There are times when I ask you to close your eyes, and it’s not because I plan to do anything illicit or scaring. No, consider it an exercise of sorts, one that jump starts the mind and ignites the memory.
You see, our week-to-week fantasy game often leads to week-to-week panic or elation, and little in between. This is fine, and this is expected, because that rigid range of emotion is directly linked to your outcome on any given week, and which column it fell under. A win or a loss is all that matters on a Monday night once the week has concluded, and often how you arrived at that conclusion is irrelevant.
The problem, though, is that polarizing attitude feeds a narrative machine, a grotesque beast that’s already feasting off the soul of every man. Earlier this season we saw an example of this snap reaction at work when it was determined that Peyton Manning’s arm strength was on par with Chad Pennington’s in his prime. That came after two regular-season games from a quarterback who had recovered from four next surgeries over a two-year span. It came after Manning had sat out for over a season, and it came after he played only minimally during the preseason, attempting very few passes that tested his arm strength deep down the field.
Keep your eyes closed, and remember how worried your were at the time. Remember the words and wisdom of Jason Whitlock, who proclaimed that Manning “is toast”. Now open them, and watch replays from last night.
After two weeks Manning had only completed two passes for 20 yards or more, setting an early horrid pace for 16 overall this year. That prompted fears that this season would be even more painful than anticipated, and the decline even more swift.
Then he started throwing, and throwing often, and throwing deep.
That gradual rise peaked last night during Denver’s 34-14 win over New Orleans. His 41-yard connection with Demaryius Thomas traveled nearly the entire distance through the air, with Thomas rolling only about one yard further after making the catch. Same with his 23-yard pass to Eric Decker, with the receiver gaining only about another yard after the catch before being pushed out of bounds. We can also nearly count his 26-yard pass to Thomas in the third quarter as a deep ball too solely through airborne travel, with the ball sailing 18 yards through the air. Another completion to Thomas earlier that quarter traveled over 30 yards.
So if we get lenient with that one pass — and really, what’s two yards between friends? — four passes traveled at least 20 yards through the air, one of which was over 40, while the other was over 30. Those aren’t the throws of a weak-armed noodle man. No, instead it’s the chucking of a formerly injured — and severely, nearly career-ending injured — quarterback who’s progressed, with his strength building during each passing week.
It’s as if, you know, his body is gradually getting healthier as it re-acclimates to the pounding that’s required to play quarterback in the NFL. He’s progressing just as we thought he would, going from a quarterback who had a Zoolander problem and couldn’t throw left last February, to something that more closely resembles a Hall of Fame passer now. Just don’t tell him that, because Peyton doesn’t believe that Peyton is back yet.
Progressing. There’s that word again, one that’s the enemy of patience.
Last night wasn’t a sudden spike in Manning’s arm strength either. ESPN Stats and Information observed his growth following a poor Week 2 outing against Atlanta when Manning threw three interceptions in the first half, all on attempted deep balls.
Peyton Manning’s arm strength was questioned early in the season as he was coming back from neck surgery, especially when he struggled to make downfield throws in his first two games.
Manning failed to complete each of his five attempts on throws traveling more than 20 yards downfield over that span, which included three interceptions on such throws against the Atlanta Falcons on Monday Night Football.
He has silenced the critics since Week 2, completing 11-of-17 deep passes with four touchdowns and zero interceptions.
That was written and published Saturday, before Manning was consistently tossing deep to Decker and Thomas last night while beating the Saints soundly and finishing with an incredible passer rating of 138.9. He misfired on only eight pass attempts, making it the third game this season that Manning’s completed at least 70 percent of his passes.
Manning being Manning is great for more than just Manning owners. Thomas leads the league in catches of 20 yards or more (16) while averaging 97 yards per game (679 yards overall), while Decker may not come close to matching his teammate’s yardage, but he’s scored in four straight games, including two TDs Sunday. Then there’s Willis McGahee, who was given more opportunities with the lead built up through Manning’s passing last night, and he had his best rushing game of the year, running for 122 yards on 23 carries (5.3 YPC).
When the Broncos win and Manning wins, everybody wins. Including you.