After each week of the playoffs, we take a look at the top three quarterback performances of the week, and it continues our weekly tradition of taking a look at the top five QB performances of each week of the regular season. Usually one or two QB performances stand out as deserving, but it’s almost always a chore to try and pick the third quarterback on the list.
Denver Broncos QB Peyton Manning
The top quarterback of the week, Peyton Manning was at his surgical best against an overmatched San Diego Chargers defense that couldn’t contain the shorter routes. The Broncos beat the Chargers at their own game by running the football and using short and intermediate passes to chip away at the defense. Manning finished the game with 25-36 passing for 230 yards, two touchdowns, and no interceptions. He was making some terrific reads out there, and the accuracy he showed truly fit the Broncos gameplan going into the game. This team controlled the time of possession and gave the Chargers a taste of their own medicine. What never cease to amaze me about Manning are his footwork and the fact that his eyes are always moving. He used plenty of pump fakes to try to keep Eric Weddle off balance, and his ability to find the open guy with his eagle eyes were at their best. Manning made some very difficult throws against the Chargers defense, and he finished with an ESPN TQBR of 91.1.
San Diego Chargers QB Philip Rivers
The man who faced Manning on Sunday put up even better numbers than the future Hall of Fame QB, as Rivers managed to go without throwing an interception and averaged eight yards per attempt. One of the only challengers to Manning’s MVP crown, Rivers had himself another very efficient day at the office with 217 yards on 18-27 passing. I’m sure Ken Whisenhunt and Mike McCoy regret not throwing the ball more often with their star QB, as they stuck to the original gameplan of “give it to Ryan Mathews and control possession” for too long. It worked to perfection against the Broncos the last time these two teams played and has been their M.O. lately, but the Chargers made the mistake of being too late to adjust.
Once the Chargers did start passing, they scored 17 points in the fourth quarter after being previously shutout, and one can only imagine what the end result would have been had the Chargers decided to throw earlier and scrap the gameplan that the Broncos so aptly mimicked. At the end of the day, Rivers finished with a 115.8 QB Rating, and that was almost enough to lead a second upset of the Broncos.
San Francisco 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick
I had an extremely difficult time trying to choose between Colin Kaepernick or Tom Brady for the third slot, and I decided to go with Kaep instead of copping out and calling it a “wash”. What carried the day for Kaepernick over Brady were two things: he had a rushing touchdown and he had higher WPA and EPA totals. Kaep’s WPA was significantly higher than Brady’s, but that’s skewed since WPA takes score into account and the Patriots win was a blowout. The slightly higher EPA that Kaepernick posted was enough for me to give Kaepernick the nod and further break the tie a bit in the 49ers youngster’s favor.
Kaepernick made some terrific plays down the stretch, and he seems to be at his best at critical junctures of the game. While the 49ers pretty much ran with it in the second half due to dominant play on defense, Kaepernick’s ability to make important plays was still on display. Even more importantly was his ability to avoid turning the ball over against an excellent Carolina Panthers defense, and the two interceptions that Cam Newton threw compared to the zero (again, no easy feat) that Kaepernick threw were the difference. Newton averaged over ten yards per attempt, but Kaepernick averaged a solid seven yards per attempt and managed not to toss a pick in the process. Overall, the Nevada product posted a solid 87.8 QB Rating and 71.9 ESPN TQBR, and his solid display gets him the nod this week (I had Philip Rivers over him last week as the third guy, but a “hat tip” of sorts didn’t factor into the equation).