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Robinson: Cold, hard truth about Manning

| Saturday, Nov. 30, 2013, 11:00 p.m.
Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning reacts to a dropped pass in the fourth quarter against the Patriots on Sunday, Nov. 24, 2013, in Foxborough, Mass.

Peyton Manning must be thinking: Why did the NFL pick this season of all seasons, when I'm 37 and nearing the end of my career, to play a cold-weather Super Bowl?

The Denver Broncos' startling 34-31 loss at New England last week in which they couldn't hold a 24-0 halftime lead once again exposed Manning's Achilles' heel — or, perhaps more precisely, his Achilles' arm — just as the playoffs are approaching.

Cold, cold weather.

Much was made of Manning's inability to win in chilly weather (it was 22 degrees in Foxborough, Mass., with wind gusts in the high 20s), and the most-cited statistic is his 8-13 record in games played in temperatures of 40 degrees or less.

But as Pittsburghers know, 40 degrees in December can feel like a balmy day if there's no wind. So the Tribune-Review checked out how Manning does in very cold conditions — not 40 degrees with no wind but, for example, 27 degrees with a significant breeze.

The numbers are somewhat startling — and no doubt worrisome — for Manning given the outside possibility of a January rematch at New England and, of course, the outdoor Super Bowl in New Jersey. Or another game like the 12-degree playoff game against the Baltimore Ravens in Denver last season.

A search of Manning's career reveals he is 3-9 — 0-4 in the playoffs — in games played with a game-time temperature of 34 degrees or below. Those games were played at various stages of his career in venues such as New England (he's 0-2 there in such games), Cleveland, Buffalo, New York and, yes, Denver.

He is 272 of 462 for 2,747 yards (58.9 percent), 12 touchdowns and 20 interceptions in those games with a 64.7 passer rating. By contrast, his career completion percentage is 65.4 with a 96.7 passer rating. In those four very cold-weather playoff games, he has four TD passes and nine interceptions.

Part of the reason for Manning's big falloff in ultra-cold weather (he is 2-8 when it is 32 degrees or below) might be the infrequency with which he has played such games. From 2002-10, he played only four games under that scenario.

Tom Brady, by contrast, is 23-5 when the temperature is freezing or below.

“(Cold weather) is always a possibility these last months of the season,” Manning said. “And then you're potentially in the postseason, so I think the more you can be in it, the better off you are.”

The cold, hard facts are Manning is almost unbeatable in hot weather but a below-average quarterback in the cold.

With the Indianapolis Colts from 1998-10, Manning played in 12 games with a game-time temperature of 81 or above. He won each of those games, throwing 25 touchdown passes and seven interceptions. With the Broncos, Manning is 2-1 with 11 touchdown passes and no interceptions. His career record in hot weather is 14-1 with 36 touchdowns and seven interceptions.

Think Manning wishes the Super Bowl was in Miami?

Alan Robinson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at arobinson@tribweb.com or via Twitter @arobinson_Trib.

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