ReFo: Colts @ Broncos, Divisional Round

Michael Renner checks in with the key performers in the Colts road victory over the Broncos to advance to the AFC Championship game.

| 2 years ago

ReFo: Colts @ Broncos, Divisional Round

2014-REFO-DR-IND@DENIt was a poorly kept secret over the last month or so of the season what was brewing in Denver and it finally caught up to them at the worst possible time. Peyton Manning had been a shell of his early season self over that time period with the team relying on C.J. Anderson running out of his mind and a once shaky offensive line which began to gel. Not much was different against the Colts Sunday as Anderson was stellar when given the opportunity. Facing an early deficit, the Broncos put it all on Manning’s arm and it turned yet another postseason nightmare for the future Hall of Famer.

The Colts win was a passing of the torch in some ways as Andrew Luck outperformed Manning by virtually any metric in their third, and most meaningful, meeting to date. Luck had just as much of the burden heaped onto his back as Manning did as the Colts received no production from the running game whatsoever. He answered the call the way it seems he always does, with big throws and a few mistakes. The good certainly outweighed the bad though as he led the Colts to a 24-13 victory and their first AFC Championship game appearance since 2010.

Indianapolis Colts – Performances of Note

Vontae Davis, CB: +6.8

Breakdown: Davis was two near interceptions away from an all-time playoff performance at the cornerback position. He wasn’t downgraded once when targeted and was only dinged for a holding penalty late in the second quarter. Davis completely shut down the right side of the field. Targeted 11 times, he yielded five catches for 21 yards and added three passes defended and four stops. Davis’ grade is the highest we’ve ever given out to a cornerback in the postseason and the fifth best in the last eight seasons.

Signature Stat: In his last three games against the Broncos, Davis has allowed 9 completions on 24 pass attempts for 38 yards with 5 pass breakups and 8 stops.

Andrew Luck, QB: +2.4

Breakdown: Two interceptions and another interception worthy throw (Q4, 13:36) mitigate his grade, but Luck was on the money pass after pass Sunday. The offensive line held up better than expected in pass protection, but Luck also made them look better by repeatedly navigating collapsing pockets very well. The raw stats don’t quite do Luck justice as there weren’t many easy throws to be had against the vaunted Broncos defense. He didn’t get much padding of his yardage in the screen and short passing game with a yards per completion of just 6.3 on pass targeted less than 10 yards downfield compared to his season average of 8.2. The Colts quarterback had to go down field to get his yards and he did that extremely well. Outside of the two punt-like deep interceptions on third downs, Luck was 7 of 14 for 139 yards on throws 10+ yards downfield.

Signature Play: Luck showed the entire package on his touchdown pass midway through the third quarter. Feeling pressure off right tackle, he climbed the pocket and then started to scramble when he felt Lerentee McCray break free of Joe Reitz. With Terrance Knighton bearing down, Luck threw an absolute strike to Hakeem Nicks with Bradley Roby breathing down his neck.

Darius Butler, CB: +3.8

Breakdown: The story of the game was how well the Colts defense shut down the Broncos wide outs, but it was more than just Vontae Davis. In 45 snaps covering the slot, Butler allowed a single catch on four targets for four total yards. That type of production, or lack thereof, against the likes of Emmanuel Sanders and Wes Welker is nothing short of remarkable.

Signature Stat: Since Week 9, Butler has the third lowest Yards Per Coverage Snap among corners at 0.67.

Denver Broncos – Performances of Note

Peyton Manning, QB: -2.8

Breakdown: The key to the Broncos quick passing game all year was the threat of the deep shot. In the first 10 weeks Manning was accurate on 50% of his throws 20+ yards down the field. During the rest of the regular season his accuracy dropped to 37.5% and he finally reached his nadir on Sunday going a dreadful 1 of 8 on deep balls. The Colts never backed off the short passes because Manning never made them pay for it as he repeatedly forced throws downfield with no success. With so many misses and receivers unable to generate yards after the catch, the Broncos offense was as stagnant as it’s been all season.

Signature Play: Vontae Davis’ dropped interception with 3:14 remaining in the fourth quarter perfectly illustrates the struggles Manning had all day. Facing man coverage, no receiver won their route cleanly and instead of waiting it out in a fairly clean pocket, Manning forced an in-rhythm throw. The result was predictable as Davis jumped the dig route to Andre Caldwell and should have had the pick.

Aqib Talib, CB: -4.0

Breakdown: It was a tale of two free agent corners in this one as Talib was on the complete opposite end of the spectrum from Vontae Davis. The Colts receivers worked Talib over to the tune of 7 of 8 passing for 90 yards to go along with two holding penalties and a touchdown. T.Y. Hilton, who accounted for 72 of those 90 yards, continually got vast swaths of separation on Talib who was at a distinct speed disadvantage. It was a particularly up and down season for Talib with some absolutely shut down performances throughout the year. It’s just unfortunate that one of the lows had to come in the playoffs.

Signature Stat: Talib’s performance was the second lowest graded game of his entire career.

Todd Davis, OLB: +3.5

Breakdown: Denver’s run defense was unsurprisingly astute against the weak Colts interior again on Sunday. They gave up 78 yards on 26 handoffs and rookie outside linebacker was a big reason why they were so successful. A quick read, Davis collected a +2.2 run defense grade just 13 snaps against the run. The rookie repeatedly ducked under linemen climbing to the second level and either forced a cut or made the stop himself.

Signature Play: On a 2nd-and-4 with 5:17 left in the second quarter the Colts ran a simple inside zone handoff left. Davis saw center Khaled Holmes doubling Terrance Knighton at the one-technique in the play side A-gap. The linebacker then fired into the backside gap which was the logical intended point of attack. Davis got past Holmes as Dan Herron got the handoff and Herron slipped trying to get away as Davis tapped him down for a loss.

PFF Game Ball

Vontae Davis proved once again that he is the kryptonite to the Broncos quick passing attack with an out of this world performance Sunday.


Follow Mike on Twitter: @PFF_MikeRenner

| Senior Analyst

Mike is a Senior Analyst at Pro Football Focus. His work has also been featured on The Washington Post, ESPN Insider, and 120 Sports.

  • Jason Williams

    That was as bad as I have ever seen Peyton Manning play. Even against the Patriots he played better than that. That was Andy Dalton-esque.

    • Chris

      Hey now, that was a low blow! Even Andy Dalton was better than that!

      • Jay

        It literally hurts to see this happen. But it does put into perspective what Brett Favre did in advanced age.

        • Jason Williams

          how about Brady?

          • Jay

            I meant about Physical decline. Brady is still a great QB but when Favre was 40 it seemed as if he had barely lost any arm strength.

          • Jason Williams

            even after tearing a biceps!

      • Jason Williams

        lol – well played

    • Riffle,Rod&Fly

      16 seasons, 3 Super Bowl appearances and 1 win against a team with Rex Grossman under center. Peyton never was a great post season QB. What makes anyone thinks he will be with so many seasons under his belt?

      • Jason Williams

        I actually agree with you going all the way back to all those games he lost against Florida in college (especially late in the season). I found it especially revealing that “his team” won the National title the very next year with Tee Martin at the helm.

        • Riffle,Rod&Fly

          Hmm, that’s good to know! I took a hiatus from the football in the late 90’s. Maybe he’ll show up on the Cardinals next year. He needs to win the big one again. Otherwise, how wrong do all of these guys sound when they say he is questionably the best ever?

          • Jason Williams

            People don’t want to listen to people like us who point to guys like Montana and Brady who won and played best when it mattered most. People see Manning beating up on good and bad teams during the regular season and fall all over themselves about him.

            Manning didn’t really shred the Bears. The way I remember that game, he checked down basically the entire game and the Bears let him have that.

          • Riffle,Rod&Fly

            Brady and Montana are great team guys and this is the ultimate team sport.

          • eYeDEF

            That ‘best ever’ always seems to come with a deserved qualifier though of only applying to the regular season. I don’t see many media types trying to argue otherwise. Joe Montana seems to be near universally recognized as the best ever, which seems appropriate.

      • Singularity

        I always resented John Elway for choking in the Super Bowl, losing all 3 he played in ’86, ’87, ’89. Then, of course, he won Super Bowls the last 2 years of his career. The Broncos were overly dependent on him until the mid-90’s when they finally developed a great offensive line and running game. At that point he became just an above average quarterback on a really good team. It’s certainly possible that could happen with Manning. Lots of average QB’s have won the Super Bowl and lots of great QB’s have lost them.

        • Riffle,Rod&Fly

          That is a good point. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen Manning sit back and game manage in an offense though. And did Elway ever command quite as much of it as Manning?

    • Jason Williams

      “NFL Media’s Albert Breer reported Monday, per a team source, Manning was diagnosed with a quad strain back in December but kept the details largely to himself.”

      • eYeDEF

        Yeah but everyone knew Manning was playing like he was hurt and adjusted accordingly by jumping routes on his short passes and daring him to beat them deep. He never could.

    • Lord Father

      uhm did u not watch last years superbowl?

  • Jay

    A little surprised Luck graded so high. His line protected him well and his receivers (particularly Hilton) gave him plenty of space to throw to them. Had two bad interceptions and one dropped pick.

    • Josh Knepshield

      2 bad picks? How do you figure? They were both desperation heaves on 3rd down. That’s not a “bad” interception, in fact, if you ask any coach, those are the best interceptions one can throw, (if you must throw any).

      • Jay

        Instead of trying to pick up a first down they wpuld try for a hail mary? Its unlikely considering that they have the leagues best punter that would be a terrible strategy. Why allow the Broncos that ball at the 20 when you can pin them back in the ten? No need to take that out of Macafee’s hands especially in the Denver air.

    • Riffle,Rod&Fly

      The Colts play differently than other teams. This is what everyone thought the future of the NFL was going to look like 2-3 years ago. The commentators were apt to relate those deep-ball picks to punts. Luck throws on almost every down and is able to get away with it. There will be INT’s until he gets a better grasp of when to hand it off. It’s working for them and unlike 90% of other hyped up QBs in the league, it really is mostly about his play when they win.

      • Jay

        They have the best punter in the league. Why try to force it deep when playing three great DBs? Bad strategy in my opinion and that why I don’t think it was their strategy it was just bad plays by Luck.

        • Eric

          Patty Mac wasn’t hitting the ball that well. I think I saw that he averaged like 37 yds per punt during the game and Luck’s interceptions were both longer than his average punting distance. You can have your opinion, but it is clearly wrong when examining facts.

          • Jay

            Macafee punted 4 times they went for 39, 42, 42, and 46. Lucks interceptions set up the Broncos at their 49 and 24. Fact check again.

    • Jason Williams

      “His line protected him well” – understatement of the year. He had time to read the Sunday paper back there. I haven’t seen anything like that since Joe Montana.

      • bobrulz

        Peyton was clearly hurt and that in combination with the terrible play-calling was the reason the Broncos lost. But a contributing factor has to be this. Where the hell was Denver’s pass rush? I’m not sure how much blame to put on del Rio, because Von and DeMarcus should be able to kill it no matter the play calling. That was a big part of the defense and they just didn’t show up for whatever reason. Their performance was just as disappointing as Manning’s imo.

  • Fintasy

    Seeing Vontae Davis (and Sean Smith of the Chiefs) play so well after leaving the Dolphins, as well as so many other successful post-Dolphins players causes me to think how poorly the club down in Miami has been run this last 10 years.

    • Riffle,Rod&Fly

      Getting rid of Fireland was the best thing they ever did.

  • Lane Trujillo

    Denver’s issue are from their line. You’re going to see a big shakeup this next off-season regardless of who is at QB (I think PFM still has game but we need to give him more time).

  • Riffle,Rod&Fly

    This wasn’t that difficult to see coming.

  • Chris

    Out comes the excuse parade with Peyton having a torn quad the last month plus. Wonder how much truth there is in that.

    • Riffle,Rod&Fly

      Who knows? I’m sure his body is falling apart. The first thing I thought after shoveling the driveway yesterday was “Man, my knees feel like Peyton Manning’s”. Him falling flat at this point in the year is nothing new though. It may be a pipe dream, but I want to see Tebow in Denver again.

      • Chris

        He was certainly playing poorly before the week 15 estimate they give on the quad. But you can’t deny what not having a leg would do for your power and accuracy.

        I think he’ll start somewhere else next year. He definitely isn’t elite anymore, but he’s still at least average. He doesn’t deserve the salary he’s going to make (19 mil?) and I’d cut him if I was Denver. But if I was a coach of a team on the cusp (HOU, BUF etc) I’d take him in a heartbeat.

        A perfect example is Arizona. How much do you think they’d have given to have at least an average QB for the playoffs?

        • Riffle,Rod&Fly

          Yeah, Arizona would be a good fit if he can still throw 20yds or more. He sure looked miserable last night. I don’t think he is interested in playing any more unless he can win the big one.

    • Jason Williams

      I just wonder how much of that neck thing isn’t exactly healed or can’t heal. He clearly isn’t gripping the ball or putting the same spin on it since coming back and the arm strength issue seems to be getting worse as we go.

      • It depends on what fails

        He’s probably been dealing with this injury since the Chargers game in my opinion and some minor injuries since the Patriots game.

        That doesn’t excuse him of throwing lame ducks, those lame ducks were probably worsened by the injury, as PFF stated that late season Manning was basically Mark Sanchez, his only good game after he went to New England was against the Dolphins.

        • Jason Williams

          “Manning was basically Mark Sanchez” – geez man, why don’t you just say his parents weren’t married? :) wow… that’s really harsh.

  • Jason Williams

    Let’s throw some dynamite into the Peyton Manning conversation – Dan Marino – who’s the better QB?

    • Jay

      I’d go with Marino. Had to play against Buffalo twice a year was tougher than Peyton and played in the Era of true defense.

  • Brian

    Painful display from Peyton, and one has to wonder if the actual truth will come out, (unless it has and I missed it) about his injury. Clearly something was up. I thought maybe they were just taking it easy on him, why overwork him and give him a chance to heal then unleash in the playoffs, but……clearly not.
    It does have a touch of Brett Favre who either looked unstoppable or like a bad rookie depending how he held up physically.

    Also I never thought much of Vontae Davis because, well his time at Miami but WHAT a pickup! Or the job they did with him, either way superb what he’s become.

  • Trevor Yauch

    Still blows my mind that Denver put their worst change-of-direction cornerback in Talib on TY Hilton instead of Chris Harris who wasted his time out there covering Wayne and Moncrief. Jack Del Rio is so terrible at managing great talent, so he might be a good fit in Oakland since they have almost none.

    • Jay

      Last season the Patriots also put Talib on Hilton so there must be something that coaches see in him to give them confidence to put him in the situation?

      • Bob

        And I might add that Talib did not have much success, giving up 2TDs and 100 yards to Hilton in last year’s playoff game… This year they put their slot corner, Arrington on Hilton and he shut him down giving up just 3 catches on 7 targets for 24 yards

  • mike

    well, now the fact that it came out that he has been playing with a torn quad explains his dramatic plunge and the drastic change to a run first team.

  • Jay

    What were Ware’s and Miller’s final pressure totals in this one?

  • Malachi

    can not understand why we had aqib talib shadowing t.y. hilton instead of chris “the highest rated cb in football” harris jr. fucking coaches blew this game, gase only called 6 runs in the 2nd half…

  • Thomas Bell

    I am amazed at the number of bronco defenders who graded in the green/positive. Knighton, Moore, Marshall, and Jackson all in the 2s, and Miller, quietly at 4.4. Obviously, i am missing something. I’d watch the game again, but I threw a beer bottle through my flat screen in the fourth quarter.

  • Jason Williams

    Juicy stats : Peyton Manning holds the record for playoff losses and he has 9 (NINE!) one and dones in the playoffs.

    That encapsulates perfectly what I think of Peyton Manning. Great regular season QB – not good enough in the clutch.