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Film Study: Peyton Manning INT's

Sorry for my semi-hiatus posting these MHR, I've been a busy man;)

Patrick Smith

There was a comment a while back in a postgame thread (I think) that was made after Peyton's latest INT in the Chiefs game. It was something to the effect "Manning has a huge ego and sometimes forces the ball in double or triple coverage." I don't think for one second this is the issue, but I wanted to go back and evaluate each of Manning's INT's this year to see what kinds of issues can be attributed to them.

Are they bad decisions? miscommunications? great defensive plays? good decisions but bad throws? So what I've done is gone back and watched the film and snipped every one of them. I've also diagrammed and identified both the routes and coverage. Remember I'm fairly new to recognizing defenses, but I'm also getting better at it. If you think you see something I haven't, point it out----we all benefit from more complete knowledge. And if you're unsure of the meaning behind some of the terms I use, check this article out They along with other online sources are what I've been using to gain a better understanding.

I will give the situation (down and distance), the coverage, the routes, and an objective analysis of what I saw on that play. We can never know what Manning saw from his perspective, but at the end I will tally up how many picks fall under the 1) Bad Decisions 2) Miscommunications 3) Great Defensive Plays 4) and Bad Throw categories respectively. Here we go!

Manning INT #1, Atlanta

Situation: 3rd and 12

Coverage: Quarters, Zone underneath

Patterns: Verticals


Let's take a look presnap. We have 8 in the box, the lineman are standing up----Atlanta isn't really showing anything except in coverage it appears as if it might be quarter/quarter/half. The point is, Manning sees there is only one guy on the right side of the field and he has two receivers. All receivers are running verticals. Even if this is just a disguised Cover 3 (where the deep guys take on a third of the field), he will essentially have man coverage across the board.


After the snap, we see the safety in the box retreat back to his quarter of the field, the deep guys are breaking the field into fours and covering their portion. The linebackers underneath play a zone. We can see the LB on the lefthand side go with his man until he reaches the edge of the zone and he passes his man off to the retreating safety. Quarters and against verticals is a great defensive call. And since Peyton probably diagnosed the coverage differently presnap, he doesn't see the safety float over to make the play.


In the shot above, if Manning makes the throw at this point, he can float it over the head of the LB and it will be a first down. But since he doesn't recognize the safety over the top on this side, he holds it a bit longer.


The safety undercuts the receiver and picks the ball off.


So how would I classify this INT? I would call it a bad decision, and the bad decision was predicated upon a bad presnap read. Again I don't know exactly what Peyton saw, but if he knew the coverage was quarters, he could have checked into a curl, comeback, or out route. All three of these attack the weakness of the coverage which is the intermediate space inbetween the numbers and the sideline.

Manning INT #2, Atlanta

Situation: 2nd and 11

Coverage: Cover 2

Patterns: Double Post, Deep Cross


Here the Falcons are showing straight cover 2. This means the safeties are responsible for half the field deep. As we can see, the back and TE stays in to help protect. We have DT and Stokley at the top and they are running the posts. Decker at the bottom is running a deep cross.


At the snap, the playaction fake makes the safety come up a few steps. He recognizes the fake and gets back into position.


Here the LB passes Stokley onto the next zone and the safety goes with him. Notice that the corner on this side of the field is still retreating deep and Decker pretty much is free over the middle.


Now, it isn't that great of coverage even on Stokes, at this point he will be passing the safety and has a step. The ball is out and it appears to be a bad throw as it is terribly underthrown.


There's the pick


Here's why the throw was bad. Manny Ramirez is beaten. Notice his man already has his hands in Peyton's face?


From the look of the film and the wobble of the ball, it appears as if the DT got a piece of the pass as it left Peyton's hands. Had it not been deflected it might have been a long TD. I pointed out Decker's route and it's true he could have come shorter over the middle. But this isn't a bad decision. Stokley on a safety in what is essentially man to man at this point, since Thomas has the attention of the corner is a good matchup. The ball should be thrown here. From this point on in the season, just know that Peyton will almost always choose the bigger play potential if he has multiple guys open. It's the way it should be. This INT is chalked up to a great defensive play by the Atlanta DT.

Manning INT #3, Atlanta

Situation: 1st and 10

Coverage: Cover 3, zone

Patterns: see diagram


Here the Falcons rotate into a Cover 3 after the snap. Their other safety (arrow) is in the box and will cover the intermediate sideline/flat area. Up top we have a couple of verticals, from the slot we have a deep in----it is run exactly how the arrow indicates, more rounded. The TE chips his guy and comes short over the middle and the back does the same. Basically, the Falcons have dropped 7 into coverage.


Again, the Falcons wait till the last second to rotate into their coverage and I don't think Manning sees it.


The CB to the top of the screen actually comes off his zone as he reads Manning's eyes.



He undercuts the throw and makes the pick.

This one seems like a bad decision predicated upon a bad read presnap.

Manning INT #4, SD

Situation: 3rd and 6

Coverage: N/A

Patterns: N/A


This was the famous pick 6 that drew the death stare from Peyton Manning. There's no need to go over coverage here because you can see the Chargers showing blitz. There is one safety in the middle. Bottom line, Matthew Willis is the go to guy here. With the overload, it is smart to come to this side because 1) you know you have man coverage 2) if the receiver can make his guy miss or if he can break a tackle, he's gone. Jon Gruden commented that it was a missed "sight adjustment" and that Willis needed to break his pattern into a short hitch or slant (red). Instead he runs the wheel route, Manning throws one of the patterns Gruden mentioned, and the INT is easy. This was a miscommunication all the way.



Manning INT #5, Cincinnati

Situation: 2nd and 7

Coverage: Cover 2 (robber)

Patterns: See Diagram


This could be a lot of different things presnap. You could read man to man across the board, at top you could read press coverage, and you could read a single safety in the middle.


Right before the snap though, the safety retreats back out of the box, and his partner rotates more to the middle. At the snap, the safety rushes the box on the fake, but quickly keys on Stokes coming over the middle. He is the robber free to read run or pass.



Manning knows he has Decker in man running a slant, so he throws the ball. Newman has great recognition and beats a lazy Decker to the ball. It really seems in live speed as if Decker could have been way more explosive through his break and he could have positioned his body better to block out Newman. We can see that McGahee is all alone in the middle, but the ball is already out. INT.


The read wasn't bad, the throw was. With the leverage Newman had, Manning needed to put it closer to Decker, maybe even a bit behind him. Decker was lazy, but Manning just led him a bit too much.

Manning INT #6, Cincinnati

Situation: 3rd and 8

Coverage: Cover 3, zone blitz

Patterns: See Diagram


This is a pretty cool play to diagram. The Broncos have two route combinations working together, the short post and in underneath, and the vertical out on the outside. Here against man coverage, Decker will run a double move. The Bengals rotate their coverage and bring a zone blitz. Over the top both corners are in off coverage, but it definitely appears to me that they are more or less protecting a 1/3 of the field. The LB's play a bit of a zone. I could be wrong but all of these things seem to indicate Cover 3 to me.


Manning diagnoses the man coverage on Decker. But remember,the DB is also in off coverage.


He does not bite on the double move and instead retreats deep. Manning has already started to throw the ball as Decker makes it into the "go" portion of his route.


Newman has great position and makes an easy INT.


You can't fault Manning on his read, presnap he basically knows that Decker is one on one. The problem is when he made the throw Newman was still off a bit and he just threw it assuming Decker could go and get it. So if you're going to fault Manning for anything, fault him for not throwing the ball away or coming back to a different read. Newman makes a great play and doesn't bite on the double move, but then again he shouldn't. Since they are all seemingly playing 3rds, he would be a fool to vacate his zone and leave a free receiver over the top. I put this one on a bad decision by Manning to not throw the ball away.

Manning INT #7, San Diego

Situation: 1st and 10

Coverage: Cover 3, corner blitz

Patterns: WR Screen


Here the Broncos are spread out with an empty backfield. Matthew Willis is the target on the bottom of the screen. Manning seems to check into the WR screen presnap. The Chargers are bringing a corner blitz----the man coming is the guy lined up on Willis.


The blitzer leaps high into the air and tips the ball.


The safety comes up and picks it for 6. Normally, when you know a blitz is coming from an area it is good to throw there because you have a more favorable matchup---less guys there to defend. In this case though, this is probably one of the times you don't want to do it. The corner is right there and reads the quick pass. Manning sees him and STILL decides to throw---I think it is more reflex here. Manning knows where he is going presnap and it is set in motion. So I would have to lay this on a bad decision by Manning to make this throw. Good play by the defender, but we saw Brady Quinn throw the ball in the dirt in a very similar situation against the Broncos. Just beach it.

Manning INT #8, Kansas City

Situation: 1st and 10

Coverage: Cover 2?

Patterns: See Diagram


The coverage to me seems like Cover 2 Man Under. The target here is going to be Decker who is running a somewhat skinny post. I say that because he actually runs a bit outside the numbers to try and stretch his man a bit more outside. Perhaps by doing this it will give him a bit more room when he cuts toward the middle. The safety to the strongside of the formation reads Decker as the only man coming deep and both him and the CB end up getting a good bracket on him.




Manning looks here the whole way. Earlier in the route he has Thomas wide open short in the middle, and Stokely is more open than Decker if Manning throws it toward the sideline to his outside shoulder. But Manning forces the ball into double coverage and it gets picked. If he underthrows the ball, Decker makes the catch or it's PI guaranteed. Still a very, very poor decision off of playaction.


Manning INT #9, Tampa Bay

Situation: 1st and 10

Coverage: Cover 2

Patterns: See Diagram


Bucs are playing straight up Cover 2. Broncos are gonna run verticals on the outside and a post to Jacob Tamme.



Here it seems is if Tamme actually has some room in front of him, and Manning lets the ball go at this point. The only problem is, he severely underthrows the route and it is picked off by LaVonte David who dropped back into a zone.


Even though there's three defenders around the area, it isn't exactly triple coverage. If Manning puts the ball on the money, this goes for a nice gain. This one is just a bad throw.


Manning INT #10, Oakland

Situation: 1st and 10

Coverage: Cover 2 Man Under

Patterns: see diagram


Again the Raiders are showing Cover 2. Manning knows he will have man coverage underneath. The Broncos run verticals on the outside, a post to the middle, and a short crossing route.


Manning has a few options, both of his outside men have beaten their DB's by a step or two. The black arrows indicate that the safety on the strongside has gravitated more towards the middle to help with Stokely on the post, and the weakside safety is gravitating towards Matthew Willis on the top of the screen.


Manning aims the ball and we all saw it. He tries to place it perfectly instead of just putting it out there for Willis to go and make a play. If he puts it in the orange area it's a TD, instead he puts it in the red and the Oakland defender makes a nice diving INT. It can't be understated at this point that it seems Manning has less confidence in Matthew Willis overall.



This one is bad ball placement, nothing more.


Out of all the throws that Manning has had picked off, I've only seen three that could be categorized as "forced"----The one in KC, the screen against the Chargers, and the throw from his endzone against the Bengals. In fact, after analyzing everything, here's how things add up:

Bad Read

INT #1, INT #3


Bad Decision

INT #6, INT #7 (1/2) , INT #8



INT #4


Great Defensive Play

INT #2, INT #7 (1/2)


Bad Throw

INT #5, INT #9, INT #10


Altogether, Bad Decisions and Bad Throws have accounted for 55% of his INT's. After that the two bad reads he had in Atlanta are the next highest percentage. What is great to see though, outside of the Willis miscommunication, that hasn't been the issue.

Interesting to note that on 9 of Manning's 10 INT's----Tamme, Willis, and Decker have all been targeted three times each. The 10th belongs to Stokely. Manning has not been picked off while targeting Demaryius Thomas.

Manning has had a great year, and this post is certainly not meant to downplay any of his accomplishments. Like always, I hope presenting this information will provide for more accurate and fact based conversation here on MHR. Hope you enjoyed the read, and always let me know if you have any questions, Cheers Broncos Country!