Have you seen this quarterback?
Who stole Peyton Manning? If you have him, please return him, no questions asked.
The Denver Broncos quarterback has been missing in action for the last month and a half. His performance over the last six games has gone downhill when comparing it to the first five games.
Sometimes, with more on the way.
Not always the case.
Missing his good buddy John Fox?
He’s got coaches aplenty.
Whatever the reason or reasons, something is amiss with the quarterback who couldn’t miss during the first five games.
Using our friendly Pro Football Focus grading system again, the website used by most NFL teams to evaluate every play of every game, Manning was in the top five in quarterback efficiency each week the first four weeks and was ranked seventh in Week 5. In that stretch, he threw 20 touchdown passes and 1,884 yards.
Since Week 6, Manning has ranked in the top 10 only once, that being in Week 10 when he ranked sixth after the Broncos beat the Chargers in San Diego.
In performances against Kansas City in Week 11 and against the Redskins in Week 8, he actually received negative numbers, according to Pro Football Focus, ranking 22nd in the league against the Chiefs, 18th against the Redskins. The Broncos won both games, but as the tapes show, credit should be passed along to numerous other players.
And we haven’t even talked yet about Manning’s performance Sunday night in the 34-31 overtime loss to the Patriots in New England when he threw for only 134 yards and averaged only 3.7 yards per pass, certainly his worst performance of the year and one of the worst in the entire league this season.
What’s going on? Out of the past seven games, Manning has had only one that would put him among the league’s best QBs.
One thing that is hard to miss is the utter disregard for trying to get the ball down the field. On the season, 49 percent of Manning’s 3,572 passing yards have come after the ball is caught, meaning he is averaging just more than 4 yards per pass completion in the air.
If the Broncos want a big play right now, they have to do it with the wide-receiver screen to Demaryius Thomas.
Thomas and another receiver, most often tiny slot receiver Wes Welker, line up on the same side and Welker tries to block a defensive back while Thomas takes a step behind the line of scrimmage to catch the pass. Using pulling tackle Chris Clark and maybe a tight end to block farther up-field, Thomas catches the pass, catches up to a block or two and he’s off to the races.
Except when cornerbacks are playing heads-up on Thomas and beat the blocks, which they are starting to do repeatedly because Denver, and Manning, aren’t trying to hit Thomas downfield.
Manning has never had that cannon that puts the ball down the field 50 or 60 yards. Instead, it’s always, even in his Colts days, been the quick release that hits open slant patterns or intermediate post routes.
There was always a threat of that happening.
It ain’t happening now.
And the snow and cold, as it was Sunday night in New England, is on the way, which will make it that much more difficult to pass and catch.
Something, if Denver is to be a legitimate Super Bowl threat, is going to have to change in a hurry for Manning and his mates.
They travel to Kansas City for a second time in three weeks on Sunday, with the winner taking control of the AFC West, top seed in the AFC and likely home-field advantage through the playoffs.
The Chiefs are struggling defensively, but, even in losing two in a row, are showing signs of being able to move the football, something that will challenge the Broncos defense, which is in danger of losing its entire defensive backfield to injury (see Moore, Rahim; Rodgers-Cromartie, Dominique; and Bailey, Champ).
For the Broncos to come out on top, a certain quarterback is going to have to put his team back in that offensive juggernaut category that was so enjoyable the first month of the season.
And he’s going to have to do it, bad ankles, bad weather and all.
Come out, come out, wherever you are, Peyton Manning.