Managing Manning and How the Miami Dolphins Did It Better Than Almost Any Team
Peyton Manning got a well-deserved series honoring his great career at Sports Illlustrated this week, but the Miami Dolphins made his numbers look pretty pedestrian against them.
How did they do it?
It was more about coverage than pressure, as the numbers prove.
Let's start with Manning's overall stats against the Dolphins during a career that no doubt will end with his enshrinement into the Pro Football Hall of Fame the first year he's eligible.
Manning faced the Dolphins 13 times in the regular season during his career, which began in 1998 and ended with a Super Bowl victory against the Carolina Panthers to conclude the 2015 season.
In those 13 games, Manning had a 6-7 record, with 22 touchdowns, 18 interceptions and an 84.4 passer rating.
Let's compare those numbers against Manning's overall career.
Against teams he faced at least five times, Manning had a losing record against only two teams: the Dolphins and the New England Patriots (6-13).
Manning's passer rating against the Dolphins was his third-lowest against any opponent, with the only two worse being his 75.7 against the Cleveland Browns and his 81.4 against the Buffalo Bills. But it should be noted that Manning was 8-4 against Buffalo and 7-0 against Cleveland.
Since you're probably wondering, Manning's lifetime passer rating against New England was 89.8.
When it comes to the touchdown:interception ratio, Manning's total of 1.22 touchdowns was his third-worst, topping only his 1.08 against Buffalo (12/11) and his negative ratio against Cleveland (6 touchdowns, 10 interceptions).
Against New England? Manning had 43 touchdown passes against 26 interceptions.
So judging by the numbers, you could make a case that the Dolphins defended Manning better than anybody, though maybe you could go with New England instead based on the win-loss record.
Manning did have some good games against the Dolphins, but he was held in check just as often.
How did the Dolphins do it?
This is a nod to the brilliant secondary the Dolphins fielded at the start of Manning's career.
Remember that the Colts were members of the AFC East until Houston came into the NFL in 2002 and they moved to the AFC South.
That means Manning faced the Dolphins eight times in his first four seasons, and this was at a time when the Miami secondary featured Pro Bowl cornerbacks Sam Madison and Patrick Surtain along with Pro Bowl safety Brock Marion.
And, yes, the Dolphins did have the advantage of facing Manning most at the beginning of his career, but that's the way the schedule worked out and who's to say what would have happened had they faced him more often in his later years.
Anyway, in three of those first eight games, the Dolphins failed to get a sack against Manning, but they held the Colts to 14, 14, and 13 points.
Dolphins fans also probably know the date of the team's last playoff victory — Dec. 31, 2000. The Dolphins defeated Manning's Colts, 23-17, in overtime that day and the big reason was the monster rushing performance by Lamar Smith.
But an equally important factor in the victory was the defense's ability to shut down Manning.
This was another game where the Dolphins didn't sack Manning, but they held him to only 194 yards on 17-of-32 passing (53 percent).
It was another example of the Dolphins stifling Manning, something they did better than almost the entire NFL.