Last year, prior to the season opener against the Indianapolis Colts, I wrote a post about how Wade Phillips' defenses had fared against Kerry Collins and against the Colts under Peyton Manning. As is relevant to this week, the takeaway from that post was that Wade's teams had faced Manning 10 times,1 winning and losing an equal number of games. (For the lawyers2 in the crowd, that means five wins and five losses.)
Because Fivehead was not playing in the 2011 opener, however, the last post did not dwell too much on the Wade's D v. Peyton matchups. In fact, the extent of the analysis was:
Manning has gotten his yardage over the last seven years, but he's also split those four games. Which is to say that, even in a best-case scenario for the Colts (i.e., avec Manning), they've still only broken even against Phillips. Worse still, at least from Indy's standpoint, they've dropped the last two to Phillips' defense.
What does all this mean? Maybe nothing --- it could be that there's some as-yet-undiagnosed hole in the Texans' version of Wade's defense that will render all of this history more or less moot. All the same, unless and until the Colts prove otherwise, it would seem that changing from Manning to Collins against Wade Phillips' defense represents a huge downgrade, both in talent and in the Colts' likelihood of winning.
That's all true, but it's not why you come here, is it? No way. You come for Tim's winsome smile, BFD's toothsome visage, and the in-depth analysis that only functional alcoholics with massive egos can provide. I see you straining, baby birds; I'm here to feed you regurgitated worms of football knowledge.
Treating all of those games as equal loses some important context, though. Not to mention, in the year between that post and this one, Pro-Football-Reference.com has added a really cool feature, putting in tons of game information in the box scores dating back to around 2000. So let's take a little deeper look at each game, to the extent we can.
October 11, 1998. Bills-31, Colts-24
Manning's first game against Wade ended in a 7-point loss. Oddly enough, it could have been but a three-point loss, had the Colts connected on two two-point conversions in the fourth quarter. But two early picks from Manning helped put Indy into a 31-12 hole before the Colts scored two late TDs.
November 22, 1998. Bills-34, Colts-11
A two-win Colts team rolled into Buffalo and promptly got trashed pretty handily. Manning completed under 50% of his passes for 164 yards, 1 TD, and 2 INTs. Save for a late TD from Manning to Marvin Harrison (plus a two-point conversion), this would have been even worse. For the second game, Manning was not sacked by the Bills.
September 12, 1999. Colts-31, Bills-14
Manning gets his first win against Wade Phillips, throwing for 284 yards and two TDs. He also throws two picks, however, but so does Doug Flutie. The Bills are again unable to sack Manning.
January 2, 2000. Bills-31, Colts-6
Wade giveth, and Wade taketh away. The 10-5 Bills dominated the 13-2 Colts, putting up three TDs in the first half and never really looking back. Manning managed only 182 yards and no TDs with one INT on the day, though the Bills still did not manage a sack for the fourth straight game.
October 1, 2000. Colts-18, Bills-16
The Bills jumped out to a 9-0 lead, but couldn't hold on as Manning hit Marvin Harrison and Terrence Wilkins to mount a 15-9 lead, ultimately leading to a Mike Vanderjagt game-winner from 45 yards out after a one-minute drive by Manning to put the kicker in position. Manning was again held under 200 yards (187), but he put up two TDs to one INT. The Bills, in the personage of Keith Newman, did finally sack Manning.
December 11, 2000. Colts-44, Bills 20
Neither team came into this as world-beaters. The 7-6 Colts ultimately trounced the 7-6 Bills, but it had much more to do with Indy's running game and Rob Johnson managing to give the Colts terrific field position all day than with Peyton Manning doing much of anything. Manning finished the day with 132 yards passing, with no TDs or INTs, and he was sacked twice. However, Edgerrin James rattled off 111 yards and 3 TDs.
December 14, 2003. Colts-38, Falcons-7
I can't stress enough how bad this Falcons team was. They were 3-10 coming into this game, and Manning torched their horrid secondary for 290 yards, 5 TDs, and no INTs. The Falcons managed a couple of sacks, but otherwise the defense was Frank Bushian, allowing 465 total yards.
December 26, 2004. Colts-34, Chargers-31
Both teams came in at 11-3, and the Chargers jumped out early. Early in the fourth quarter, a LaDainian Tomlinson TD made it 31-16. However, a Dominic Rhodes KO return TD and a Manning-to-Stokely TD pass tied it up, with Vanderjagt winning the game late. Manning threw for 383, with 2 TDs and 1 INT, and he was sacked 4 times.
December 16, 2005. Chargers-26, Colts-17
Almost exactly one year after the previous matchup, the 8-5 Chargers came to Indianapolis to play the 13-0 Colts. Manning managed 336 yards, but only 1 TD to two INTs, and the Chargers scored 10 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to hand Indy their first loss. They also added four sacks of Manning for good measure.
December 5, 2010. Cowboys-38, Colts-35 (OT)
After a hiatus, Peyton against squared off against a Wade Phillips defense in December. The Cowboys came to Indianapolis sporting a 2-8 record, helmed by the ageless (and talentless) Jon Kitna. While they allowed Manning to throw for 365 yards, they held him to two TDs and managed four INTs (two of which were pick-6s). Perhaps most noteworthy, one of those interceptions was by none other than Alan Ball. No, seriously.
Obviously, Peyton the Bronco is different than Peyton the Colt on a number of levels, both in terms of the people around him (other than his ever-present white WR security blanket) and in terms of Peyton himself. So it's not possible to draw any hard and fast conclusions about what will happen on Sunday.
Still, on a macro level, Peyton's track record against Wade is interesting and, if it demonstrates anything (which is debatable) it's that there's certainly room for optimism about the Texans' chances:
- Manning has thrown more TDs than INTs only three times in these games.
- He's been held under 200 yards (4) more times than he's thrown for over 300 yards (3), yet his record is better in the former games (2-2) than in the latter (1-2) (sample-size caveat applies).
- Manning has never beaten Wade when his team was the lesser club (as measured by end-of-year standings), but he's lost three times when the Colts were clearly the better team (wins-as-metric-for-QB-play caveat applies).
- His average line against Wade is 19-35 for 253.9 yards, 1.7 TDs and 1.4 INTs.
The last one is what really jumped out at me. Mainly because, if the Texans hold Manning to that line, I think Houston wins easily. And that would be fun. I like fun things.
1 As noted in the last post, I'm fudging a tiny bit here. Wade was fired before the Cowboys played the Colts in 2009, but the Cowboys did not change their defensive style appreciably once Wade left, so this seemed like a valid game to include.
2 IP attorneys in the crowd excepted, of course.
3 Two interesting things about that link. First, I was pretty close on the Texans' final record in 2011, even if my game-to-game predictions were a little off. Second, the consensus record for the Texans was exactly right. Well done, faceless masses!