Ravens say Peyton Manning's protests win over referees
“It’s known that they’re going to complain or if they get thrown down and look at a ref they’re going to get a flag thrown against the defense,” [Brendon] Ayanbadejo said. “We’ve seen that happen against us before with Tom Brady. We always teach the same rules, regardless of the quarterback: hit them in the strike zone. If you’re within a step of his arm motion, hit him.”
But only one roughing-the-passer penalty has been thrown for a hit on Manning this season. Perhaps the lack of penalties can be explained by Manning’s knack for getting the ball away in time — Denver gave up 21 sacks during the regular season, second fewest in the league.
Other Baltimore players share non-specific resentment for the quarterback who had offseason neck surgery that forced him to miss the 2011 season. The Ravens weren’t penalized in December for roughing up Manning, but they think they have to walk on egg shells. “Peyton Manning is one of the best of all time,” defensive lineman Ma’ake Kemoeatu said. “We want to get in there and get him down. At the same time you have to try not to get a penalty for hitting Peyton Manning.”
This type of talk is utterly hilarious coming from a team who tried to bully its way to a victory in their first matchup against the Broncos. Cary Williams and Anquan Boldin both learned that wasn't going to happen.
So what's the next step? Complain, of course.
The Ravens still don't get it. It's not the year 2000. There are eight teams left in the playoffs, and they are the weakest in the herd.
They're not the Ravens. They're prey.
One Trick Pony
As they gained exposure to their new quarterback, though, the stance of Denver’s coaches grew more flexible. Offensive coordinator Mike McCoy noted that he’d “be an idiot” not to listen to Manning, and that the goal was to find a “happy medium” between the approach of Denver head coach John Fox and what Manning had previously done.
After watching Denver this season, I’m not convinced “happy medium” is accurate. While the terminology Denver uses might be its own, both structurally and in its specifics, the offense is strikingly similar to what Manning did for years in Indianapolis. Despite some early protestations, that opinion has spread throughout the league. When asked how similar Manning’s current offense is to what he ran in Indianapolis, New England coach Bill Belichick was typically candid. “It’s identical. It looks the same to me.”
From the Department of Great Timing, Chris Brown has an excellent article for Grantland, and not shockingly, he agrees with me that the Broncos are effectively running the same passing offense as he ran with the Colts for all those years. He doesn't say whether there are any Air Coryell principles, but trust me, there aren't. Brown also agrees with me that the Broncos have retained run game elements from the past offense, which is clear on film. You should definitely check this article out, and maybe even tweet it to Jeff Legwold. I bet he'd be thrilled to hear from you on the topic.
Since Brown didn't explain this, in the diagrams, MOFO means Middle Of Field Open, and MOFC means Middle Of Field Closed. The inside receiver has a read to make - iIf there's a safety in the midde, he's supposed to keep vertical in the seam, and if there isn't a safety in the middle, he's supposed to go to the post.
Remaining Eight Playoff Teams' EPA
I noticed an interesting thing about the eight remaining teams in the playoffs. They are currently the eight and only eight teams that are in the upper-right quadrant of the Team EPA visualization (on the main page or full viz here.)
Here's the visualization to which Burke is referring. What does it say relative to Broncos/Ravens?
Well, Denver fields the most efficient team in football, as Burke's data has said since Week 6. As the most northeast team on that viz, that means the Broncos are the best combination of offense and defense among all teams, and as follows, the best of the playoff teams.
Of the eight remaining squads, none are less efficient than Baltimore, which is most southwest in that first quadrant. They have, by far, the least efficient offense, and along with the Packers, the least efficient defense.
Remember that golden moment from a November 2011 Denver-San Diego game when Chargers kicker Nick Novak was seen pissing on live TV? Apparently, the Broncos wanted a similar splash of magic going into their Saturday playoff game against the Baltimore Ravens. That’s our conclusion after seeing a team-produced video in which a player can be seen taking a leak at practice.
But this...this is a whole new level of access, Broncos TV. You've outdone yourselves, and of course, we love it.
Altitude and Field Goals
But what about altitude? How does the thin air of Denver’s Mile High Stadium affect field goal success?
Kicks in Denver do indeed have longer range, to the tune of about 5 yards.
Anyone who's been reading here as far back as July knows precisely where this is going. Thanks to Denver's altitude alone, the Broncos don't need to pay any kicker $4.25M (as they are with Matt Prater this season), or $3.25M/year over a contract (Prater's average salary from 2012 to 2015), even less one of the most inaccurate ones in the league.
This is only compounded by the presence of one Peyton Manning, a man from whom
John Fox we never want the ball taken away. All thirteen of Denver's wins this season have been by at least seven points, and none of them hinged upon a field goal attempt.
Outside the Game: Jay Cutler inspires others with Type 1 Diabetes
“It’s hard enough as a kid these days to feel normal and just try to fit in.” Cutler told Yahoo! Sports. “To be a diabetic is just a dramatic thing to go through.”
“When I found out that Type 1 mostly involves kids, that was an easy choice for me,” Cutler said. “Just talking to them one-on-one, and giving them someone to relate to who has the same disease they have—that’s important.”
“It doesn’t have to change your goals or your aspirations of what you want to do, or who you want to be in the future. It’s just a little speed bump that you’ll get through, and you just have to manage it each and every day.”
As much as we rip on Cutler - and we do so a whole lot - he deserves the heftiest of praise for his work in building awareness about Type 1 Diabetes and acting as a role model to children afflicted by the serious condition.
Peyton Manning's next move
Manning has four MVP awards. He has played in two Super Bowls. A first-round Hall of Fame ballot is a certainty, and only New England’s Tom Brady can challenge him as the top quarterback of his generation. About the only thing Manning hasn’t done is break any of Favre’s NFL career passing records. At his current pace, he’d need about three more good years to become the league’s career leader in completions, yards and touchdowns. It’s hard to know whether those records are enough to drive a man who turns 37 in March and missed the entire 2011 season. We can’t predict whether Manning’s passion for the game will continue to burn as his time in Denver passes…It’s different when stars move on to other towns late in their careers. Those same little things that move them with their first teams—the familiarity, the comfort, the trust—matter more than you imagine once lost to a player who sees 40 on the horizon.
At some point, that will all change. He’ll have to ponder the same things [Ray] Lewis has been considering in recent weeks. He might face the same challenges Favre faced in his second season in Minnesota, when the Vikings underachieved and that feel-good story didn’t feel so good anymore. For all we know, we might never see Manning this healthy again in the remainder of his career.
Yes, yes, Peyton Manning can't play forever. Next year he might get injured; he might get old; he might trip over his dog walking down his driveway.
Does it make what Manning has done this year any less sweet for Broncos fans?
The last time we heard from John Elway on the matter of motivation, he said he wanted to make Peyton Manning the greatest quarterback of all time. Getting one ring with Denver isn't going to do that. Why not?
Because even Eli Manning has two. And Tom Brady has three. Do we really need to bring Brett Favre (a far inferior quarterback) into the discussion?
McGahee Returns to Practice
Running back Willis McGahee joined his teammates on the practice field Tuesday for the first time since injuring his knee in Week 11 against the San Diego Chargers.
Also present at practice Tuesday were tackle Ryan Clady, guard Chris Kuper and wide receiver Trindon Holliday.
As per expectations. Prior reports said Clady had not practiced at all last week, but that he and Kuper were on track to start on Saturday against Baltimore in Denver's playoff opener.
McGahee will not be eligible to return to action until next week, provided the Broncos make it beyond the divisional round.
Manning’s terrific, and it’s hard to bet against him, but he just hasn’t been great in the playoffs, that one Super Bowl win notwithstanding. I don’t know the reason for that; maybe part of it is that he feasts on lesser teams during the regular season.
Oh, Gil. So much is wrong with this:
Chiefs, Pioli Part Ways
The Kansas City Chiefs announced on Friday that the club and General Manager Scott Pioli have mutually agreed to part ways.
“After several productive conversations, we made the difficult decision to part ways with Scott Pioli and allow him to pursue other opportunities,” Chiefs Chairman and CEO Clark Hunt said. “Scott has been an invaluable member of the Chiefs family since joining us in 2009, and we sincerely appreciate his tremendous contributions over the last four years.
Invaluable? More like unvaluable, amirite?