Peyton Manning was again masterful, and at times, magical on Sunday Night Football.
He was patient like usual, picking the checkdown routes at times, but he was also more aggressive, attacking the Saints’ sorry defense deep over and over again. Manning connected with Demaryius Thomas on a 41-yarder and a 30-yarder in the first quarter, and hung in the pocket to take a huge hit and deliver the ball down the sideline to Eric Decker. On the play that set up Denver’s first score, six Saints’ defenders were closing in on the quarterback when he mysteriously and quickly threw it to McGahee who ran all the way to the one half yard line.
In the second half, he was responsible for the team’s second scoring drive of the game over 90 yards, finishing it off with a TD pass to Thomas. Their second drive that half was completed when Manning threw it early to Decker, before he made his cut, proving the veteran quarterback is getting a good sense of timing with the young receiver.
The special QB ended his day going 22-30 for 305 passing yards and three touchdowns, and his 138.9 passer rating was a personal best this season, leading his Broncos to a 34-7 blowout over the Saints.
It was enough to push Manning into the lead among all NFL quarterbacks in passer rating, which is too complicated to explain here, but measures how well QBs perform and spits out a number from 0 to a perfect 158.3. Manning’s in the lead with a 109.0 for the season, just ahead of Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers (107.9).
The Broncos’ quarterback also leads the league in QBR—Quarterback Rating, developed by ESPN which is like passer rating but more in depth because is measures not only how well a QB does but how well he does in certain game situations. Manning’s 82.5 QBR is No. 1, ahead of the Patriots’ Tom Brady at 79.2 (QBR is on a 0-100 scale).
But beyond ratings, his more conventional stats are telling of just how well the 14th-year QB is playing in the Mile High City.
Manning is No. 1 in yards per attempt (8.22), third in completion percentage (68.5) and touchdowns (17), fifth in yards (2,113), all while only throwing four interceptions.
He’s in the middle of an unprecedented stretch of four straight games of throwing for 300 yards, three touchdowns and completing 70 percent of his passes. It’s an NFL record for top-notch quarterbacking with 12 TDs to one INT over that span, and the Broncos have gone 3-1.
Statistically speaking, Peyton Manning is the best quarterback in the league right now.
But beyond the stats, it’s how he conducts himself and leads his team that is truly special.
He is a consummate professional and a film study junkie, proving that if he can spend tireless hours studying game film in his 14th season, other younger players have no excuse not to. All that learning allows Manning to exploit defenses, something he’s made a living on his entire career. Every game this season you’ve seen the Broncos’ offense get to the line only for the QB to see something he doesn’t like, check to a run or a different pass play and come up huge.
When he’s locked in, Manning is unstoppable for any defense.
His Denver Broncos are now 4-3 with a two-game lead in the AFC West and halfway through the season, he’s making a strong case for being the NFL MVP.
Rich Kurtzman is a freelance journalist. You can follow Rich on twitter or facebook for all your Denver Broncos and Peyton Manning news and opinion.