PFM and the numbers - 2012 in perspective


We all know that Manning had one of the best years of his career last year statistically, but how does it compare to his other seasons and how did he compare to other NFL QBs last year. In this post I am also going to address that question as well as another that came up in conversation - Does Peyton Manning make his receivers better?

So let's first take a look at how 2012 compared to Manning's previous seasons. I'll put up the value and the rank relative to the rest of his career (regular season only)

Comparing Manning to himself

# PFM career rank
completions 400 2nd
attempts 583 4th
comp % 68.60% 2nd
TD 37 2nd
TD% 6.30% 2nd
INT 11 5th
int% 1.90% 3rd
yards 4659 2nd
att/game 36.4 3rd
Rating 105.8 2nd
AYPA 6.7 4th
20+ yd passes 64 2th
40+ yd passes 7 11th
sacked 21 11th

So except for long passing plays and total sacks, this was one the top two or three years for PFM statistically. Not too shabby for a guy on a new team after not having played for a year. Just imagine what it will be like when he is truly comfortable with the players around him.There is great cause for optimism.

Looking more closely at his incompletions we see that of his 183 incomplete passes

37 were dropped (meaning the defender did not touch the ball)
67 were deemed poor throws (meaning the ball was not where the receiver could touch it)
47 were defended (meaning the defender broke up the pass)
8 were batted at the line
11 were intercepted
24 were thrown away out of bounds

It's pretty amazing that he only had to throw the ball away 24 times in 604 drop-backs. 10 of those drops were by DT, 7 by Decker. PFM threw the ball 583 times and 6.3% of the time his passes were dropped. To put it another way, 20.2% of Manning's incompletions came on dropped balls. For comparison, Matt Ryan, who was tied for Manning at the top of the league in completion % (68.6%), attempted 615 passes and only had 28 dropped - 4.6%. Only 14.5% on Ryan's incompletions were from drops.


Let's look at some of the deeper dive stats and see how PFM compared to the rest of the QBs in the league (min 15 passing attempts per game)

Comparing Manning to the other QBs in the league

value rank
1st down % 39.5% 4th
3rd down conversion %
short (1-3) 66.7% 7th
med (4-7) 53.2% 7th
long(8 or >) 34.0% 8th

3rd down conversion %


49.0% 7th
completion % late and close 60.0% 15th
int% 1.90% 7th
TD% 6.30% 4th
Success Rate 53.60% 3rd
AYPA 6.70 1st
TD/attempt inside the 10 40.50% 16th
RZ QB rating 97.1 13th

The measure of any QB is how well the offense moves the ball AND scores, with scoring being the key. The Broncos were second in the league in scoring (behind only the Pats) in 2012. So by that measure Manning was as successful as he normally is (the offense he has led has been in the top 2 in scoring many times). In terms of how often a pass from PFM resulted in a TD, Manning was 4th in the league. Rodgers lead the league with 7.1% of his passes going for a TD. From a more nuanced perspective some QBs are measured by how well they keep the chains moving. In that regard, PFM was 4th in league in 1st down % (first downs/attempts). He would have been 5th is Alex Smith were included. But what about how well he moved the chains on 3rd down? Well PFM was 7th in the league in 3rd down conversion rate. He was equally ranked at converting on 3rd down regardless of distance. The best in the league last year on 3rd and short was Stafford (74.2%, 23/31). The best on medium was Hasselback (61.5%, 16/26) and the best on 3rd and long was Rapelisberger (42.6%, 20/47). Big Ben has been great on 3rd and long his whole career. Bob #3 in Washington, for all his accolades as a rookie, was horrible on 3rd and long - converting a league worst 10.4% of the time (5/48). When you make Brady Quinn (16.4%) and John Skelton (15.4%) look good you are doing something very wrong.


Advanced NFL stats uses what they call success rate. They define it: Success Rate (SR) – The proportion of plays in which a player was directly involved that would typically be considered successful. Specifically, SR is the percentage of plays resulting in positive Expected Points Added (EPA). Manning was third in success rate, behind only Brady (55.6%) and Ryan (54.7%). For Manning this was an average year for SR. His best year was 2004 (58.3%). For comparison, our starting QB in 2011 had a SR of 38.5% which was second worst in the league for starters ahead of only Gabbert (35.6%).

Another way in which QBs can be measured is how often they give the ball away to the other team. PFM was 7th in the league in int%, getting picked on only 1.9% of passing attempts. Tom Brady and Bob #3 were tied as league leaders with 1.3%. Cassel was the worst in the league last year getting picked on 4.3% of his attempts. Manning also lost the ball on a fumble during the regular season so he was responsible for 12 turnovers. Of the full time starting QBs only Bob (9), Tom B (9) and Ben (11) had fewer TOs.


Interestingly the only stat in which PFM lead the league was average yards per attempt (AYPA) with 6.7. Also of note, there were no stats in which Manning was below average. The only stats where he was not in the top third had to do with red zone success and late/close situations. His QB rating in the red zone (97.1) was 13th in the league. Drew Brees was the best last year with a 112.7. Manning's TDs/attempt inside the opponent's 10 yard line (goal-line throws) were also average - 16th in the league (40.5%). Alex Smith was the best in the league although his sample size is very small (66.7%, 4/6). For QB's who had a decent number of goal-line throws, Rodgers was the best in the league converting TDs on 60.7% of his throws (17/28). Manning's completions % in "late and close" situations (60%) seems pretty good, but it was only 15th in the league in those situations. However, because the Broncos were playing with a lead in many games, Peyton only threw the ball 35 times in those situations (21/35). Compare that to Matt Ryan who threw 106 times in "late and close" situations. Schaub led the league with 69.8% completion under those situations but he only had 8 more throws than Manning (30/43). Sanchize was the worst in the league (42.9%, 15/35) last year.

Bottom line is Manning was as good last year as he normally has been throughout his career despite coming off of a year of inaction and playing with a new team. With a couple of new toys on offense, the future is really bright.


Does Manning Make his receivers "better"?

This is going to be an interesting one since there is limited data. So how are we to know if a receiver is "better"? I offer that catch rate and yards per catch (ypc) are probably the two biggest indicators. A QB who can put the ball exactly where he wants it will both make it easier for his receiver to catch the ball as well as make it easier for his receiver to gain YAC (if the route is a movement route). Since I can only find catch rate data from 2000 forward I will exclude receivers that played with PFM early in his career (by necessity and not by choice). That still leaves us with plenty of players to evaluate even if we leave out RBs - as I did. Also keep in mind that I really can't factor in how these players are used in the offenses that they played on without Manning. Catch rate and ypc can both be dramatically influenced by how a receiver is used. By focusing on ypc and catch rate I am opting for "quality" over "quantity" in my analysis of "better".

Reggie Wayne - Wayne has only had two years playing with a QB other than Manning and those were his last two as an aging #1 WR. His catch rate in 2011 and 2012 are two of his career worst (56.8 and 54.0). He averages 60.7% for his career. His ypc in the past two seasons (12.8 both years) have been a little below average for him (13.5) but some of that has to be attributed to age. So Reggie Wayne has not been as good without PFM than he was with him. However, age clouds the question as to whether or nor PFM made him "better". We also have to remember the motley crew of QBs taking snaps for the Colts in 2011 probably hurt his numbers and playing with a rookie, even Andrew Luck, also probably hurt his numbers a little.

Marvin Harrison - Had two years with the Colts before they drafted Manning. However those years (96 and 97) are prior to my catch rate data, so only have ypc to go on. His ypc in those two years was below average and average for his career. Obviously his best years in terms of ypc came with Manning. Harrison retired as a Colt. As ans aside, he caught most of his passes in his first two years from the current HC of the 49ers.

Dallas Clark - Again we have a player who has only played two years (the past two) without PFM, much like Reggie Wayne. Clark had two of his worst years in terms of ypc in the past two (10.4 and 9.3). His career average is 11.2. In terms of catch rate his past two seasons without Manning have been below average (52.3% and 62.7%) for him since his career average is 64.3%. With a similar small sample set skewed by age we see that Clark was better with Manning than he has been without.

Ben Utecht - Utetch was almost excluded from the study because he only caught 16 passes from another QB (in Cincy). His ypc during his one year in Cincy (7.7) was the worst of his short career and it was significantly below his career average (10.6). Utecht's catch rate in Cincy (50%) was also significantly worse than his career average (65.7%). With Utetch we run into the same problem as with the first three receivers, the sample set with QBs other than Manning is small so the conclusions from it can be dubious.

Austin Collie - Collie provides another fairly small sample set with only one year playing without Manning (2011). With the QB dregs throwing to him, his ypc (9.5) and catch rate (52.3%) were both well below his career averages (10.7 and 67.3%). Due to his concussions he may be out of football, so we may not be able to see how well he could do with a real QB not named Manning.

Pierre Garcon - Garcon, like Wayne Clark and Harrison, has two years of catching passes from someone not named Peyton. In those years (2011 and 2012) Garcon was average or above average in ypc (13.5 and 14.4) as his career average in 13.6. His catch rate was actually slightly below his career average (55.3%) in 2011 (52.2%) but he had his best year so far catching balls from Bob #3 in Washingon last year (66.2%) - a significant improvement for him. Without digging too deeply I am guessing that his role in Washington last year was different from his role in his years on the Colts. Garcon is the only instance of a receiver who was/is better without Manning that he was with him.

Jacob Tamme - Like Collie, the only time that Tamme has caught balls from another QB is 2011 and those QBs were very low quality. That being said, Tamme's ypc (9.4) was slightly below average in 2011 (9.8). His catch rate of 61.3% is also his worst for a year with more than 10 targets and below his career average (64.7%). So Tamme was/is better with Manning, but it's another small sample set.

DT - he had two years of catching balls from Orton and Tebow before PFM arrived. In his one year with Manning his ypc was exactly his career average (15.3). His catch rate in 2012 (66.7%) went up dramatically both relative to his career (59.2%) and relative to his year catching balls from TT (45.7%). DT has definitely been a better receiver with Manning that he was with Orton/Tebow. We know from the training camp stories last year, that PFM has spent plenty of time working with DT on the finer points of route running.

Eric Decker - ED only had 6 catches as a rookie so we are really comparing his stats from Orton/Tebow to Manning. In 2011 his ypc was 13.9. That actually decreased to 12.5 in 2012. His catch rate in 2011 was 46.8%. In 2012 that jumped up to 69.7%. Again, like DT, it is almost impossible to argue that Decker was a better receiver with Orton/Tebow than he was in his year with Manning.

Joel Dreessen - Dreessen has been a starting TE for 4 NFL seasons now. In his three years without Manning throwing him the ball he averaged 13.2 ypc. In 2012 he only averaged 8.7 ypc. His career average catch rate is 69.2% and his 2012 catch rate 70.7%. If you weight ypc more heavily than catch rate, Dreesen was actually worse with Manning, but that would be a flawed argument since he had 58 targets this year alone and only 153 in his previous five NFL seasons. Either way you slice it, Dreessen either got worse or stayed the same when catching balls from Manning.

Brandon Stokley - Stokes is probably our best data point in this whole exercise. He had 60 catches as a Raven, 31 as a Seachicken, 139 as a Colt, and 153 as a Bronco (we'll leave out his injury shortened year with the Giants). Stokley has caught 184 passes from Manning during his career. When catching balls from Manning Stokes averages 13.4 ypc. When catching balls from anyone else, he averages 13.8 ypc. His catch rate on balls from Manning is 57.3% and on balls from everyone else his catch rate is 53.3%. Stokley is a very different receiver than has was early in his career so some of the comparisons are not that valid, but he appears to have fared slightly better (or about the same) with Manning relative to with other QBs .

To summarize:

Garcon was better without Manning

Harrison, Dreessen and Stokley were about the same

Thomas, Decker, Tamme, Collie, Clark and Utetch were all better with Manning than with someone else throwing them the ball.

So the conjecture that Manning makes his receivers "better" appears to have some statistical backing. Sound off in the comments if you disagree with either my methods or my conclusions.


I hope you enjoyed this diversion during the boring months before training camp starts. Go Broncos.

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

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