Manning’s Struggles Could Mean Quick Playoff Exit

(Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports)

(Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports)

Playing a playoff game at Foxborough should be the least of the Broncos’ worries. Same can be said about the likelihood of the Broncos losing a bye week and playing on wild-card weekend.

The Broncos have an issue that could affect their pursuit of a championship next month. Their quarterback is not playing at a MVP level from last year and in the first two months of the season.

Peyton Manning played his second worst game as a Bronco in the Broncos’ 37-28 loss to the Bengals last night at Paul Brown Stadium.  He threw four interceptions in that game, and his last two interceptions set the stage for a Bengals’ win.

His performance validated everyone’s concern about Manning for a month. There has been Broncos fans wondering if the Broncos quarterback is hurt. They know it’s not in him to hand the football to Broncos running back C.J. Anderson. They know he is not the type to throw short passes.

Manning was ineffective. He did not give the Broncos a chance to win at anytime. He was way off. He did not have the arm strength to throw a home run pass. He was often three and out. He did not look comfortable when he was out on the field. From his body language, he did not want to be there in the rain.

This has been the Broncos quarterback lately. He is either in pain or he warms up in the middle of the game. One has to wonder if he is hurt. It was interesting that he was questionable to play against the Bengals when it was reported Saturday.

Yes, we all knew he was going to play, but he was going to play through an injury. What’s interesting is why the Broncos would have him as questionable. It’s rare he is even questionable to play a game. The team has to know something that we don’t know for them to have him as questionable.

Either way, something is not right with him. It’s coming to a head now. He struggled to engineer game-winning drives in the fourth quarter last night. His last two interceptions had many asking “Wut” on Twitter during the game. He put himself in a position to be sacked. He did not give anyone the impression he would deliver down the stretch.

With 2:50 remaining in the game, Dre Kirkpatrick intercepted Manning’s pass and ran for a touchdown to extend the Bengals’ lead to 37-28.  One has to wonder what the Broncos quarterback was thinking when he threw that interception. There was no one around to catch the ball. He had a poor angle of where Demaryius Thomas was. He was better off throwing the ball away. He had no prayer in finding someone.

Kirkpatrick got the best of him again when he intercepted Manning’s pass with 1:14 to go in the game.  The future Hall of Famer tried to throw a home run pass to Thomas. That showed right there he does not have the arm strength to throw deep anymore.

This has to be a concern for the Broncos despite Broncomaniacs and the team being in denial about their quarterback. He has struggled to throw the ball for quite some time now. If he was throwing well, there’s no way he would be playing like a game-managing quarterback lately. If he was throwing well, he wouldn’t be a scared quarterback like he demonstrated last night.

It’s laughable that certain Denver media members, bloggers and Broncos fans have this approach of there is nothing to see when it comes to Manning despite couple of ordinary games and couple of hideous games. This is not what the Broncos are used to seeing. This is not what he is used to doing. There’s a reason Manning looks frustrated in recent weeks. Body language should speak so many words during the course of the action.

There’s no question the Broncos have other issues than just the quarterback. Their defense can be great and awful at the same time. The offensive line has been bullied. Their linebackers are getting manhandled. The special teams left a lot to be desired by giving up big plays.

Still, it comes down to the most important position in all of sports, and that is the quarterback. Manning is the Broncos’ meal ticket. He is the difference between the Broncos winning the Super Bowl to them losing a playoff game.

We can talk about Anderson running the ball to make his job easy, but the Broncos won’t go far if Manning is playing like he did the last few weeks.  The quarterback has to be a game-changer by throwing touchdowns, not interceptions.

Right now, the Broncos are ripe to be one and out in the playoffs next month. It’s hard to be optimistic when Manning is giving them nothing these days. Teams are not scared to face them anymore.

Maybe Manning has one more magic in him next month. Maybe he can prove us wrong.

The Broncos have no choice but to have blind faith in him.

They are hoping rather than expecting him to deliver.

This is not a good situation for a team with championship aspirations.

Follow or Contact Leslie Monteiro: @LightRodWriter

Leslie Monteiro

Leslie Monteiro

Leslie is a contributor for Lightning Rod Sports. He covered high school sports in Bergen County out in North Jersey, and has written op-ed columns on sports such as Bleacher Report and NY Sports Digest.

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