendously by two unbelievable penalties on the Bengals. Chris Boswell did not miss his field goal.

But two more running back fumbles did hurt Roethlisberger in losses. We already went over the Fitzgerald Toussaint fumble in Denver this year. In Super Bowl XLV, the Steelers trailed 21-17 to start the fourth quarter and had a second-and-2 at the Green Bay 33. Clay Matthews forced Rashard Mendenhall to fumble and the Packers recovered, going on to score a touchdown. We do not want to use this as a breaking point, though, since the whole quarter remained and the Steelers were still more than 30 yards away from the end zone. But that was definitely a big play.

It was extremely hard to find extra wins for Roethlisberger. I could not even throw him a bone for the "Tebow 3:16" game. A Willis McGahee fumble set up Pittsburgh's tying touchdown drive, and Roethlisberger took a horrible sack when he had a chance to put the Steelers in position for the win. That is why the game went to overtime where Demaryius Thomas went 80 yards for the walk-off touchdown. We split hairs by giving him the latest Denver loss back.

Glory-to-Ruin Play No. 1: 2004 AFC divisional round vs. New York Jets

Roethlisberger overcame Bettis' fumble by leading a game-tying touchdown drive. Jets kicker Doug Brien hit the crossbar on a 47-yard field goal with 1:58 left. At Heinz Field, that is definitely a tough kick. However, Roethlisberger threw a terrible interception on the next play that should have sunk the Steelers. Incredibly, Brien was wide left from 43 yards away as time expired. The Jets punted in overtime and Roethlisberger led a game-winning drive. By giving Brien his redemption, Roethlisberger loses out on a 4QC/GWD and picks up a home one-and-done.

Glory-to-Ruin Play No. 2: 2005 AFC divisional at Indianapolis

Obviously, Roethlisberger did nothing wrong on the famed Bettis fumble. The handoff was good, but the tackle was right on the ball to pop it out. Roethlisberger's tackle was fantastic and saved Bettis' Hall of Fame bust, but the most common reaction to the play is, why didn't Nick Harper just go down the sideline? He kept looking to his left before actually cutting right into the path of Roethlisberger instead of going to the right for what could have been a most devastating touchdown with just over a minute left. Without this early Super Bowl run on his resume, Roethlisberger might still be looking at an uphill battle for Canton.

[ad placeholder 4]

Ruin-to-Glory Play No. 1: 2007 AFC wild-card game vs. Jacksonville

Roethlisberger led an 18-point comeback in the fourth quarter, but Pittsburgh only led 29-28. Jacksonville faced a fourth-and-2 at the Pittsburgh 43 with 1:56 left. A failure to convert would have ended the game. David Garrard scrambled for a 32-yard run, setting up Josh Scobee for a 25-yard game-winning field goal with 37 seconds left. Months after the game, Mike Pereira oddly admitted that officials missed a holding call on the run that would have set up fourth-and-12 (win probability: 0.17). Gee, nice timing. Maybe Jacksonville still would have pulled out the 31-29 win, or maybe Roethlisberger can say he led the largest fourth-quarter comeback in playoff history. Either way, the Steelers likely would have been annihilated in New England the following week.

Glory-to-Ruin Play No. 3: 2015 AFC wild-card game at Cincinnati

Don't the Bengals deserve a break? This one looked over with Roethlisberger's injured shoulder and Landry Jones having just thrown a terrible pick with 1:36 left. But the Steelers had three timeouts. You would never have expected Hill to fumble right away, but he did thanks to Ryan Shazier. Had Hill not fumbled, the Bengals could have just run out the clock or at least kicked a field goal to take a 19-15 lead with barely a minute left. Good luck to Roethlisberger driving a long field with no timeouts and an aching right arm. We could also just go right to the foolish Vontaze Burfict penalty for a cheap shot, which directly led to the Adam Jones penalty, gifting the Steelers a 35-yard field goal to win the game.

Ruin-to-Glory Play No. 2: 2015 AFC divisional round at Denver

Again, we are not too sure what the outcome would have been without Toussaint's fumble with 9:52 left in a 13-12 game, but it could have gotten as good as a 20-12 lead for Pittsburgh. Just as we were stretching to find a loss for Manning, we are just going to include this as a way to get Roethlisberger another win. Just like 2004 and our "Earth 2" version of 2007 here, it probably would have meant getting crushed by the Patriots again the following week.

Russell Wilson: Red Zone Danger

Just a four-year pro, Wilson has already had a very eventful postseason career with a 7-3 record and two trips to the Super Bowl. Six of his playoff games have featured a team inside the opponent's 40-yard line in the final minute of the fourth quarter in a one-score game. A few more Marshawn Lynch runs at the goal line and Wilson might have been to three Super Bowls to begin his career. The only real thorough loss was his last game after falling into a 31-0 hole in Carolina. No onside kick magic that time, but Wilson's Seahawks sure have seen some crazy outcomes already.

Glory Play No. 1: 2012 NFC divisional round at Atlanta

Seattle trailed 27-7 to start the fourth quarter, but Wilson led an impressive comeback. The Seahawks had first-and-goal from the Atlanta 2 with 34 seconds left and three timeouts. If there was ever a time to be inefficient at scoring, this was it. Lynch scored on first down, leaving Matt Ryan enough time to set up Matt Bryant for a 49-yard game-winning field goal in Atlanta's 30-28 win. This was definitely a defensive letdown as Atlanta's win probability was just 0.12 to start its drive, but had Lynch taken an extra run or two to score, Ryan would likely have never had enough time to drive for the win. The Seahawks would have then traveled to San Francisco for the NFC Championship Game. Given the way that series has gone, Wilson had a decent shot at becoming the first rookie quarterback to ever start a Super Bowl, but he instead takes a loss here in one of his best career games.

In fact, Wilson has the two highest QBR scores in playoff losses since 2006: 90.6 in Atlanta and 87.7 in Super Bowl XLIX. He also has two of the three lowest QBR scores in playoff wins: 16.8 vs. 2014 Packers and 21.3 in Minnesota this year.

Ruin Play No. 1: 2013 NFC Championship Game vs. San Francisco

Wilson could only watch from the sideline as Colin Kaepernick was driving the 49ers with a 23-17 deficit in the final minutes. The 49ers reached the Seattle 18 with 30 seconds and two timeouts left, but Kaepernick got a little greedy and went for the dagger with a throw to Michael Crabtree in the end zone. Richard Sherman tipped the pass to Malcolm Smith for a game-clinching interception with 22 seconds left and the 49ers were history. Wilson advanced to the Super Bowl, but Seattle came this close to blowing another fourth-quarter lead.

On a side note, how different would Kaepernick's career look with a couple of better throws to Crabtree in the red zone?

Ruin Play No. 2: 2014 NFC Championship Game vs. Green Bay

Seattle trailed 19-7 with 3:52 left, but got the first touchdown it needed. An onside kick was crucial with one timeout remaining and Green Bay's Brandon Bostick botched the recovery with 2:07 left. Had the Packers recovered, their win probability would have been 0.95. Seattle's last hope would have been having just over 70 seconds to drive a long field for a game-winning touchdown. Instead, the short-field touchdown worked and a crazy two-point conversion pass from Wilson to Luke Willson gave the Seahawks a 22-19 lead. Green Bay forced overtime, but the Seahawks got the ball first and won on Wilson's pass to Jermaine Kearse. There was a small chance the Seahawks could still have won this one in regulation without the recovery, but any time you get an unexpected onside kick recovery, you should thank your lucky stars.

Glory Play No. 2: Super Bowl XLIX vs. New England

You might be wondering why the costliest interception in NFL history is on this list since Wilson threw it, but that is the whole problem. Why were the run-heavy Seahawks throwing the ball at the 1-yard line with Lynch in the backfield? The strategy should have been to run, run, and run on fourth down if you had to. People will say the Kearse catch to get them down there was lucky, and it was, but that also set up this botched finish since Seattle burned a timeout there. Had the Seahawks gotten down to the goal line in a different fashion, we may have seen an ending similar to Super Bowl XLII, but instead Malcolm Butler is immortalized. Seattle also would have won had Lynch broken one more tackle, getting past Donta' Hightower at the 1 on the play before the interception.

Ruin Play No. 3: 2015 NFC wild-card game at Minnesota

The ramifications of this one were limited after Seattle's loss in Carolina, but what an ending. Minnesota had three cracks at erasing a 10-9 deficit, and the third appeared to be the charm. But that was when Blair Walsh shockingly missed a 27-yard field goal wide left with 22 seconds left to effectively end the game. It is the shortest do-or-die field goal miss in the Super Bowl era.

We know Wilson says his prayers, but they seem to be answered a lot.

I Feel My Luck Could Change

If it wasn't for bad luck, Manning would not have any luck in the postseason.

That was going to be the first line to this piece when I started working on it a few weeks ago, but perhaps Manning's luck is changing before our eyes. Despite the worst season of his career, Manning finally has a defense that can carry him to success. Despite missing six games with injury, Manning was healthy for Week 17 just in time to clinch a No. 1 seed for the Broncos that would not have been possible without the Patriots losing in Miami that afternoon. Instead of drawing a Kansas City team that knocked him out of commission in Week 10, Manning drew the Steelers, who were missing their leading receiver and rusher, and had the lowest-ranked pass defense in the AFC playoff field. The Broncos were able to rally in the fourth quarter to set up another AFC Championship Game with Brady and the Patriots, who are now 2-7 in Denver since 2001. Manning's defense rose to the occasion by stopping the most pivotal two-point conversion attempt we have ever seen in Denver's 20-18 win.

Sunday night appears to be Manning's swan song. He enters in a very unfamiliar role: an underdog and a game manager. One last vintage performance to finish on top as the oldest quarterback to win a Super Bowl would be right out of a Hollywood screenplay.

A second ring should get the critics to ease up on Manning's playoff resume, which would then only trail the likes of quarterbacks from the dynasty teams: Bart Starr, Terry Bradshaw, Joe Montana, Troy Aikman, and Brady. One player does not make a dynasty, yet Manning's achievement of reaching four Super Bowls with four different head coaches and two franchises may never be equaled. While he will not win four Super Bowls, becoming the first quarterback to win a Super Bowl with two different teams would be the most fitting accomplishment in his career. The fact that his two championships would come in the two postseasons where his teammates most stepped up for him just reinforces football as the ultimate team game where the margin between winning and losing is razor-thin.

There will always be the fans that place the most importance on rings and playoff records. Then there are the people who just care about how the player performed. Did he put his team in a position to win the game? Manning did that with the best of them. Greatest regular-season quarterback? Check. Greatest playoff quarterback? We saw only glimpses of that, but that is enough for some of us when appreciating the full picture.

Comments

84 comments, Last at 24 May 2016, 7:53pm

1 Re: Solving the Peyton Playoff Puzzle: Part II

That was an awful lot of words to make a point that I have actually been able to make successfully to Pats fans that think of Brady as a mythical centaur in far fewer. As one on the Manning side, I feel like it might discredit the conclusion.

I've been able to make the "plays out of their control" point quite quickly simply by pointing at Malcolm Butler. Nothing Brady did in that game changes the fact that he played well, but one play while he sat on the bench made the whole difference between him winning a Super Bowl MVP and him losing (and being 0-3 in the last decade). That's it. One play by someone else while he watched.

Even the most logically-challenged of Boston sports fans have agreed with me that had Seattle scored, they'd all be upset that the Patriot D didn't hold the lead and lament Brady's misfortune. Which makes the "Peyton's D has given that kind of score up just about every time" argument and the "Peyton has lost playoff games that he left with the lead inside the final minute" fact end up being much more well-received.

(Of course, they still think he's a mythical centaur, but at least it's with a little bit more appreciation for Manning's career than it was before.)

Anyway, I think that play makes it really easy to have that discussion, perhaps better than any other thing mentioned in this article, so it seemed odd to me that it wasn't in there as a GtR one.

8 Re: Solving the Peyton Playoff Puzzle: Part II

"That was an awful lot of words to make a point"

Yeah, and make it not that well at all. It's 100% guaranteed that in a one-possession game someone other than the QB affected the outcome. Just point out that Peyton is 5-7 in close games where Brady is 11-5 and all the others listed here are at least .500, then go home.

22 Re: Solving the Peyton Playoff Puzzle: Part II

Bring up one play and one stat? I did that in Part I to show how easy it'd be for Manning to be 13-9 if he did like his brother and blew off Nov/Dec to miss the playoffs with his weakest teams. I was joking of course, but it's actually 100% logical and true.

And "5-7 in close games vs. 11-5" would never fly. Trust me. I know a lot about arguing with NE fans. They'll just say you proved he choked.

31 Re: Solving the Peyton Playoff Puzzle: Part II

"I did that in Part I to show how easy it'd be for Manning to be 13-9 if he did like his brother and blew off Nov/Dec to miss the playoffs with his weakest teams. I was joking of course, but it's actually 100% logical and true."

Agreed. "You shouldn't penalize a guy for dragging weak teams into the playoffs" is 100% valid and true.

That's a major reason why I liked part I much better article than part II.

2 Re: Solving the Peyton Playoff Puzzle: Part II

Oooooh man, when you tally it up like that Manning has to be one of the unluckiest in the post-season. I've wondered about the Patriots CBs mugging the Colts WR, whether Jeff Saturday couldn't handle huge NT in a 3-4 defense....but didn't think Mannings' teams let him down to this extent.

And love the Caldwell shot. New England figured out why even San Diego cut him.

3 Re: Solving the Peyton Playoff Puzzle: Part II

The only surefire luck Brady got in the playoffs was the fumbled INT and even in that game they get the ball back with 3:30 left on the clock. Brady drove them up the field in OT against the raiders AFTER the tuck rule, he drove them up the field in the SB so Vinny could have that game winning kick indoors, the Patriots drive prior to the GWD was started at the 34 actually half of the patriots starting field position in that game was pretty favorable either inside their 30 or inside carolina territory so that had little to do with luck but one thing you're leaving out is Vinny missing a FG and having one blocked that would've stripped the need for a GWD and stripped the importance of that kick out of bounds.

So no, Brady's record in the playoffs worst case scenario wouldnt be 15-11 it would be unknown but still pretty extraordinary. If vinny misses that kick in the raiders game before OT they lose he misses during OT its still tied, if he misses the kick vs the Rams its still tied, if he DOESNT miss a kick and have one blocked against Carolina that game is over and theres no need for a GWD, and if he misses a kick vs the Titans the game is still tied and we dont know what would've happened (matter of fact a more important thing happened in that game while Tennessee was driving they were inside FG range and they got 20 yards worth of penalties that took them out of FG range forcing them to go for it on NE 42), Its the same with the MB INT if he doesnt intercept it is a fact that the Patriots would give up a score? No. Worst case he has 5 games that are undecided because of ties and his record ends up being 16 wins and 9 losses best case his playoff record is practically the same but he adds one or two wins.

5 Re: Solving the Peyton Playoff Puzzle: Part II

Brady drove them up the field in OT against the raiders AFTER the tuck rule

This article is referencing the kick Vinatieri made with 0:32 left in the 4th quarter to tie the game at 13-13 and force OT. The Brady "not"-fumble happened 5 plays earlier. If Vinatieri misses that 45-yarder, the Patriots lose 13-10 and Brady never gets the GWD opportunity in OT.

69 Re: Solving the Peyton Playoff Puzzle: Part II

It seems equally as lucky that Seattle was in a position to score given the catch Kearse had to make to get them down there.

Of course had Okung been able to hold his block on Hightower a fraction of a second longer on the play before the INT there would have been no interception because Lynch would have walked in to the end zone.

http://insidethepylon.com/film-study/film-study-nfl/defense-film-study-nfl/2015/02/12/super-bowl-xilx-recap-donta-hightower-tackle/

The whole thing is an exercise in fantasy

70 Re: Solving the Peyton Playoff Puzzle: Part II

If Kearse doesn't make the catch, Seattle has 2nd-and-10 at the NE 38 with over 1:06 left.

That catch actually cost them a timeout and set up a bad goal-to-go sequence where they were so worried about time. Either way, that's not a breaking point. It's not like that play should have been an interception or anything.

Likewise, the Manningham play was just a great throw and catch. IF it was incomplete, the Giants would have a 2nd-and-10 with 3:39 left. Again, why would I act like that decided the game? The Giants still had 50 more yards to go.

7 Re: Solving the Peyton Playoff Puzzle: Part II

In the spirit of the comment I made in the 1st part of this article, if I don't particularly like invoking luck to diminish or otherwise alter PM's playoff performance/legacy I also extend that courtesy to other playoff qbs like TB, AR, BR and RW. I'm very aware of the huge part luck plays in the outcome of football games specially in the playoffs but the problem is trying to define luck in the context of football with 95% confidence level. Playing the what-if game is fun and all but these qbs referenced are all accomplished and decorated and their playoff performances/legacies are great, no ifs, ands or buts necessary.

9 Re: Solving the Peyton Playoff Puzzle: Part II

Distance of actual win% from ruin & glory %'s
Manning: .060/.115
Brady: .133/.032
Rodgers: .238/.077
Roethlisberger: .185/.118
Wilson: .271/.200

Good grief, Wilson! And Manning's career definitely played out closest to his worst-case scenario out of these guys by a significant margin.

10 Re: Solving the Peyton Playoff Puzzle: Part II

Can't believe it took a two-part article to rehabilitate Peyton Manning's playoff reputation this year.

Seriously, starting with the record as it is, and then changing a bunch of things in history to improve Peyton's record while hurting Brady's isn't exactly analysis. It's what callers to radio shows do. "If only...!"

And it's ridiculous how you cherry pick moments that are important and those that are not. Ask any Patriots fan about the loss to the Broncos in 2005 and they'll talk about how Champ Bailey's fumble went out of the end zone and should have been ruled a touchback. Not a word about that here. But we get to hear not only about how Vinatieri might have missed a FG to give the lead against the Titans in 2003, but somehow the Patriots might have lost that game. So really, you're lumping two plays together there.

And the whole thing is an exercise in this kind of time travel pseudo-logic. Somehow it's bad luck if Peyton Manning loses a lead late, but the failure of the Patriots' pass defense in Super Bowl 46 is completely ignored.

And then there was the pass interference call against Ellis Hobbs in the AFCCG in January of 2007, when Hobbs didn't even touch Reggie Wayne. The official forgot that face-guarding was no longer considered pass interference and the Colts got a free first down and the ball at the 1 yard line. (More generally, the officiating in that second half was atrocious and decidedly favorable to the Colts.)

That Scott can only find one more victory for Brady's "glory" column shows he really isn't trying hard enough. It takes me little effort to find three more games. That Scott ignores Super Bowl 46 shows just how biased these two articles are.

What a waste.

13 Re: Solving the Peyton Playoff Puzzle: Part II

The criteria for this article are events that are relatively improbable high-leverage plays late in the game outside of the QB's control. A third-quarter TD ruling off an interception or a general pass defense failure do not count. Otherwise, as you say, this would just be a what-if game spinning in circles.

You may not agree with the criteria or think that looking at improbable late-game high-leverage plays tells us much (I personally think it's interesting how significant parts of these QBs' narratives are influenced by these things), but at least frame your critique in terms of the criteria established by the article.

14 Re: Solving the Peyton Playoff Puzzle: Part II

Every single quarterback that has ever won a Super Bowl has had something - usually a heckuva lot of things - outside his control go right. I can name at least one example for each winner this century off the top of my head:

2014 - Tom Brady watches his defense make a GW int off Russell Wilson at the end of the SB.
2013 - Russell Wilson watches his defense make a GW int off Kaepernick at the end of the NFCCG.
2012 - Joe Flacco watches his defense get a game changing pick-6 off a questionable non-call in Denver.
2011 - Eli Manning watches Wes Welker drop the Super Bowl.
2010 - Aaron Rodgers watches his defense get a GW interception off Mike Vick in the Wildcard.
2009 - Drew Brees wins the overtime coin toss in the NFCCG.
2008 - Ben Roethlisberger watches James Harrison take an interception 100 yards for a Super Bowl changing TD.
2007 - Eli Manning watches Patrick Crayton drop a probable game winning TD in Dallas.
2006 - Peyton Manning gets home field for the AFC title game when Marlon McCree can't hold onto the ball in San Diego.
2005 - Ben Roethlisberger watches Mike Vanderjagt shank the game-tying field goal into the next zip code.
2004 - Tom Brady watches his defense hold the greatest offense to date to 3 points.
2003 - Tom Brady watches his defense hold the NFL Co-MVPs to 14 points each in consecutive weeks.
2002 - Brad Johnson draws a Super Bowl opponent his coach is, shall we say, *very* prepared for.
2001 - Tom Brady watches Vinatieri have the best clutch-kicking game in history.

The best way to argue that Peyton is a good playoff quarterback is:

(1) Demonstrate that you can't win in the playoffs without being lucky AND good (see above).

(2) Therefore, we should rate QBs on what they can control (the effectiveness of their passing attack), not what they can't.

(3) Insert the "Playoffs: Passing DVOA Leaders Since 1989 (Min. 150 Passes)" chart from Part I here.

Picking a few very high profile plays and then arguing based on that set that your guy is unlucky is *not* the most convincing way to go.

20 Re: Solving the Peyton Playoff Puzzle: Part II

If we go by this articles' premise Joe Montana has had exceptional playoff runs 88-89 but his 2 other SB wins weren't exactly a monument to amazing qb play not to mention his non-SB winning playoff runs. If we "cherry-pick" some of his playoff games he was the beneficiary of luck as well. The problem is defining and quantifying what constitutes luck in such small sample sizes is really pushing the envelope when it comes to football analytics. I'm not sure we can derive any conclusions analyzing playoff performances. The most I can say is the more playoff games a qb plays in (regardless if he won or lost) the better the qb is since he put his team in the position to play in those post season games. This is even more true in this age of the salary cap and passing-friendly rules.

29 Re: Solving the Peyton Playoff Puzzle: Part II

I'm curious about looking at Montana. Late in his career, he was much more of a one-true-outcome kinda guy, winning or losing blowouts, but early, he had a bunch of time games.

We talked about 1981. In 1983, Eddie Murray ganked two FGs in the 4th quarter that would have put DET ahead late, then he got Rodgersed the next week by Washington. There was 1989, and the drive against Cincy. There was the Craig fumble in 1991. The comeback and OT win for KC in 1994.

Montana could have 2 SB wins or 5. His career record could be as low as 12-9, not 16-7.

36 Re: Solving the Peyton Playoff Puzzle: Part II

I went through Montana too when I started this. Part of me wishes the Billups play happened right before the Taylor TD instead of before the Rice TD to start the quarter. So he's 16-7. As you said, the Eddie Murray FG would make him 15-7. That's an easy one, but the rest of the games are hard to change on one play. The Craig fumble might be the only way to find Montana an extra win, though he wasn't healthy enough to then start the SB if I'm remembering correctly. In 1993 KC-PIT, a blocked punt made it so that his game-tying TD drive started at the PIT 9. Would have been nice to see if he could drive a long field with one timeout and 2:29 left to force OT. Again, that was a wild-card game, so it's possible that saved him two playoff wins. A Murray miss and blocked punt may have just saved him from having 6 one-and-done postseasons.

Again, it's those first-round games that have such a big impact, and that's where Manning's teams had most of their worst moments in close games. Ended too many potentially deep runs.

24 Re: Solving the Peyton Playoff Puzzle: Part II

RickD - "Seriously, starting with the record as it is, and then changing a bunch of things in history to improve Peyton's record while hurting Brady's isn't exactly analysis. It's what callers to radio shows do. "If only...!""

All 5 QBs above had their record changed in both directions. I mean, just look at the pictures.

I'm going to ignore your mentions of 3rd-quarter plays for obvious reasons. Every play I changed came in the last 5:00 of the 4th QT (or OT) except for the Toussaint fumble, which I only picked just to take something away from Manning.

"That Scott can only find one more victory for Brady's "glory" column shows he really isn't trying hard enough. It takes me little effort to find three more games. That Scott ignores Super Bowl 46 shows just how biased these two articles are."

That's kind of the point of the whole exercise. If you have to try so hard, it should probably be left alone. You didn't find anything, especially not compared to what I changed. On what basis should Super Bowl 46 count? Did you not see that I didn't change the Dez Bryant play in GB? That was a better throw and catch than what Brady and Welker did. That was to the 1-yard line with arguably the best RB and OL in the league about to take the lead from there. That had to be overturned. And your Brady play goes against the whole concept since he most definitely had control of whether or not that was a catch. It was not a flat-out drop. They are both to blame for that play, a play they almost never made together in NE (pass thrown 20+ yards).

41 Re: Solving the Peyton Playoff Puzzle: Part II

Saying that Brady has been fortunate to have better teams, a better coach, AND better luck is not biased.

Denying those obvious statements is what shows bias.

I hate that to counter moronic anti-Manning rhetoric it becomes necessary to engage in this nonsense, which leads to belittling another all-time great. Brady isn't better in the playoffs because of his record, he's a great QB that has also had more of the benefit of the above. So what? It's not an insult. It's not unbiased. It just is. And we can say that and still appreciate the guy.

68 Re: Solving the Peyton Playoff Puzzle: Part II

" On what basis should Super Bowl 46 count?"

Why doesn't the pass to Manningham qualify the Giants in that game? The Giants had the ball at their own 12 yard line with less than 2 minutes to go and immediately get 50 yards?

"And your Brady play..."

I didn't mention Brady's pass, you did.

Edit: yep, it's right there. I mentioned "failure of Pats' pass defense."

84 Re: Solving the Peyton Playoff Puzzle: Part II

A little late to the party here. From my perspective, I thought the David Tyree play was just a great, instinctive, in the moment type of play, and not as much attributed to luck as a lot of people made it out to be. Eli, first of all, made a great escape from grabs made by linebackers and then threw it to David Tyree, who improvised a great catch. I have watched the play several times, and the one thing that I noticed was just how amazing it was that 1.) Eli Manning made a great move to shake off multiple defenders and 2.) David Tyree at that particular moment made a great decision to hang on to the ball by using his helmet as a second hand to "catch" it. If he did not use his helmet to hang on to the ball and securing it for the catch, it would have most likely whizzed past his hands or batted out of his hand by the safety covering him. I guess in the context of the likelihood of both things happening makes it lucky, but I thought it was great improvising by Eli Manning and David Tyree. That's my two cents.

12 Re: Solving the Peyton Playoff Puzzle: Part II

This is really interesting, and fun, and illuminating.

It reminds me of a show that was on a few years ago, Awake, about a guy who is living in two parallel universes but doesn't know which one is real. He remarks about how he's lost all interest in sports, because in one universe the kicker makes the game-winning FG and in the other universe the kicker misses, and the parallel universe guy realizes just how much randomness is involved in any sports outcome.

I still think about that from time to time.

16 Re: Solving the Peyton Playoff Puzzle: Part II

How can we be sure that Vanderjagt missing that field goal vs Pit, which would have set up over time, would have ended in a Manning win?

How is setting up a game winning field goal a G->R for Brady? And how is the Wes Welker drop not a R->G?

How is the Vick interception/Kaepernick interception a G->R for Rodgers/Wilson, but none of the other late 4th quarter interceptions G->R?

Why is Wilson's pick a R->G? He threw the interception so the play was clearly inside his control.

Seem's a lot of your choices as to what the QB had control over is very arbitrary.

25 Re: Solving the Peyton Playoff Puzzle: Part II

I said you could have Harper return the TD if you want for that 05 PIT game. Again, I changed my stance on that one a little between the ESPN article and this part.

Field goals should be the most obvious thing here. Changing a make into a miss or a miss into a make shouldn't change what we think about the QB, but we know it does for people.

"How is the Vick interception/Kaepernick interception a G->R for Rodgers/Wilson, but none of the other late 4th quarter interceptions G->R?"

The closeness of those throws matters to me, but which other ones are you referring to? Again, the stuff that's in red is just footnotes of interest.

"Why is Wilson's pick a R->G? He threw the interception so the play was clearly inside his control."

I guess you could say I slightly bent my rule, but the point was I didn't change it from "Wilson INT" to "Wilson TD pass." Him throwing a better pass would be all in his control, but I did write my explanation above for that already. The most important part about that one is that it's ridiculous that Wilson was throwing in the first place. It needed to be Lynch as many times as necessary.

17 Re: Solving the Peyton Playoff Puzzle: Part II

How about the fact that Peyton had 12 TDs and 1 pick in 3 playoff games from 2003 and 2004.
- Denver, Denver, and 'The Red Carpet Defense'

In his other 23 playoff games he has 28 TDs and 23 picks.
How is that for sample size?

Anyone want to assume that a 3 TD 7 pick Super Bowl run is going to take a lot of luck and teamwork from everyone else?

I love the Roethlisberger - Harper comment.
-- BEN TACKLED HARPER BY HIMSELF!!!!
This 'Whiff of Special Pleading' analysis rises to the level of 'Fumble Stat Guy'

Manning is the .335 hitter who bats .265 in the playoffs.
He is not the worst guy to ever show up, but he deserves nothing.

Brady lost 2 Super Bowls to 'outperformed his DVOA' king (Eli Manning)
The Tyree catch is bad luck.
The Welker drop is bad luck.
The Chris Harper catch is freakish bad luck (but we only count Malcolm Butler?)

Steve Young is a great example of the playoffs.
The guy was 5-6 in every playoff year but one (1994)
He took that year by the neck and put up 9 TDs 0 picks and owned his legend.

I am sorry Mr. Manning, I don't see that type of year on your resume.
One-and-Dones are what bad playoff QBs do best.

It was 15-0 Seattle and Manning was driving.
He got some pressure and flubbed a pass to Malcolm Smith.
A possible 15-7 game goes to 22-0 and GAME OVER.
Should we blame the guy who mixed the Gatorade?

Peyton put up 15 points on the road in Baltimore in 2006.
Are the 4 Ravens turnovers a form of luck for him?

Next Up:
Jim Kelly and his 21 TDs to 28 picks in the playoffs was really just bad luck.
-Thurman Thomas lost his helmet
-Norwood missed a 47 yarder on grass
- He had that comeback vs. Houston... (oops, wrong guy)

19 Re: Solving the Peyton Playoff Puzzle: Part II

I'm not going to reply to Hextall's comments, because I disagree with far too much of what he's pushing.

But I will just say that it's always funny when people want to throw out the 2003-04 Denver games. Like, we're really just going to ignore that those defenses allowed 17 touchdown passes in both seasons? 5th in pass DVOA in 2004 with Champ Bailey in town. 14th the year before, and they owned the Manning offense in December in the regular season, which made the playoff game even crazier.

27 Re: Solving the Peyton Playoff Puzzle: Part II

I really can't tell whether you're a Manning hater, a deranged Pats fan, or a Seahawks fan playing a con trying to make their fan base look more reasonable by comparison.

Then again, you're named for Ron Hextall, the human foul, whose career average in PIM per season is so high only 10 other peak goalie seasons have ever matched it.

It's really remarkable the rate at which Hextall racked up PIM. He had more PIM in 3 seasons (192 games) than all but three other goalies attained in their careers, the shortest of which was 680 games. The only guys who matched his rate were Jason Muzzatti and Andy Brown, who were both journeymen who played for the Whale, oddly enough.

43 Re: Solving the Peyton Playoff Puzzle: Part II

Ask any member of the Ravens' defense (or coaching staff) that day if they were impressed by Manning's play. 15 points against that D on THAT day with how they played was something no other QB in the league could've done. Ray Lewis has gone on and on about how impressed he was by Manning that day, given how well prepared they were and how well they executed. It was pretty similar to Seattle's D performance two years ago but with a much lesser offense on the other side.

(Though I still think his performance against the 09 Jets D is the best I've ever seen... even though the Denver ones were even better by D-adjusted stats. In Baltimore, the Ravens played amazingly and he scraped by. In 09, the Jets played amazingly and he torched them.)

You're free to accuse Scott of overreaching, but you're doing the exact same thing in the other direction. You're clearly showing bias. While it's fine to point out that the article is rooted in assumptions and what if and counter with facts, your facts aren't even correct. .335 hitter that hits .265? For one, that's not really an insult since pitching is better in the playoffs. For another, it's not a valid analogy. There is plenty of data out there that shows that the comparison between regular season vs playoff teams and Playoffs are more consistent than that of other QBs. There is plenty of data out there that shows that the comparison between Manning's playoff stats and other more decorated QB's playoff stats actually favor Manning.

Frankly, I think the entire focus on "one and done" is just a symptom of people wanting to find something to mock. A lot of those were against favored teams. A few of them were bad luck. Only one of them (2014) actually had him playing poorly (before this season it was the only game I've ever seen where he didn't give his team a chance to win). 11 of 12 teams lose in the playoffs, at least four of which happen in their first game. Losing your first game isn't really indicative of anything anyway. If you can go back and watch a game wherein he legitimately shat the bed, then sure, that's worth criticism. But for most of his career he has faced that criticism without his actual play warranting it. I get that it's partly because of his pedigree and the hype around him (I rooted against him for schadenfreude reasons too until being around him circa 2004) but it progressed so far beyond the level of sanity that sadly we're stuck having articles like this written. Not in an attempt to even glorify him, but just because the trolls who love to say he sucks or chokes somehow STILL exist. Which is incredible to me, because even the biggest Boston troll of them all, Simmons, gave up on that seven years ago.

44 Re: Solving the Peyton Playoff Puzzle: Part II

And as long as I'm railing against bias, let me also inject that I for one thought Brady's game two weeks ago was borderline heroic and certainly comparable to the 15-point Baltimore game. Sometimes it matters how well the D played on that day. And even the D adjustments can't capture just how well that single day went for them.

Meanwhile, a lot of people point to sub-50% completions, turnovers, low YPA, etc to say Brady didn't play well. Well there's only so well you can play against a D that plays like that for a full game. The Broncos did everything extremely well on D. And they were still pretty lucky to win. There are plenty of games you can point to where Brady was fortunate, won without playing well, etc... and then there's one where he played admirably and still lost. Which is precisely why QB W/L doesn't matter.

32 Re: Solving the Peyton Playoff Puzzle: Part II

"If Brady's Moore had failed to make a play and Manning's Moore had done his job, voilà, you have two quarterbacks with similar playoff records now."

Not really, if one limits "Earth 2" to just those two events. Brady's 22-9 becomes 21-9, and Manning's 13-13 becomes at best 16-12 (assuming the Broncos win SB47. Manning does get an additional scalp in the head-to-head rivalry if that happens.)

And I'd add a caution to the 'No Hightower stop equals a Seattle win.' A 1st down score by Lynch gives the Pats just under a minute plus some TOs to get a game-tying FG. Given their slicing of the 'Hawks' pass D on their previous 2 drives, I'd offer a 50% chance they do that, maybe a 10% chance of a TD, thus a 30-35% chance for the win.

33 Re: Solving the Peyton Playoff Puzzle: Part II

Didn't Manning play the Jets in the play-offs, during his prime -and lose something like 41 - zero? Zero points in the post season? That takes a whole heck of a lotta bad luck! Maybe we can examine the intricacies of that one? ;)
Brady may have benefited from the last second int in the SB for sure- but he kept his team within 1 score- so that one play was enough for the win. If he were down by 28 points, well then it doesn't become so earth shattering.
This whole thing sounds like someone pleading me to look closer at the numbers & I'll finally see that Manning really was a great post season QB. But why is this even necessary?
The better you are the luckier you get. I'll always remember Manning as one of the greatest QBs to play in the regular season- he accumulated very impressive statistics- just not too many rings. It's the rings, the SB championships that define your legacy. What's the old Parcells saying? You are what your record is... (lucky or not).

46 Re: Solving the Peyton Playoff Puzzle: Part II

There are 44 starters in a football game, not including special teams. 22 players are on the field on every play. The other people on the field wear striped shirts, and have a significant impact on which team wins and loses, and much of their behavior is random. The ball, once it is on the ground, bounces in a very random manner, which combined with some element of randomness in the placement of players on the field, and the randomness of the ball getting on the ground near a sideline, means some of the outcomes of the games' most significant plays, in terms of who wins and who loses, are entirely random. The other people who have huge impact on the game are coaches, and they aren't on the field. Weather is extremely random, and has impact on any game played outdoors. Injuries occur during a game, to any number of players, which very often affects the outcome.

Taking the w-l record of a team, in a small subset of a players' career, as means of comparing the value of any individuals' play during their career, is just so incredibly stupid that words can't begin to be adequate for the task of quantifying the magnitude of stupidity.

53 Re: Solving the Peyton Playoff Puzzle: Part II

"Taking the w-l record of a team, in a small subset of a players' career, as means of comparing the value of any individuals' play during their career, is just so incredibly stupid that words can't begin to be adequate for the task of quantifying the magnitude of stupidity."

It's not that stupid, people hold plenty of beliefs that are much more nonsensical.

And despite all the randomness that goes on in a football game, I'd say the single biggest factor that determines whether a team wins or loses is quality of quarterback play. While its true that fumble luck, injuries, and weather can have an impact on the outcome of a game (to cite your examples), they can all be mitigated by ball security, depth, and schematic flexibility. (Regarding fumble luck, a team that doesn't fumble won't have any negative consequences for the random event of not being able to recover a fumble)

And I'd hardly call the behavior of officials "random," its actually rather predictable. There are certain plays which can be called either way, but the vast majority of plays are officiated in a consistent manner. Sometimes the questionable plays do occur in high leverage situations, but that isn't too common.