It’s notoriously difficult to track all the effects of a an offensive line. On one hand, it’s easy to look at the Colts line, and wonder what all the injury fuss is about. Peyton Manning has only been sacked 12 times on the season. Someone looking at the stat page would obviously conclude that he’s had solid protection, as only 4 teams have given up fewer sacks (and only 4 teams have thrown more than the Colts). Manning’s protection has clearly been adequate, right?
As it turns out, no. The Football Outsiders have been doing their best to track and chart quarterback hurries and hits for both offenses and defenses. Their results are somewhat amazing. Peyton Manning is the 8th most hit QB in football. He’s one of the least sacked, but most hit. He’s also been hurried the 7th most number of times. Remarkable. In a season where he’s coming off knee surgery, Peyton Manning has had easily his worst offensive line in many years, but he’s still one of the least sacked QBs in the game. This shows two things: 1. his mobility is not as limited as people feared and 2. he hasn’t had time throw downfield.
In fact most all of Peyton’s stats are right on line with his career averages except for his YPA. He has been forced by shoddy protection to dump down all season, which has suppressed his YPA (and in turn his passer rating which relies heavily on YPA). Manning has not only avoided taking sacks, but has managed to piece together one of his finest seasons despite a revolving door in front of him. The oddity of the list is that Kurt Warner gets hit a lot, but is lower on the hurried list. Warner has taken 20 sacks this year, and part of the knock on him has been that he holds the ball too long. Manning doesn’t make that mistake. I can recall all of one play this year where it was obvious that 18 should have gotten rid of the ball (sack he took at Pittsburgh).
By the way…Dwight Freeney leads the NFL in hurries. I suppose not all of their data can be so stunning.