Kelley L Cox/USA TODAY Sports
Kelley L Cox/USA TODAY Sports

A Backward Pass at Manning’s Record

Why the NFL must give the single-season passing record back to Drew Brees ... plus responding to readers’ questions. Yes, Browns fans, you can have hope

The NFL has an interesting statistical dilemma on its hands on the final day of 2013. Should Peyton Manning own the single-season record for passing yards? We call this column “On Further Review,” and that’s exactly what I did on Tuesday morning to see whether Manning should have the record.

Late in the first quarter of Denver’s final regular-season game against Oakland on Sunday, Manning threw a seven-yard pass to Eric Decker, who was lined up tight in the left slot and caught a quick bubble screen. The statisticians working the game ruled it a forward pass. And so when Manning reached halftime with a 31-0 lead, the Broncos thought he had 266 passing yards—good for 5,477 on the season, one more than Drew Brees had in 2011. With such a commanding lead and the desire to get backup quarterback Brock Osweiler some game competition, coach John Fox removed Manning. On Sunday night and Monday, Manning was congratulated for breaking the record.

But legitimate questions have surfaced about that quick throw to Decker. Was it backward pass? A lateral? If so, the play should have gone down as a seven-yard run for Decker—not a seven-yard completion for Manning. If the league were to change it retroactively, Manning’s season passing yards would be reduced to 5,469. And Brees would still own the record by six yards.

I went to the video on Tuesday, calling up the Broncos-Raiders game on NFL Game Rewind, and watched the play in question eight times. It’s a close call. Manning appears to throw the ball approximately one yard backward to Decker, who catches it and runs seven yards past the line of scrimmage before being stopped.

On all plays regarding statistical questions, the NFL’s statistician, the Elias Sports Bureau, reviews the plays and recommends either a change in what the game stat men ruled, or no change at all. As of 11 a.m. ET on Tuesday, the play was in Elias’s hands. I spoke to a league official late Tuesday morning and there is no timetable on when, or if, a change will be made. I believe that Elias and the league should take the pass completion away and make it a run. That’s what it was; that’s the way I see it.

There are two things the NFL will have to wrestle with here:

Surely the Broncos will argue that the statisticians on site told them that Manning had 266 yards at halftime. Had Denver known Manning was short of the record, it’s very likely that Fox would have kept him in the game to get the record in the third quarter. So the team will rightfully be angry if the yardage is taken away.

There is little question that Manning would have broken the record had he played an additional series in the third quarter. Taking it away from him seems in some ways unfair.

I understand both of those points. But the fact is, records should not be manipulated based on would-haves and could-haves. Either Manning broke the record, or he didn’t. Every week, sacks are added and subtracted, and rushing and passing yards are adjusted based on mistakes made by press-box statisticians. A mistake was made here. It’s a shame in many ways, because Manning appeared to have broken the record—and he no doubt would have padded the numbers had the Broncos known that one of his passing plays would be reviewed by Elias.

But, the way I see it, I don’t believe the league can just say that Manning would have had the record anyway, so let’s just give it to him. I think the league needs to take seven yards away from Manning and hand the record back to Drew Brees.

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Now on to your email …

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350 comments
Bigred67
Bigred67

Mr. King's Patriot bias displays itself again.

JahliSuwaghaman
JahliSuwaghaman

I respect Mr. Kings opinion but, I have a feeling that if Manning played for his beloved Patriots that this article would have the opposite suggestion. 

leehwgoc
leehwgoc

The ruling on the field was the ruling on the field, and the Broncos made the decision to pull Manning because they (quite justifiably) trusted that ruling.


Reversing it after the fact would be totally unjust.  It's unfortunate, but Manning *has* to keep the record.  Doing otherwise would set a dangerous precedent, frankly, and King is straight up failing at his job to not see that himself.

Sportsfan39
Sportsfan39

It would be completely unfair to Manning to reverse the ruling.  He and the Broncos relied on the ruling when they decided when he would leave the game.  If the ruling had been different he would have remained in for another 3 downs and eclipsed the record by  even more.  It's Manning's reliance interest here that is key. He relied on the fact that it was recorded that he broke the record and left the field on that basis.  He should keep the record.  

hulakai
hulakai

What a ridiculous piece of self righteous crap Peter. Aren't you the noble one with your grandfatherly opinion on what is right. Instead of trying to create a buzz with your column by promoting the controversial idea of taking the record away from Manning, you should be admonishing the NFL for letting game outcomes be determined by terrible officiating and then telling the teams that were screwed (see Pittsburgh Stealers) to suck it up the next morning while still reserving the perverse liberty to alter....ooops sorry, I mean "correct".... bad stats the next day. Officials don't get to fix their mistakes, why should statisticians? It's the most hypocritical thing the NFL does, and that's saying something considering how many hypocritical things the NFL does every year. EVERY sports has dubious records and missed stats, why should the NFL be different? I guarantee that there is a running stat somewhere this year that should have been a pass, but no one noticed that because it wasn't for a record. Total BS. I hope Manning never gives you another interview.... because you KNOW he read this piece of trash.

I used to like your work.... until a few years ago when you started getting dramatic and sensational.

RJBush
RJBush

You could probably go back through the entire season and find 20 or 30 yards that wasn't credited to him anyway. Or go back through Brees' season and subtract 7 yards from his total. The only fair thing to do is to go with what is done onsite in the stadium because decisions were made based on the only info they had at the time. 

everettma8165
everettma8165

What a joke...if this was Bready or Brees and Manning held the record, that play which was a lateral, would be over turned....

Sack60
Sack60

Some argue, "He would have broken the record anyway, if he had played in the second half". How does anyone know that would have happened. What if, Manning comes out in the first series of the second half, gets sacked and suffers a concussion on the first play... out for the rest of the game. That's why you play to the end of the game of live with the consequences of not doing so. I realize that with just a snap or two in the second half, he probably would have broken the record. But the fact remains, the NFL MUST be consistent in the things it can get correct. If they aren't able to field a group of officials that can call even half the plays correctly, then fix what you can. I bet Drew Brees would like to see it corrected...

nypd2726
nypd2726

I've never had that much respect for your thoughts in the past. This dumb piece lends credence to that....

GhettoSamurai
GhettoSamurai

Oh shut up you big baby.  It is a game that means NOTHING but whatever importance YOU have attatched to it.  Is it fair?

Better question, is it fair that some weight room meatballs get paid millions to throw around a ball?  


Who in their right mind cares about that stupid "record"?

rckymtn4
rckymtn4

When Fox took him out at the start of the third quarter I thought it might come back to bite him. Frequently yardage statistics are adjusted after the game because a play might be a yard longer or shorter than recorded, in addition to lateral/forward pass issues. To leave Manning with just a one-yard margin of error was stupid. As usual Fox jumped into a needless controversy feet first.

Joebuckster
Joebuckster

"But the fact is, records should not be manipulated based on would-haves and could-haves. Either Manning broke the record, or he didn’t."


He did. We all watched Manning throw a pass to Decker, and we all witnessed him breaking the record. The scorekeepers saw it too, and called it a pass. So now we put it under a microscope a week later and say that it didn't happen? I don't think so. The only manipulating would be to take it away. The ruling on the field SHOULD STAND.

dfo8131
dfo8131

Its amazing to me that so many people are saying let the record stand. If reviewing plays and adjusting numbers is something that is done after each and every game why should this be treated differently for Manning? Then I see many people saying "Oh, lets go back and change this or that". That is what they do. And what about the player who ran the 7 yards? His yards were unjustly given to Manning just so he can have the record. Its the team's fault not to play him in the 2nd half so the argument that he "would have" broken the record should not matter. 

charles31
charles31

Had it been any other regular season game with no record on the line, or even if it had been on this last game of the season but having the record surpassed even after taking this pass away, I would have reversed it. But now, NO. The only reasons to keep Manning from playing in the 2nd half were because the record was his, because the game had pretty much been decided with no implications on playoff seedings, and to save him for the playoffs. If this had been called a lateral, he could have easily gone back into the game and made a few more completions just to break the record. So now, NO....to penalize Manning by taking away a well deserved record, because the scorers made a mistake....NO.

ozsportsdude
ozsportsdude

As much as I dislike Peyton for his me me me attitude to football and his love of stats, and as much as I would love for a player in love with his own stats as Peyton to have this record taken from him, I still believe it would be unfair to do it, unless you went through every single Drew Brees pass from his record setting year to check that none of them had a slightly backwards pass in them that credited the yards to Brees

pirate
pirate

Ah, of course. There's two sets of rules – the one that governs everyone else in the NFL, and the special rule for Peyton. I'll bet that makes him feel very special.

Joebuckster
Joebuckster

The NFL's biggest mistake was letting hack journalists like King know about the supposed controversy. Not a single person who watched the game left thinking the record was anyone's but Manning's. Now they've created a double asterisk: everyone knows that Manning would have stayed in to beat the record making Bree's ownership of it a sham, and now they may also believe that Manning's isn't legit. All of this turns on a quarter of a yard of what was ostensibly a pass but was actually a 'run' on the slightest technicality. The record is Manning's, and deservedly so. If the NFL wants to keep it's credibility on issues such as monumental records, it should either hire a crew to assess the plays real time, or abandon the revisionist history exercise altogether.

PopeEggs
PopeEggs

Sure, sounds fair.  Let's go back and view every one of Brees throws to make sure he actually had as many yards as they gave him. 

Delegator
Delegator

Yeah, let's take away that record. And let's put Pittsburgh int he playoffs because the Chiefs were denied a re-take on their potential game winner that would have knocked SD out of the playoffs. And let's go back and review the tape from all the pre-replay years to take away catches that weren't…maybe the Immaculate Reception will be overturned.


Sure, records should not be manipulated by would haves or could haves. We also shouldn't be changing the rules after the fact. Especially for something as trivial as a yardage record.

Fifilo
Fifilo

Of course it's not fair.


But that's the NFL,different teams and different players do have different rules. It's like pro wrestling and savvy fans know this.

George
George

First off - passing (yardage) records mean nothing today.  Only wins and Super bowl wins matter.


2nd - Manning sat out the whole SECOND HALF.   How many useless yds could he have piled on the raiders if he had merely played a couple drives in the 3rd quarter?


Super Bowl wins matter.  Wins matter.  TDs sort of matter.  Yards, not so much.



And Manning's right - Brady (or someone else) will probably top it in less that a couple years.


TEMPEST in a TEAPOT.

Thomas15
Thomas15

"Is it fair?" ……..it's a lot more fair than brady's records which were accomplished and are STILL being accomplished with E-R-N-I-E A-D-A-M-S in brady's ear past the 15 second limit and most likely even past the snap. Manning's accomplishments are even more impressive when you consider they were done fairly and without any unfair advantage provided by technology and a healthy contempt for the rules. 

Rexal Parshapswich
Rexal Parshapswich

You know if this was Brady and the pats ole reliable New Englander Peter King would be arguing that Brady should keep the record. King has become a joke and his selling out is complete.

David G
David G

Is it Fair that SI keeps this as one of their top stories?  It was first posted 24 hours ago.  Time to let it properly age and disappear from the "top stories" even if it came from the MMQB page. 

JeffMuetz
JeffMuetz

well..when  you read the report from Elias...one view makes it look like a lateral...but the other makes it look like a forward pass.  Just like any review...unless there's clear incontrovertible proof (which there wasn't!) the ruling on the field stands..and its 7 yards.  I'm sure Drew got a few close one's that way too. 

sptsguy12345
sptsguy12345

BTW, even when the NFL admits the day after that a call was blown that affected the results of the game… they don't play the game over and they don't reverse the results.  This is no different.   

sptsguy12345
sptsguy12345

Slippery slope unless you want to get into endlessly analyzing calls, judgements etc,,, all in slow motion… somewhere in Denver, some ardent fan has all of the games this year saved and are probably prepared to "conclusively" prove that Manning actually passed for 300 yards more than what the data says… denied because of bad spots, botched calls etc… Lets celebrate a great accomplishment  from a nice guy and not go down that path.   

Joe10
Joe10

As a New Orleans Saints Fan and a Drew Brees fan, I say the record should stand. It would be nitpicking to change it after the game when it should have been caught during the game. Secondly, it gives Brees a goal for passing yardage next year.

cyric29
cyric29

@leehwgoc

A dangerous precedent?  You mean like the exact precedent that has been in effect for years and years as Elias reviews every game every week---for exactly this reason, statisticians at games make mistakes.

Failing is what your teachers did when they taught you reading comprehension.  

leehwgoc
leehwgoc

@everettma8165 


You're actually trying to pretend Tom Brady enjoys *less* media favor than Manning?  Are you freaking kidding me?  A clue:  get one.

cyric29
cyric29

@Joebuckster Like they do for every single rush, pass attempt, sack....yes it should have been put under a microscope, as has been the policy of the NFL.   Perhaps you missed:  "On all plays regarding statistical questions, the NFL’s statistician, the Elias Sports Bureau, reviews the plays and recommends either a change in what the game stat men ruled, or no change at all."

Scramble
Scramble

@charles31So you penalize the running back for their mistake, if it was a mistake at all. Maybe they did it on purpose to protect him and get him out of the game for more revenue during the playoffs. First game Welker dropped a third down pass against the Ravens. Everybody knew he dropped the pass yet the officials called it good. Before the Ravens could throw a flag Manning hurries up to the line and snaps the ball and throws a touchdown. So he gets credit for all those yards as well as a touchdown on something we all knew as kids as cheating. That single pl,ay turned the tide of the whole game and took the lead and the ball out of the Ravens hands in the second half. That wasn't the first time the officials made a biased call for the Broncos in that game. The Ravens had to challenge a pass caught off the ground by the tight end that was called a catch. It looked like the officials were instructed to use up the Ravens challenge flags because they were still pissed that the Ravens denied them of a Brady/Manning AFC playoff game last year. The Ravens were playing tight and beating the Broncos when Welker dropped that pass, sort of like when the NFL turned the lights out during a super bowl blowout. Does Manning deserve the record,NO, but will he get to keep it, yes. Now tell me what does that teach our children.

leehwgoc
leehwgoc

@ozsportsdude  


"me me me attitude to football and his love of stats"


This is pure fantasy.  Where you do you clowns get your ridiculous make believe ideas?  You'll have to  go back to Vanderjagt to find the last time Manning ever said anything but respect for a teammate, and as for stats, you're talking about a guy that has sat out the majority of the Week 17s of his career, foregoing who knows how many extra TDs to his career totals.  Literally probably 30+ possible TDs.  'Love of stats', huh?  /smh

Frotoon
Frotoon

All plays are reviewed by Elias/NFL after every game. In other words, all of Brees' passes from his record setting year have already been looked at.

leehwgoc
leehwgoc

@pirate No, only Brady has own personal rule.  Manning sure wishes he had something like the Tuck Rule, though, since that effectively bought Brady one of his rings.


But I guess I'm not supposed to point this out, because Tommy is a darling of the east coast media centers, whereas Peyton has annoying only ever played for boring cities with low media profiles.

Fifilo
Fifilo

@JoebucksterI am sure the NFL would love to control what is said at CNN & SI the way it controls ESPN.

pirate
pirate

@PopeEggs Which they did. Under the rules that govern everyone else, every play of every game is reviewed by Elias Sports Bureau. (As you'd have known if you actually read the article.) It's only Peyton that that doesn't apply to. Next season, to simplify things, they'll just let Peyton tell officials after the game how many yards and touchdown he passed for. It'll be much simpler that way.

luisrha
luisrha

@PopeEggs  they already did; they make this review for all games in all weeks and there are a few corrections every time, it's just that when a correction is made almost never is something really relevant, except for Fantasy leagues

RescuedfromESPN
RescuedfromESPN

@Fifilo 

1. It wasn't indisputable.

2. I highly doubt that they would intentionally give the record to peyton over brees because of star power, considering that Brees is just as, if not more of a superstar than Manning.

3. Who cares? The way this league is going 5000+ will be the new 4000 in 15-20 years, and it's not like Manning especially cares about having the record. All he (or any player like him in the NFL.) cares about is winning, and if he sets records on the way, so be it.

RescuedfromESPN
RescuedfromESPN

@Thomas15 Ah yes, the old Ernie Adams BS. There's no evidence to suggest that the Pats ever broke the rules other than the game against the Jets. Before 2007, all the taping was legal. The whole "2nd frequency" crap is unsubstantiated, and using Occam's Razor, it is most likely untrue.

JohnCuevas
JohnCuevas

@sptsguy12345 THEY REVIEW EVERY GAME, EVERY WEEK.  There is no slippery slope---this is done not by fans calling in, but Elias CONTRACTED by the NFL.  You are an idiot.

brucemcfarlandoncins1
brucemcfarlandoncins1

I agree as well. In addition, I bet we could go back to Drew's record and find a pass or two that were actually runs. So be it. Drew can try for it again next year.

leehwgoc
leehwgoc

@Scramble @charles31 Considering Manning could've shattered the record by 150 more yards if he hadn't been pulled, it's cute that you pretend he doesn't 'deserve' the record.  The truth is plainly the obvious.


I also think its cute that you pretend the Ravens would've had a chance in Week 1 if only for a single Welker pass.  It was a blow-out, you dunce.  If the game felt 'tight' at any point (and it didn't, except in your own imagination), it was only a temporary reality of the scoreboard in a game that had only just started.  

leehwgoc
leehwgoc

@RescuedfromESPN @Thomas15


/facepalm


"There's no evidence to suggest that the Pats ever broke the rules other than the game against the Jets."


So there's no evidence to suggest that the Pats ever broke the rules... except for that game in which they broke the rules.


...


Please don't cite occam's razor, you have no business pretending to be logical.

leehwgoc
leehwgoc

@RescuedfromESPN @Rexal Parshapswich 


You know after Week 4 King wrote an article trying to argue that Brady was having a better season than Manning?  This was when Brady was averaging barely 200 yards and a single TD a game.


King may or may not *additionally* have 'man-love' for Favre, but it's a well documented fact that he keeps a shrine to Tom Brady in his closet.

George
George

@RescuedfromESPN @Rexal Parshapswich  Yup.  Wait till lil' Abner favre's up for HOF induction.  It will get sickening, the man-loving.  They should get a room and consummate it  (if they haven't already)  - 

:D


mike202
mike202

@brucemcfarlandoncins1 


I bet you couldn't.  Elias has already gone over his completions and adjusted the yardage to what it should be.

Rexal Parshapswich
Rexal Parshapswich

Just as Elias did in this case. I guess the point the poster was making is that if you'd closely at all of Bree's yards you could find a bunch of close calls. But since they didn't happen in the last game there is no controversy.

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