I'm sure that you're all busy reading the absolute ridiculousness that is the Patriots' rebuttal to the Wells Report today. But for those of you that can pull yourselves away, Throwback Thursday will continue as planned by looking at Peyton Manning's 2008 NFL season.
This was, in my opinion, one of the weirdest NFL seasons to watch, from a personnel and fan standpoint.
First of all, the Colts clearly weren't the same in 2008, but more on that later. Elsewhere in the NFL, our friend Kerry Collins was leading the Titans to 10 straight wins to open the season, and home-field advantage through the AFC playoffs. Brett Favre was still suiting up in green, but was doing so for the New York Jets. A certain Patriots quarterback was out all season with a torn ACL. And Kurt Warner was busy leading the Cardinals to the Super Bowl.
But back to the Colts. The off-season was rife was drama, which isn't always a good thing. Manning was having surgery on his bursa sac, and would miss training camp and the pre-season as a result. The meant the Colts rolled into the pre-season with Jim Sorgi, Quinn Gray, and Jared Lorenzen at quarterback.
We also learned that Tony Dungy was preparing to step down as the Colts head coach, and (when that happened) would be replaced by Jim Caldwell. And finally, the Colts were set to open Lucas Oil Stadium when the season began.
Before I jump into the stats, like I normally do, I want to talk a little bit about the Colts' season, because it played a key role in Manning winning his third MVP award.
The Colts opened the season, and Lucas Oil Stadium, on Sunday night against the Chicago Bears. Those who tuned in, or attended, watched the Bears demolish the Colts. It was clear that the Colts were a shell of what they were in 2007 in that first game. But many, including myself, attributed the game to Manning being out for the pre-season. Surely it wouldn't last.
The next week, though, Manning and the Colts did little to inspire the fan base. After falling behind 15-0 to the Vikings, the Colts stormed back to win on a 52 yard Adam Vinatieri field goal. An ugly win, but a win.
The next two weeks were right in line with the first two. The Colts again lost at home, this time to Jacksonville, and then needed a huge comeback (and the Rosencopter) to beat the lowly Texans.
A dismantling of the Ravens in Week 6 gave the Colts a winning record, and their first win in Lucas Oil Stadium. This, fans thought, is where the Colts had finally turned the corner.
And yet, we were wrong again. A blowout loss to the Packers, which saw Manning throw two interceptions for touchdowns, and a crushing loss in Tennessee left the Colts at 3-4, and even the playoffs were in question.
Manning was struggling, the Colts had a losing record, and the running game didn't exist. The Colts averaged 3.4 yards per carry on the ground. And yes, that is worse than the 2014 campaign we recently endured.
Then Manning went to work.
The Colts finished the season on a 9-0 run, with Manning leading the team to a total of seven fourth quarter game winning drives. Almost single-handedly Manning led the Colts from a 3-4 record into the playoffs as the AFC's 5th seed.
Let's look at the numbers.
Manning eclipsed 4,000 yards yet again in 2008, but only finished sixth in an increasingly pass-happy NFL. Drew Brees led the NFL in passing yards, becoming only the second QB ever to throw for over 5,000 yards in a single season.
Manning did, however, finish third in passing percentage with 66.8% trailing only Warner and Dolphins quarterback Chad Pennington. However, Manning wasn't anywhere near the top of the league in yards per attempt. He finished 13th, and was sandwiched between Jeff Garcia and Gus Frerotte. Yikes.
On the season, Manning tossed 27 touchdowns, good enough for fifth in the league. He was behind league leaders Brees and Phillip Rivers (34 apiece), Warner, and Aaron Rodgers. And, despite the team's atrocious start, Manning still finished outside the top 10 in interceptions, only throwing 12. Favre led the league with 22.
In the passer rating category, Manning again finished fifth in the league with a 95 rating. However, that was relatively far away from Rivers' impressive 105.5 to lead the league.
For quarterbacks, going strictly by the numbers, Rivers would clearly be the MVP. And let's keep in mind, the Chargers didn't have a great team either in 2008, but their 8-8 record was still enough to win the AFC West.
As always, I quickly want to delve into the running backs, although they'll be dismissed quickly. Adrian Peterson led the league in rushing with 1,760 yards and 10 scores. However, his nine fumbles almost instantly take him out of consideration.
DeAngelo Williams had probably the best season out of all running backs with 1,515 yards and 18 touchdowns for the NFC's top seeded Panthers. What hurts Williams' case, though, is that his back-field mate Jonathan Stewart ran for nearly 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns of his own, greatly diminishing Williams' case.
At the time, I remember questioning if Manning really deserved the MVP in 2008. Yes, he carried them into the playoffs, but what year didn't he? Rivers certainly had superior numbers, but his team struggled to get to .500.
All in all, I can see how Manning gets the MVP. He led the Colts to 9 straight wins to end the season, and did so without much help from his running game or defense. Rivers would certainly have an argument, though.
So how did Manning's MVP season end? Well, this is one of those games we don't like to talk about. The Colts running game came back to bite them in a Wild Card game against the Chargers. The Colts offense couldn't convert a short yardage situation to save their life (or at least their season). Colt killer Darren Sproles put the dagger into Dungy's final campaign with the team in overtime.
Next week, Throwback Thursday will take a look at Manning's fourth and final (with the Colts) MVP award along with one of the more deflating season ending losses in team history.