The stat line for Peyton Manning against the Chiefs on Sunday was beyond ugly: 5 for 20 for 35 yards and four interceptions. A quarterback rating of zero. It was easily the worst game of his 17-year career, with his previous yardage low at 132 back in 2000.
Manning was so bad that he was yanked with nine minutes to go in the third quarter, having reached the 50-yard line once and the Broncos down 22-0. The reality, though, is that the game was lost when Coach Gary Kubiak decided to start Manning despite him being obviously hurt. This loss is as much on Kubiak as it is on Manning.
Manning played with a sore foot, hurt ribs and sore right shoulder. As soon as his first pass was intercepted (on an underthrown duck), I knew it was going to be a long day and that starting him was a mistake. The rib injury was not disclosed until Saturday when Manning needed treatment. Anyone who has tried to do anything with injured ribs knows how limiting the injury is.
Manning and Kubiak admitted as much after. ‘‘I thought I felt good enough to play,'' Manning said.‘‘Maybe it was a false feeling or a wrong feeling. ... By going out there and trying to help the team, I ended up hurting the team.'' Kubiak said that as soon as Manning needed treatment on Saturday, he should have held him out.
All players want to play, even when injured. We see it every week and players like Manning pride themselves on their durability. Playing with these particular injuries, though, cost the Broncos a chance to be competitive and it's up to the coach to do what's best for the team, not the player. The four interceptions gave the Chiefs great field position and the Broncos defense simply couldn't be as effective playing on short fields.
Kubiak said that Manning will remain the starter when healthy. "When healthy" is a huge caveat, since we don't know the extent of Manning's injuries. He should sit against Chicago next week, since it's obvious he's hurting. But beyond that? In two weeks, the Patriots come to town and there is no way Manning -- and NBC -- wants to miss maybe the final Tom vs. Peyton duel. Kubiak, though, needs to stay firm and play Brock Osweiler until Manning is healthy. At 39, this is the end, but I think he still gives the Broncos the best chance to win in the playoffs. Maybe a few weeks off is just what the doctor ordered. It's painful to watch a legend when the end is near, but I would love to see a couple of more vintage Peyton games before it's time to hang it up.
--The Broncos at 7-2 appeared the have the AFC West locked up a few weeks ago, but I can easily see the 4-5 Chiefs catch them. Look at the schedules. Denver goes to Chicago next week and the Bears are playing very well. Coach John Fox and offensive coordinator Adam Gase will want revenge on their old team. Then comes the unbeaten Patriots (9-0), plus December games against the Steelers (6-4) and Bengals (8-0). It's easy to see Denver having six losses by season's end.
In contrast, the six of the Chiefs' last seven opponents have losing records, so it's easy to see them running the table. After beating Green Bay two weeks ago, the Broncos looked like a Super Bowl contender. Now, even winning the division looks dicey.
--Another week, another big offensive loss for the Patriots. Julian Edelman broke his foot against the Giants, and it's unclear when or if he will be back this season. This comes a week after Dion Lewis was lost for the season. Yet the Patriots keep on winning, including Sunday's 27-26 win on the final play at New York.
The Giants royally screwed up their clock management on the final drive that resulted in a go-ahead field goal. Simply, they mismanaged the play calls and wound up giving the Patriots more time than they should have to mount their game-winning drive. "I mean, just get the game over with," a frustrated Giants Coach Tom Coughlin said about the calls. To add insult to injury, the Giants dropped what would have been a game-ending interception. New England keeps on winning but I wonder how long it takes for the Lewis and Edelman injuries to have an effect on the offense.
--The Packers look lost on offense and it showed in their embarrassing home loss to the Lions, who came into the game 1-7. This is now three shaky outings for Aaron Rodgers, whose receivers aren't playing well and who has a line he can't trust. It's shocking, but the Packers (6-3) are now a game behind the 7-2 Vikings in the NFC North and have to travel to Minnesota next week. Like the Broncos, the Packers look like a fading Super Bowl contender just hoping to survive into the playoffs.
--Funniest moment of the day was this celebration by Cardinals backup QB Drew Stanton after a game-clinching touchdown in Seattle:
--Hot player of the week: I am cheating here by dipping into the college ranks, but he does have a pro pedigree. Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey is having an amazing season for the Cardinal and looks like a million bucks. His dad is former Bronco Ed McCaffrey, a lust object of gay Outsports readers in our early years.The son has inherited great genes.
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