NFL Sunday wrapup: Benchmark then a benching
After laying claim to yet another NFL record Sunday, Peyton Manning further strengthened his case to be called one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game. He surpassed Brett Favre's career passing yardage total with a 4-yard completion to Ronnie Hillman on his team's second drive—but things only got worse from there. Much worse.
He wound up completing just 5 of 20 passes for 35 yards and throwing four interceptions in a 29-13 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. Facing a 22-0 deficit in the second half, Broncos head coach Gary Kubiak threw in the towel for his quarterback, pulling him in favor of young Brock Osweiler.
Injuries to Manning's foot and ribs might've played a part in Sunday's bewildering performance, but even so, it feels more and more like Manning is reaching the end of his NFL road.
By and large, his performances in 2015 have been far off the incredible standard he set for himself as recently as last season with the Broncos. Only in one game this year has he posted a passer rating of better than 100, and he has thrown at least one interception in every single game this year. He leads the league in that category, and this member of the 500-career-touchdown-pass club has only thrown for nine scores this season, fewer than Derek Carr, Blake Bortles, Jameis Winston and Brian Hoyer.
Not long ago, it was easy to overlook Manning's struggles as the Denver defense kept making plays and helping the Broncos to victory. But now that they're on a two-game losing streak, it's getting tougher to excuse Manning's regressing ability.
There have been a couple of games, including the one against the Green Bay Packers a few weeks ago, in which Manning showed he can still keep an offense moving up and down the field with efficiency, but those days are getting further apart now.
I understand it's hard for players as competitive and as passionate about the game as Manning is to walk away, but now that his performances are beginning to go south and his durability has come into question, the time for him to stride into the sunset and into a job as a full-time product pitchman is approaching ever faster.
As memorable as Peyton Manning's career will be for those of us who watched him throughout it, the day he became the all-time leader in one of the most significant statistical categories will always be one he will want to forget.
BRADY PUTS GIANTS TO REST
Since media outlets have been contractually obligated to mention Tom Brady in the same space as Manning for almost 15 years now, I have to write about the New England quarterback's game-winning drive Sunday against the New York Giants, the club that has beaten Brady and the Patriots in two Super Bowls since the 2007 season—but before we get there, we have to talk about New York's mishandling of the clock late in the game.
Eli Manning and the Giants were in prime position to give the Patriots their first loss of the season, trailing 24-23 but looking at first and goal from the 5-yard line with 2:06 left to play in the game. New England had just one timeout left, so the Giants had a good opportunity to grind some seconds off the clock before kicking a go-ahead field goal from old PAT range.
Instead, the Giants threw on first down. It looked like Eli Manning completed the pass to Odell Beckham Jr., but a replay review determined the catch was no good after the ball was punched from Beckham's grasp. The incompletion stopped the clock at 2:01 without the Patriots having to use their timeout. Now, after second down, the clock would stop again for the two-minute warning, and after third down, the Patriots would stop the clock if necessary with their final timeout before New York's field goal.
Had New York run on first down and not scored, the clock would've hit two minutes. Then on second down, assuming the Giants run again without scoring, the Patriots would've been compelled to use their last timeout. A run on third down could've drained another 40 seconds off the clock ahead of the field goal, and the Patriots would've had only about 1:20 to stage a comeback drive.
As it happened, New England had plenty of time. But Brady's first throw of the drive should've been punished. A Giants safety had the ball in his hands after Brady's desperation heave, but as he came to the ground, the ball dislodged from his arms and hit the ground for an incomplete pass.
The Giants worked the Patriots to fourth-and-10, but Brady and Co. converted that to start their march to field-goal range and a 9-0 start.
A few weeks ago when I broke down the undefeated teams in the NFL (when the Packers were still one of them, no less), I had circled the game against the Giants as the day the Patriots would lose their first game. I was a just couple Eli Manning handoffs from being right.
LAST WEEK'S MNF PICK
The Chicago Bears, a four-point underdog to the San Diego Chargers, scored 15 points in the first quarter to win outright on the road after I picked the Chargers to win by six. Another notch in the loss column for me.
Up next on Monday Night Football is a contest that looked a lot sexier before the season than it does now, though having an undefeated team on your TV is good news regardless of the opponent. Plus, you know, J.J. Watt will be there.
The Houston Texans (3-5) head north to take on the Cincinnati Bengals (8-0). Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton is definitely an MVP candidate this season with 2,226 passing yards under his belt to go with 18 touchdowns and just four interceptions.
With Watt, the Texans had one of the league's best defenses last year, but the unit has regressed since then and is in the middle of the league pack in points allowed. An offense with a serious lack of playmakers doesn't help, though Houston remains not far off the pace set in the AFC South by the 4-5 Indianapolis Colts.
While a win would put the Texans in a first-place tie in their division, I just don't see the Bengals having a letdown at home on national TV. They're an 11-point favorite, and for good reason. I think Dalton will find A.J. Green open all day, and I have Cincinnati winning going away. 34-17 Bengals
OVERALL MNF RECORD: 3-7-0
Tim Seeman spends his Sundays in The Gazette office combing through the day's NFL action and stressing over the print headline for the Packers game story. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.