How Often Does Peyton Manning Target Team’s #1 Cornerbacks?

A lot of talk has gone into the Peyton ManningRichard Sherman battle that will take place this Sunday in the Super Bowl, and while there are other topics that are ignored (the main one is the fact the Seahawks other cornerbacks are as good as some teams starting cornerback) but I wanted to take a look at this from another angle, how often does Peyton target a teams #1 cornerback in any given game? The question has been raised if Peyton will avoid or go after Sherman in this game so I wanted to see if Peyton’s tenancy was to just smartly avoid team’s top corners or if he doesn’t shy away from them at all.

To do this I set out to look at each Broncos opponent this season and see how Peyton did when, and how often, he targeted that teams top corner. We’ll then compare this level of play against the rest of the defense to see if he plays better, worse, or about the same against that top corner. Now not all #1 corners are made the same, Sherman is the best corner in the game, some teams top corners are more like #2 corners on other teams, but that doesn’t change Peyton’s mentality, does he shy away from the best corner on opposing teams? So here are the categories we’ll be look at (in order they’ll appear on the table):

– Total attempts by Peyton in that game
– Opposing teams top corner
– Attempts towards that top corner
– Attempts toward that corner divided by total attempts to get a percentage of total attempts (shows how often Peyton targeted that corner as a percentage)- Reception completed when targeting that corner
– Catch percentage allowed by that corner
– Yards allowed by that corner
– Yards per attempt allowed
– Touchdowns allowed
– Interceptions
– Passer rating against the corner

I’ll then take these metrics and apply them to the rest of the team, ignoring the top corner. You are then able to compare how they stacked up.

Here is the table.

My Takeaways

Peyton is surprisingly consistent and doesn’t shy away from top corners, now he did have a few bad games against quality corners (Vonte Davis, DeAngelo Hall and Shareece Wright in the 2nd San Diego game all had strong outings) but for the most part he was very good and didn’t avoid teams #1 corners, targeting them 16.5% of the time. The big difference seems to come in the red zone where Peyton tended to avoid them, preferring to target them when he had more space to throw the receiver open, which is harder to do in the red zone when the defense has the advantage.


How Do Teams Fare When Playing a Third Time in a Season?

So it looks like this season the Broncos and Chiefs may be the 122nd time two teams will meet for a 3rd time in a season.  Of those 122 times, 20 times one team went 2-0 in the regular season before facing the same team again in the playoffs. I wanted to look to see how these teams did when they match up again in the playoffs. Thanks to the miracle that is Pro Football Reference I was able to gather all of this data and take a look. This won’t be too indepth, just a look to see what history shows for these rare cases.

Here is a link to a table with those 20 teams.

In the 20 playoff games that were played the team that went 2-0 in the regular season won the playoff game 13 times. Dallas and Pittsburgh have beaten a team twice and met in the playoffs three times while Green Bay, New York Giants, Kansas City Chiefs, and the Tennessee/Houston Titans/Oilers did it twice. The Browns have been on the receiving end twice and lost both playoff games as well. Denver has never done it before but was on the receiving end in 1993 when the Raiders swept them in the regular season and then beat them in the playoffs.

Overall it’s a small sample size, but something fun to look at going forward if the Broncos and Chiefs get to meet in the playoffs. If they do meet, 13-7 isn’t a bad track record to go on, though it’s not perfect either.