## By the numbers, Week 9: Bye Week

Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

There is a question ringing inside the heads of many NFL defensive coordinators: how do you beat Peyton Manning? Since it's the bye week and it would be premature to look at San Diego, I thought I'd examine what has correlated with PM losing. I looked back at his last 100 starts (and also his last 11 playoff starts), and tried to determine whether there were any numbers out there worth sharing about what opponents have to do to beat PFM.

SACK HIM?

I've heard television announcers as well as many fans say that sacking Manning is one of the ways to beat him, by getting him on the ground it will force him to get frustrated and he'll turn the ball over, etc. This theory is probably true when looking at most NFL QB's and it certainly wouldn't surprise me to learn that most QBs have a higher number of sacks in games they lose. However, when it comes to Peyton Manning, sacking him DOES NOT correlate to beating him. Consider the follow data from his last 100 starts:

 # of sacks Manning's record Winning % 4 1 – 1 50% In Wins: .92 sacks/gm 3 6 – 4 60% In Losses: .94 sacks/gm 2 15 – 5 75% 1 20 – 4 83% Playoff wins: 1.67 sacks/gm 0 36 – 8 81% Playoff losses: 1.0 sacks/gm Total: 78-22 78%

He has the same number of sacks per game when he wins or loses. If you can sack him 3 or more times his winning percentage does decline, but he still wins around 50+% of the time in these rare instances. Of course a pass rush is important against Manning, but you'll certainly need more than that.

KEEP HIM OFF THE FIELD?

Most teams figure that controlling the clock is the key to beating Manning, so I was curious how that strategy has worked. I examined his last 100 starts in terms of which team controlled the ball longer. Here's what I learned:

 Manning w/TOP advantage Manning without/TOP advantage Regular season 36 – 4 90% 43 – 17 72% Playoffs 6 – 2 75% 0 – 3 0% NFL w/TOP NFL wo/TOP NFL 2013 thru 8 weeks 86 – 34 72% 34 – 86 28%

This is a strategy that works really well in the NFL on average as you can see on the bottom line. Teams that win the TOP battle win 72% of the time. But compare the bottom row with Manning's record in the regular season. He is almost unstoppable when his team controls the clock, and wins almost 3 of 4 games even without controlling the clock. That is very significantly better than the league average. Of course the opponent wants to control the clock and keep Manning off the field, but you'll certainly need to do more to win consistently. Give Manning TOP and you almost certainly will lose. Remember the game where he only had the ball for 15 minutes and he still won? That is insane folks!

WIN THE TURNOVER RATIO?

So far in 2013, NFL teams that win the turnover ratio win 81% of the time (74-17), so it would seem that winning the turnover ratio when playing Manning would be important. This is what Manning's records look like in his last 100 games:

 TO Ratio Regular Season Record Playoff Record + 5 3 – 0 N/A + 3 6 – 0 1 - 0 Pos. TO Ratio: + 2 19 – 0 2 - 1 43 - 1 98% + 1 15 – 1 0 - 1 EVEN 21 – 4 3 - 0 Neg. TO Ratio: - 1 9 – 3 0 - 1 14 - 17 45% - 2 5 – 8 0 - 2 - 3 0 – 3 N/A - 4 0 – 2 N/A - 5 0 – 1 N/A 78 – 22 6 – 5

TO ratio is probably the most important area opponents need to emphasize against PM. If Manning's team wins the turnover ratio, his opponent wins only 2% of the time (or once in his last 100 starts)! Your only chance to beat him is to take care of the ball and force turnovers. Even then, he wins 45% of the time, but at least you have a chance. It's important to note that Manning is a very respectable 6 – 2 in the playoffs when he wins the TO ratio but is 0 – 3 when he doesn't. Our defense needs to step up and force more TO down the stretch. If they do, Manning at QB almost guarantees a victory. You basically only beat Manning if you take the ball away from him by force.

HOW IMPORTANT IS RUNNING THE BALL?

Since there are only a handful (or fewer) QB's in the NFL who can compete with PM in a shootout, many teams feel they need to run the ball successfully to beat him. I looked at whether out rushing him can improve a teams chances of beating him. Over his last 100 games:

 Scenario PM Regular Season Record PM Playoff Record PM out rushes opp. 39 – 3 (93%) 5 - 1 PM out rushes opp. & goes >100 yds 28 – 2 (93%) 5 - 0 PM out rushed 39 – 19 (67%) 1 - 4 PM out rushed & opp. goes >100 yds 28 – 18 (61%) 0 - 3

As was the case with a certain John Elway, an effective running game is key for PM, especially in the playoffs. Consider that Manning wins 93% of the time if his team outrushes the opponent. Consider the difference between his playoff records when he out rushes opponents versus when he doesn't. That has been his Achilles heel in the playoffs—he needs a running game to win and a good run defense. Looking back at his Indy teams, it's amazing how inconsistent they were against the run and running the ball. There were numerous games where opponents rolled up over 200 yds rushing against them. That won't happen against this team. Think back to our playoff disaster against Baltimore. If we successfully run the ball at the end of that game, we win.

So how do you beat PM?

Take care of the ball.

Take away the ball.

Stop the run.

Run effectively.

Yes, I know that is how you win against anybody in the NFL. The difference when playing PM, is that you need to do all of those things at the same time. Sacking him won't matter too much (unless you can get a TO off of it). Controlling the clock won't matter too much. Even getting a single TO won't matter much. You need to get multiple turnovers and to stop the run, while running effectively. Good luck NFL, you'll need it.

This is a Fan-Created Comment on MileHighReport.com. The opinion here is not necessarily shared by the editorial staff of MHR

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