Don’t call it a comeback

Today I bring you more great work from Profootball Reference on the real number of fourth quarter comebacks by quarterbacks.  Normally, this is the kind of article I would bury in the links, but because it has such special importance to the 2009 Colts, I wanted to put it on the front page.

By now, everyone knows that Manning had 7 fourth quarter comebacks this year.  What many don’t know is that he now stands just one off the true top spot all time.

The 2009 regular season has presented some more interesting twists and turns in the history and data classification of fourth quarter comebacks and game-winning drives. With the playoffs upon us, we could be in store for some memorable moments and a possible record-breaking performance that would be recognized by this website before anyone else catches on.

When I first declared Dan Marino the new King of the Comeback, I knew that Peyton Manning was closing in on the record. I just did not think he would rip off a record seven in one season to pull within one of Marino (36 to 35) so quickly. If this ever reaches the heights I want it to, it will already be too late for Marino to get the recognition he has deserved since he retired because Manning will be hogging it all up. In addition to the record seven in one year, every game played in November by the Colts was won with a 4th quarter comeback. That five-game run of comebacks is also a NFL record. Manning, winner of his record fourth MVP award, said himself that “I have to believe that starting 14-0 and having seven comeback wins has a lot to do with this award coming our way.”

Though if Manning is to move past Marino this season, it will have to be done in the postseason. With the way the Colts play tight games, it is not a stretch to say Manning may have the opportunity to finish this season with as many as 38 comebacks. A potential AFC Championship game with San Diego could prove to be difficult for the Colts, and the NFC is wide open and offers several different challengers. Let’s not even look past the Ravens in the AFC Divisional round, as they are used to playing some close ones themselves and one of Manning’s seven comebacks this season was at Baltimore. It would only be fitting for Manning to break the record in this postseason with the kind of year he has had. The last nine times the Colts trailed in the 4th quarter (and Manning was still in the game), they have won all nine games. That is a record run that I cannot even imagine anyone has come close to in the past. Remember, in addition to the Curtis Painter fiasco, the Colts never trailed in the Wild Card game in San Diego last season. They took a 17-14 lead to the fourth, the Chargers tied the game late, and then won on the only possession of OT. The Colts have not been beaten in regulation with Manning playing the whole game since week 8 of last year against the Titans, which was 25 games ago.

If you missed the earlier explanation of why these ‘comeback’ counts are more accurate than commonly quoted figures, here’s a case in point:

You can expect the Colts to be a tough out in any game they play this month, so pay attention to the inevitable graphic during the game that will show how many 4th quarter wins Manning has led in his career. The number that will likely appear is 43, which is incorrect as the Colts do no count the postseason (so no credit for the 2006 AFC Championship), and they do not count the Jacksonville game from last season where Manning erased the 10 point deficit and the winning score was a pick 6 thrown by David Garrard.

Here’s the link to Manning’s comeback page which distinguishes between game winning drives, 4th quarter comebacks, and one game in which he deserves no credit (last year’s Cleveland game where Mathis returned a fumble for the winning score).

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