What If?

I discussed Manning’s season yesterday, but as we all know, there were really three distinct seasons for Manning this year.  Reader Jason Owens helped to runs some numbers on each section of the year.  Here are Manning’s actual 2010 numbers as a baseline:

Comp Att Yards TD Int Sacks YPA Rating
2010 450 679 4700 33 17 16 6.8 91.9

Weeks 1-7: Manning the MVP

We actually could have made this weeks 1-6 leading up to the Redskins game, but if you’ll remember Mike Hart had a huge game and Gonzo played well against Houston before both left with injuries.  It makes sense then that through seven weeks we saw nothing but amazing play by Manning. Here are his numbers for those seven games and a projection of what a full season at that level would look like.

Comp Att Yards TD Int Sacks YPA Rating
Weeks 1-7 (actual) 197 299 2184 15 2 7 7.3 100.9
Projected 16 game season 450 683 4992 34 5 16 7.3 100.9

DVOA rank of pass defenses played: 30, 3, 31, 32, 18, 27, 32

We see two things:  first that Manning was on pace for a record number of attempts BEFORE everything went to hell.  The ‘throwing too much’ thing wasn’t a huge problem when he was throwing to good players.  Second, the sack rate was virtually unchanged.  Also, Manning played a horrible slate of very poor pass defenses, facing the three worst in the league four times.

Weeks 8-12: The Wheels Come Off

It’s pick-a-polooza!

Comp Att Yards TD Int Sacks YPA Rating
Weeks 8-12 (actual) 156 235 1525 9 13 6 6.5 74
Projected 16 game season 499 752 4880 29 42 19 6.5 74

DVOA rank of pass defenses played:  11, 14, 17, 28, 4

Wow, so as much as Manning threw in the first few weeks, he threw even more in this stretch, although Indy was trailing and lost many of these games, so it follows.  The sack rate rose from 2.3% to 2.5%, which is to say an extra sack every 500 throws…not enough to notice.  What we really see, obviously are the interceptions sky rocket and the YPA plummet.  Hmm, what event happened in Week 8 that might have shattered the Colts offense?  Oh yeah, Austin Collie got hurt.  Yes, he was hurt for the Houston game too, but Gonzo played in that game.  The defenses were a little better in this stretch, but hardly a murderers row.

Weeks 13-16: Four Weeks of “Playoffs”

With the season on the line, Peyton turned it around.

Comp Att Yards TD Int Sacks YPA Rating
Weeks 13-16 97 145 991 9 2 3 6.8 101.2
Projected 16 game season 388 580 3964 36 8 12 6.8 101.2

DVOA Rank of pass defenses played: 12, 30, 16, 12

The most striking thing about the final four games is that Manning’s attempts go from insane to manageable.  Note, that 580 attempts for a season is still a boatload. It would have been in line for the second most of Manning’s career (2002).  The defenses weren’t any different than in the second stretch. Manning’s YPA bounced back a little, but was never going to recover from the loss of Collie and Clark completely. 

The take away from all this is that Manning’s 2010 season consisted of 11 weeks of incredible play in which the Colts went 9-2.  It also consisted of five weeks of awful play in which Indy went 1-4.  This season comes down to three plays in that stretch.  The final picks against Philly, New England and Dallas.  Those three interceptions potentially cost the Colts three wins.  That would have put Indy at 13-3 and in the number one seed in the AFC (Pats drop to 13-3, lose tiebreaker).  I still can’t get over that.  Peyton was MVP good (even this year) most of the season, but that stretch was disastrous.