Peyton Manning was off to a record-breaking start to this season throwing for 20 touchdowns through five games with an astounding 75 percent completion rate. However, against the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars, Manning recorded season lows in passer rating, QBR, average per attempt, and passing yards, as well as a season high in turnovers.
Widely considered the worst overall team in the NFL, was it simply a great game plan that allowed the Jaguars to do what no other team has been able to accomplish this season, or was Peyton Manning shook up, and unable to recover from early hits?
You can say it was the Jags’ Super Bowl, or that the Denver Broncos simply had an off-day, but to be fair, there is absolutely nothing about the Jaguars’ defense that should have forced Peyton to have his worst game of the season.
The Jaguars do not have a single pro bowl player, or even a widely recognizable figure in their on their defense, and consequently they rank in the bottom 10 of almost every defensive statistical category. Entering Sunday’s game, they had intercepted just two passes and forced only two fumbles. Nevertheless, the Jags’ defense somehow managed to record a pick six as well as three fumbles against the best team — and best quarterback — in football.
In the first five weeks of the season, the Broncos faced the Baltimore Ravens, the New York Giants, the Oakland Raiders, and the Dallas Cowboys. All of these teams, except perhaps the Giants, have better defenses as well as more capable offenses of putting pressure on Peyton Manning and the offense. Yet in those games he averaged 376.8 yards, four touchdowns, .2 interceptions, and zero fumbles.
Even though the Broncos still managed to put up 35 points, something was clearly off. Peyton Manning and the Broncos’ offense looked like business as usual for the first two drives, but after Manning took a few hard hits everything started to become disjointed.
Manning fumbled two snaps, including one around his knees where he looked stiff as a board trying to catch it, threw an interception on a bad read, and consistently called rushing plays or check downs for the rest of the game. In Manning’s previous three games, he averaged 371. 6 yards and 3.4 touchdowns with an 82.5 percent completion rate. Against the jaguars he completed just a mediocre 66.7 percent of his passes for 295 and two touchdowns.
Could the errant throws and overall lack luster performance be caused by an aggravated neck or some other nagging veteran injury?
Even they were, Peyton Manning would never let the media know. One thing is for sure however, with the loss of numerous linemen this season, including all-pro left tackle Ryan Clady, as well as a clear blue print from which defenses can attack, Peyton Manning will likely be under much more pressure this season and will be taking a lot more hits. The Broncos must find ways to better protect with their inexperienced line if they are to continue their run to the Super Bowl.
Written by John Spina. Follow him on Facebook or on Twitter @jsspina@24