Radiohead released their legendary album OK Computer in 1997, which introduced the heavy use of electronics to create their sound. The very next year, the Indianapolis Colts received the first pick in the NFL Draft and selected a super computer, for all intensive purposes, introducing a whole new technology to football – Peyton Manning.
Like all electronics, however, Manning has been slowed by cold weather throughout his illustrious career and has consequently often faltered during late-season play. Manning has lost seven of his 10 regular and postseason games when the thermometer has read below 32 degrees, and in those games, he has thrown 12 interceptions to 11 touchdowns, with a 59.4 percent completion percentage (career average is 65.4). The question is, with a deep, diverse and experienced Denver Broncos team around him this season, can Manning overcome this cold streak?
At first glance, these stats would appear to show that Manning is reduced to merely an average quarterback in the cold, but one must remember whom Manning was playing in most of those games – namely the New England Patriots in Foxborough at the peak of their dynasty – and the lack of consistent talent, especially defensively, on those Colts teams.
Another important factor to remember when looking back at Manning’s wintry weather woes is the lack of a running game. Thanks to playing a dome, the Colts were able to elude bad weather during the regular season and, instead of developing a viable rushing attack, relied purely on Manning’s passing prowess to win games 10-13 games a year. However, by the time Manning had inevitably lead his team to the playoffs, they were a far to imbalanced team to compete with complete teams like the Patriots and the Pittsburgh Steelers.
That being said, the Broncos are quite a different franchise than the one in Indy. First off, the Broncos have no dome and therefore play all of their home games exposed to the elements. Secondly, they play at 5,280 vertical feet where it is not only cold, but also very windy. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, after an excruciating playoff loss in 2012 when Manning struggled against the elements, the Broncos have slowed their high-pace offense and worked extremely hard to develop their running game this year – four yards per carry and 14 touchdowns collectively.
This is a much deeper, more experienced and tougher team from any other in Peyton’s career. Though this year’s team has had its fair share of blowouts, they have also played a number of very challenging games in a variety of situations. For instance, the Dallas Cowboys game was an offensive shootout in the warm Dallas weather, the Patriots game was a mistake filled see-saw battle in the bitter New England cold, and the first game against the Kansas City Chiefs was in Denver, but it was a game won by the defense.
There are only four more games left in the 2013 regular season and with a rather weak schedule the rest of the way (only the Arizona Cardinals, at 7-5, are above .500), the Broncos are primed to win the AFC’s top seed. But more importantly, with temperatures likely dipping below 20 degrees in Denver this Sunday, Peyton Manning and the Broncos will once again play in cold weather as they prepare themselves for postseason play.
Written by John Spina. Follow him on Facebook or on Twitter @jsspina24.