Posted December 06, 2013

Peyton Manning denies any problems in cold-weather games

Denver Broncos, Tennessee Titans
Peyton Manning heads to the Broncos' practice bubble on Wednesday (John Leyba/Getty Images)

Peyton Manning heads to the Broncos’ practice bubble on Wednesday (John Leyba/Getty Images)

It’s pretty tough to beat Peyton Manning’s Denver Broncos wherever you play them these days. But there are certain elements that have befuddled Manning through the years — he used to have specific issues with 3-4 defenses, and never been a great cold-weather quarterback … or, at least, that’s the common perception. According to ESPN’s Stats & Info, Manning’s teams have lost seven of the 10 regular-season and postseason games in which the temperature was 32 degrees or colder. He has thrown 12 interceptions in those games to 11 touchdowns, his completion percentage is 59.4 in those games (career percentage: 65.4), and his 214.1 yards per game total is quite a bit below his career average of 269.5.

It’s an important issue at this point, because the forecast for the Broncos’ Sunday home game against the Tennessee Titans is 16 degrees and a chance of snow. The team has been practicing in its bubble this week, because the temperatures have been pretty ridiculous, and will continue to be — seven degrees on Thursday, 15 on Friday, 17 on Saturday.

That’s a slight warming trend, but not enough for those who believe that Manning is not an effective quarterback in cold weather.

Among those who would disagree, of course, is Manning himself. And he doesn’t really feel like talking too much about it.

“I don’t,” he said Wednesday, when asked if he feels that he’s a different player in colder weather.

But does he play differently in colder weather? “That’s not how I feel.”

Alrighty then. Manning has made concessions to both the changes in weather and the changes to his body after the neck and shoulder injuries that kept him out for the entire 2011 season. He now wears a series of gloves on his throwing hand, based on conditions — something that Kurt Warner also did to great effect at the end of his career, and something Ben Roethlisberger  often goes to in cold-weather games. Peyton’s nemesis Tom Brady, like many quarterbacks now, will use a glove on the non-throwing hand for grip as the temperatures drop.

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“It’s just part of the adjustment I’ve kind of had to make,” Manning said of the gloves. “I’ve had to make a lot of changes in this point in my career. I’m kind of coming off an injury and different team. It’s just been part of the adjustment so I don’t know what game changer really means exactly, but it’s part of the adjustment that I’ve made and tried to adjust and still working through it kind of each time that I wear it.”

If you’d like a more … eloquent defense of Manning as a cold-weather thrower, we give you Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase.

“I’ve only been around him two years, but the thing that probably pisses me off more than anything is the fact that I don’t want anybody else as my quarterback. I’m going to go in with him every Sunday and it’s a great feeling to have. When you have him back there, you know your chances of winning are pretty good. When you don’t have a guy like that, and I’ve been in that spot a lot, and that sucks. So, I’ll take [Manning] any day of the week.””

Well, most of us would, and certainly in a neutral environment. During his two seasons in Denver, Manning has played in two cold-weather games — last season’s divisional playoff loss to the Baltimore Ravens, and this season’s overtime loss to the New England Patriots on Nov. 24. He completed 19 of 36 passes for 150 yards, two touchdowns and one interception against New England, and 28 of 43 passes for 290 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions against Baltimore.

As head coach John Fox said on Wednesday, the Broncos could have just as easily won either or both of those games — and then, the talk about Manning in the cold would not reverberate in the same way.

“I told our team—you know, in the New England game, I was impressed how our guys dealt with it,” Fox recalled. “Did it end up right? No. We lost a turnover battle and that had more to do with it than weather. I thought that we showed some grittiness. I saw some good things about that and I think that experience can help you down the road.”

Gase, for his part, insisted that he doesn’t make a game plan (or consult with Manning about Manning’s game plan) any differently based on temperature.

“I’ve never really asked him about it. It’s something we don’t really get into. I know if it’s a windy condition game, I might, in my head, think we should run the ball more just so I’m not putting the fact that we’re throwing the ball—and then an element of the game can affect our passing game. But for the most part, the cold is not an issue for us in the passing game. It’s anytime you get a condition of wind, that’s when I see that it’s hard for  the passing because you don’t know what’s going to happen.”

Manning knows what’s going to happen to a degree, because Tennessee’s defense is impressive no matter the weather. It’s another tough challenge for the Broncos as they try to wrap up the top seed in the AFC playoffs. And as far as anyone on this team is concerned, that’s the important subject — not whether their quarterback dissolves in certain elements.

Of course, there’s one best way for Manning to end all that talk.

13 comments
scoutxx
scoutxx

The only reason Denver lost that NE game was because they lost DRC, their best QB, to injury right at the half and replaced him with a rookie. Brady couldn't move the ball at all on DRC , but he shredded the rookie and was able to bring the Patriots back to tie. Once Denver figured out how to plug that hole, Brady couldn't move the ball again, and then the lucky mistake on the punt gave them the win. If DRC hadn't been injured, Denver would've won easily. 

southaustin
southaustin

Peyton should have jumped at this opportunity to explain his lousy overall playoff record. If this isn't true it just means he's a choker. 

retro-grouch
retro-grouch

How to lie with statistics…This whole story is based on a weird selection bias driven by the fact that QBs do not encounter cold weather games under like circumstances.  It's all apples and oranges.


Manning was a dome player for 14 years so the set of his cold weather games includes a disproportionate number of road playoffs games in January against outdoor AFC playoff teams.  What cold weather outdoor teams were in the playoffs?  How about the Steelers, the Patriots, the Ravens, and the Broncos?

So… three out of the four happen to be the toughest defensive programs in the recent history of the league.  Go figure.


In general, how do QBs fare in bad weather playoff games--on the road--against elite defensive units?   If you want to argue that Manning is somehow unusually bad in the cold, then you have to figure out a way to isolate the temperature from other factors such as defense, road vs. home, and playoff vs. regular season.

Leo3
Leo3

Peyton is what I consider to be a conditional QB. He is only great if the conditions are optimal for him. During the playoffs, you are no longer playing depleted teams and are facing better defenses. The intensity of the game increases, the stakes are higher, and you are more likely to play in inclement weather. This is when a player is defined. Nobody knows about Peyton's issues in high stakes games more than Jim Isray (Colts owner) which is why he made those comments before their game against the Broncos. He raised the stakes and increased the pressure knowing that Manning would likely fold under those conditions. 

anon76
anon76

It'd be great if the stats wizards at ESPN (or SI) could give us the passer efficiency ratings for Peyton in "cold" weather (which as everyone knows begins at 32º F and not one degree sooner) and warm weather, and then just so we could have a good bit of comparison, give the same numbers for Brett Favre, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Rivers, Eli Manning, and Rothlisburger.


Even better would be a comparison of Peyton's lifetime passer - seasonal passer rating allowed by opposing defense, and the same numbers in cold weather (and the same numbers for other quarterbacks).  This would account somewhat for increasingly good passing defenses that one might encounter in cold weather during the playoffs (like the Patriots from 2001-2004).

anon76
anon76

@retro-grouch


It's worse than that- they're not even posting other QBs' statistics to say that Manning is MORE effected by the cold than any other QB.  They're just saying that his statistics (in a remarkably small sample set) are slightly worse in one arbitrary condition compared with his lifetime stats.

retro-grouch
retro-grouch

@Leo3   Good defenses can limit the yardage, possession, and scoring power of the passing game, and the vast majority of the best performing offenses in league history experienced reduced productivity and reduced scoring in the playoffs. That can magnify the importance of QB mistakes (and mistakes in general) but it also increases the importance of other phases of the game in relation to the passing game.  

     QBs on balanced teams have lots of options.  Teams which rely very heavily on a strong passing phase are forced to try and win games through the air even while facing a premier passing defense that is schematically selling out to stop the pass.

     Most of the top ten scoring offenses in league history hit the wall against a great defense which forced them into a low scoring game.  Only one of those teams (the ’99 Rams) won a championship.  Manning (2004) is among the “chokers” on that list, along with Brady, Rodgers, Brees, Warner (2000), and Theisman.   It's interesting that most of those top ten offenses won Super Bowls in other years, just not in their "best" year.   That doesn't resemble a QB problem.

anon76
anon76

@Leo3


And yet if a 2nd string running back could have avoided fumbling while going into the end zone, the Broncos would have beaten Jim Irsay's team.  Or if the refs had correctly called Eric Decker's touchdown and Demaryius Thomas hadn't dropped a wide-open 2 point conversion.  None of that had anything to do with Peyton's play in the game.  You do know that Peyton threw for nearly 400 yards with 3 touchdowns and a passer rating of 96 in that game, right?


Here's a conditional QB stat for you:  both Brady and Manning have 4 trips to the playoffs since 2008.  In those trips, Brady has posted an 86.2 passer rating (record of 3 wins, 4 losses), while Manning has posted a 96.6 passer rating (record of 2 wins, 4 losses).  Manning is plenty good when the stakes are high (unless you think Brady is a bad playoff QB), and obviously in a team sport like football the outcome doesn't depend completely on QB play.



retro-grouch
retro-grouch

@anon76 @retro-grouch


Yes, but the whole Manning/Cold Weather meme is driven by an assumption that the asserted drop in the quality of his play is somehow unusual or remarkable.   Stated or not, that is an implied comparison to other QBs.

Leo3
Leo3

@anon76 @Leo3 Manning has a 45% winning percentage in the playoffs. Brady has the best playoff record in QB history. Also, go compare their stats in cold weather. If you are going to blame the team when Manning loses, then you cannot credit him when he wins. Has to work both ways. Stats are secondary, it's WHEN you make the plays that count. As far as passer rating...let me know when they start handing out Lombardi trophies for that. 

anon76
anon76

@retro-grouch

Exactly!  It's an implied comparison with no data given to back it up.  At least ESPN should have it's ship in order when Nate Silver comes along- hopefully he'll rip their other writers apart if they continue to post stuff like this.

anon76
anon76

@Leo3


Ah, I got it.  Brady has the "it" factor that can't be measured.  Never mind that the Pats' passing defense (as measured by the Lombardi-predicting passer rating) was ranked 3rd, 1st, and 7th in the league in the three years that they won the SB.  No, none of that matters, it was all Brady and his possession of "it".


Who said anything about crediting Manning when a team wins?  It's a team game, as I quite clearly said in my earlier post.  Brady played well enough to win in the playoffs when he had an elite defense backing him up.  He's played even better since, but they've been shut out of the Lombardi ceremony for 8+ years now, and "Brady's" playoff record over that period is 6-6.  Not because of Brady's play, but because it's a team game and his teams haven't been as good lately.