Broncos QB Peyton Manning may have played hurt, but he was ultimately outplayed by a seemingly-inferior team.
READ MORE:Gary Kubiak staying – Ravens OC staying with team despite requests for head coaching interview Rex Ryan hired by Buffalo Bills – Buffalo Bills hire former NY Jets head coach to run team Peyton Manning Colts owner – Jim Irsay says he made the right decision by releasing Manning from Colts in 2012
Peyton Manning had an awful December: 3 TDs and six INTs. It was so bad that Jets QB Geno Smith (6 TDs, 3 INTs) and Bears QB Jay Cutler (4 TDs, 4 INTs) both had more TDs and fewer INTs than Manning in the final four games of the season. Some thought that was just Manning fighting through an injury and that he would be all healed up after the Broncos’ first-round bye, and would return to form they brought in the defensively-frail Indianapolis Colts for the Divisional Round of the playoffs.
But that was not the case. Manning finished 26 of 46 for 211 yards and one TD with a passer rating of 75.5 and a season-low 4.6 yards/pass – a mark he has only fallen to in seven of his 256 NFL regular season starts and one of his 24 playoff starts. If that combined with his December not-to-remember is not a sign of some sort of decline it’ll be hard to find something else that is outside of another serious injury.
In 2009 Arizona Cardinals QB Kurt Warner called it quits after a terrible Divisional Playoff game despite the fact that he clearly had enough left in the tank for one or more good seasons – but he knew when Father Time had called his name. And instead of re-entering the NFL in 2014 and giving the Cardinals a chance to make a serious playoff push, he’s only a few weeks away from a trip to Canton, Ohio.
Manning would be well-suited take a similar road and go out on top instead of fading away.
Here are the five biggest losers from the Divisional Round of the NFL playoffs:
Peyton Manning – An inauspicious end to a steadily fading 2014 season, Peyton Manning’s poor play in December was apparently not a blip on the radar, but perhaps more of a sign of things to come. That aside, Manning has consistently failed to play at the same level in the playoffs as he has in the regular season. He is now 2-3 in the playoffs with the Broncos and is 3-11 in the playoffs in years where he hasn’t gone to the Superbowl.
Dez Bryant – By the letter of the law Dez Bryant just got unlucky, but to the eye-test, he was absolutely robbed of a key TD that was one of the deciding factors in that game. That being said, NFL karma has a way of coming back to player. In the NFL, when you survive by controversy as the Cowboys did against the Lions the week before, you more often than not end up getting beaten by controversy.
Trent Richardson – The only player from a winning team to make this list, the emergence of RB Daniel Herron while Richardson was a healthy deactivation from the game shows that he could easily be on his way out. There may not have been a more useless trade of a first-round pick in the last 10 years.
The State of the Broncos franchise – With Peyton Manning’s future up in the air, the team could be forced to make some major changes to preempt a potentially early departure by Manning should be choose to retire. Will they have to start grooming a franchise QB? Will head coach John Fox be part of the rebuild? Will they spend the big bucks to re-sign Demaryius or Julius Thomas, or let them walk and invest in other areas? These are all questions that Broncos VP John Elway will have to answer in the next few months.
The Baltimore Ravens’ defense – Everyone was predicting that if the pass rush didn’t get to Tom Brady then the Patriots QB would tear the team apart. And tear it apart he did, preventing the Ravens from retaining not one, but two 14-point leads and coming away with the victory. The Ravens secondary needs to be addressed immediately to prevent future collapses like this one.