I had a life-changing revelation this week, folks. I’m not saying that the heavens opened up and the voice of the Lord spoke to me, but I definitely had a chairos moment (look it up) that will alter the course of this sports column. What was this amazing realization that struck me like one of Thor’s suddenly-summoned lightning bolts, you ask? I FINALLY landed on the perfect nickname for good friend of the Redding Report Sports family, Peyton Manning! In the past I’ve hovered around Old Man Manning, Ol’ Noodle Arm Manning, Old Man Noodle Arm, I trust you’re seeing the pattern here. I was content to use these various insulting monikers interchangeably before, but my respected colleague Coach Chuy Nunez opened my eyes to Manning’s one true name: Mr. Noodle. Depending on your ethnicity, age, socio-economic status, etc., you may or may not know who Mr. Noodle is. Back in my day (I’m 21) when Elmo was given his own Sesame Street spin-off called Elmo’s World, a chubby man with a great moustache named Mr. Noodle would periodically show up to teach ya kids somethin’. Still with me? This gets better.
So, the beauty of this newfound tag for Peyton is that, despite the clever and creative value of my previous labels for him, it correlates to something in real life. Being able to insult someone with a reference to a person or thing that others can actually see is infinitely more satisfying than being extremely clever and throwing out a joke that is too smart for the room. Now when it comes to the subject of why I even insist on referring to Manning’s arm as a noodle, let’s talk numbers.
In his first four starts in 2014 Peyton Manning’s stat line was as so: 1,293 yards, 12 tds, 3 int. He threw at least two touchdowns in each game and his first interception didn’t come until Week 3. Now let’s have a look at Manning’s numbers through the same four-week sample this season: 968 yards, 6 td, 5 int with no touchdowns thrown in Week 1 and at least one interception in every game. Just one year later it seems that the “greatest regular season quarterback in history” has diminished in talent immensely. He’s failed to crack 1,000 yards in four games and continues to give away interceptions like candy. This looks pretty bad for Mr. Noodle, right? Let me explain why it’s worse than you think.
Despite Manning’s shortcomings, the Broncos are still sitting at 4-0 which is allowing them to pretend that their quarterback doesn’t look absolutely horrible out there. If not for some unsustainably good luck at the end of games, it’s very plausible that Denver could be 1-3 and wondering if it’s time to move on from their 39-year-old signal caller. In Week 1 against the Ravens (when Peyton threw no touchdowns and a pick-six that crippled his team in a defensive stalemate) Aqib Talib bailed out the terrible offensive effort by coming up with an interception in the 3rd quarter that he returned for a touchdown in a game where nobody was scoring very many points. Week 2 saw the Chiefs offense and special teams undermine a stellar defensive showcase by giving Denver short field after short field with fumble after fumble and eventually two Alex Smith interceptions. Despite all of that, the game was tied with less than a minute left on the clock when Jamaal Charles lost the second of two fumbles, this one being returned for a touchdown. Broncos win again; Peyton Manning (who added another pick-six in this game) is a hero.
Anyone who was watching these games and the way that Peyton has begun forsaking his usually-spotless mechanics to throw his entire body into downfield passes, even to the point of lifting his leg in his follow-through like any non-NFL playing person attempting to throw a football more than 30 yards on any given day. The only game Denver has won outright so far is a 24-12 victory over a Lions team that is the only winless squad left in the league. This Sunday’s close-shave against the Vikings ended with yet another lucky defensive play, a fumble by Teddy Bridgewater during a drive that definitely would have ended with Minnesota at least tying the game, after Mr. Noodle added two more interceptions. Luck is something that doesn’t last long in the NFL, a lesson that Denver’s favorite football-playing senior citizen is sure to learn sooner than later. I can’t buy in to the Broncos as a Super Bowl team because by the time the playoffs roll around in January, ol’ Mr. Noodle will be on Amazon (we’ll assume he has Prime) trying to find a robotic arm with two-day shipping. I won’t pretend that Peyton hasn’t accomplished plenty in this league, but now all that remains is Mr. Noodle. And it is not pretty.
Speaking of luck, Matthew Stafford’s got the worst of it. His atrocious fortune was on full display last night in Seattle as he watched Detroit’s first win of the season be punched from Calvin Johnson’s hands about a foot from the goal-line. Before we get to that business let’s have a look at the quarterbacks who played last night because, ya know, this is Quarterback Weekly and yada yada yada. About four minutes into the game Russell Wilson hit Doug Baldwin for a 24-yard scoring strike. After that point, neither quarterback threw a touchdown for the rest of the contest. Now let’s flash-forward to the fourth quarter where Wilson almost became the young QB being questioned about why his team isn’t playing to their potential. (A loss to the Lions would have put the Seahawks at 1-3, not very going-back-to-the-Super Bowl-like). In the span of about five minutes, Wilson fumbled the ball twice while being sacked, the second of which was returned for a touchdown and cut Detroit’s deficit to 3 points. But don’t you worry because as bad as it got for Russ it got much, much worse for Stafford.
So the Lions defense scores, the Lions are within 3, and Stafford gets the ball back with about four and a half minutes left in the game. He immediately starts driving down the field with a couple of short passes, a 22-yarder to Golden Tate, a few more short passes, a 26-yarder to a receiver you’ve never heard of and definitely didn’t have in your fantasy lineup. After the two-minute warning Detroit is on Seattle’s 14 facing 2nd and 4, and it really started to click that Stafford was going to DO THIS. For all of his failures in big games, for all of his near-failures, for all the years of people like me wondering when Matthew Stafford would finally become the Matthew Stafford that his potential screams of, he was going to pull of this game-winning drive IN SEATTLE and let us know that he had arrived. So on 3rd and 1 from Seattle’s 11-yard line Stafford hits Calvin Johnson as he crossed the middle of the field and headed home-free to the goal-line. This was Stafford’s moment of absolution. Until…
So in a nutshell, Matthew Stafford is the league’s unluckiest quarterback playing for the league’s unluckiest team (you’ll recall the blatant pass interference that referees inexplicably retracted in last year’s playoffs). Somebody get Chris Pratt in here to tell Stafford that it’s gonna get easier.
I watched so little football (to my dismay) this Sunday that I can’t even do the Two-Minute Drill this week which, frankly, is heartbreaking. Hey, if you’re ever watching football and think to yourself, “why is that?” or “why do they do that?” or “why is everyone booing Jay Cutler, he just came out of the tunnel?” we’d be honored if you emailed that question to firstname.lastname@example.org so that we can answer if for you! So do it. We’ll check in later this week to degrade your favorite team and all that. Until next time!