Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning isn’t happy unless he’s unhappy. Currently, he’s unhappy about the perception that he stinks in the cold weather.
“Whoever wrote that narrative can shove it where the sun don’t shine,” Manning told KOA radio after Sunday’s win over the Titans.
But the narrative wrote itself, fueled by Peyton’s results in cold-weather games. But as we suggested on Sunday, the proper narrative may not be that Peyton struggles in cold-weather games. The accurate narrative could be that Peyton struggles in big games, and that cold-weather games are often big games.
The narrative/reality preceding Sunday’s game against the Titans (which hardly was a big game) was that Peyton has a 3-7 record when the temperate at kickoff is 32 degrees or colder. NBC Sports researcher Aaron Feldstein has tracked down the details of the 10 other games.
The first came in December 1999. The 12-2 Colts visited the 2-13 Browns. The temperature was 31 degrees at kickoff, and Peyton led a late drive that resulted in a game-winning field goal with four seconds left. He completed 27 of 43 passes for 276 yards and no touchdowns or interceptions. 1-0.
The next year, the 7-3 Colts went to Lambeau Field in November. The temperature was 27 degrees at the outset of the game. Peyton completed four of 12 passes for 35 yards an one interception in the first half. A comeback effort narrowed the gap to two point, but the Packers thereafter were able to run out the clock. Green Bay won, 26-24. Manning completed 25 of 44 passes for 294 yards, three touchdowns, and an interception. 1-1.
In November 2002, the 6-4 Colts visited the 7-3 Broncos. Kickoff temperature was 25 degrees. The Colts forced overtime at the end of regulation (thanks to Peyton’s favorite liquored-up kicker) and said liquored-up kicker won the game in overtime. Manning completed 27 of 44 passes for 229 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions but one lost fumble. 2-1.
In January 2004, the Colts lost by 10 to the Patriots in the AFC title game; it was 32 degrees at the start of the game. Peyton completed 23 of 47 passes for 237 yards, one touchdown, and four interceptions. 2-2.
In January 2005, the 12-3 Colts traveled to Denver for a Week 17 game, with the temperature again at 32. Peyton started and played only one drive, because the Colts had their postseason position secured. Denver won, 33-14. 2-3.
Later that month, the Colts again visited the Patriots, with the Pats again winning by double digits. The temperature at kickoff was 25. Peyton completed 27 of 42 passes for 238 yards, no touchdowns, and one interception. 2-4.
In November 2006, Peyton and the 8-0 Colts returned to New England, for a game with a 31-degree temperature at kickoff. The Colts won by a touchdown, and Manning completed 20 of 36 passes for 326 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception. 3-4.
In January 2010, on a 12-degree day in Buffalo, Manning played in only the first three possessions of a meaningless Week 17 game against the Bills. The 14-1 Colts lost 30-7. Peyton completed 14 of 18 passes for 95 yards, no touchdowns, and an interception. 3-5.
The last three cold-weather games have come in the past year. At Denver vs. the Ravens in the AFC divisional playoffs. 3-6. At New England last month. 3-7. Sunday against the Titans. 4-7.
So it’s 1-3 at New England, 0-2 in meaningless games where he played sparingly, and most importantly 0-3 in the playoffs.
Ultimately, that’s the real narrative. The Jim Irsay one-Super-Bowl-win-in-16-seasons narrative. The only way Irsay or anyone else will be able to stick that one where the one doesn’t shine will be for Peyton to get a time machine.
Or maybe to end his career like John Elway, with back-to-back Super Bowl wins.