D-Gaps: defenses lying in wait for Manning

Following a stretch of near-flawless football to start the season in which he led the league in touchdown-interception differential and was among the NFL’s top-rated quarterbacks through eight weeks, Peyton Manning is in the midst of arguably the worst slump of his Hall-of-Fame career.

Peyton Manning

ManningDuring the Indianapolis Colts' current three-game losing streak, their first in a single season since 2002, Manning ranks 19th in the NFL with a passer rating of 77.7, or one spot behind Jake Delhomme. His league-leading 11 interceptions over that span are more than he threw in any season from 2003-06.

Injuries to some of his favorite targets and the lack of anything resembling a running game are certainly factors in Manning’s recent struggles, but how have NFL defenses contributed to Peyton’s rough run?

One of the most shocking developments during Manning’s recent slump has been how seemingly unconcerned defenses are with getting him on the ground. In his last three games, Manning has been sacked once and hit just nine times.

In consecutive losses to the Patriots, Chargers and Cowboys, Manning has been blitzed on only 14.1% of his dropbacks, nearly half the rate defenses sent five or more rushers after him in the Colts first nine games of the season (27.3%). Of the league’s 31 quarterbacks who have at least 50 pass attempts over the last three weeks, none has been blitzed less frequently than Manning (Shaun Hill is next closest at 15.3%, no one else is below 20%).

In a league where defenses blitz on roughly one-third of passing plays, it’s no accident that teams are repeatedly dropping extra bodies into coverage vs Manning and the Colts over the last three weeks -- and having tremendous success doing it.

Four picks can’t keep Bills from 10th loss

The Buffalo Bills fell to 2-10 for just the second time in the last 25 seasons Sunday despite recording a season-high four interceptions in a 38-14 loss to the Minnesota Vikings.

Worst Losses in Game Since Merger
With Four or More Interceptions

The Bills are the third team to lose this season despite picking off four passes, but a 24-point loss in such a game is far less common. The Bills' margin of defeat is the fourth largest for a team that registered four or more interceptions in a game since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970. Prior to Sunday, no team had lost by 24 or more points in a game where they intercepted four or more passes since 1980.

All Hail Hali

With two sacks in the Kansas City Chiefs 10-6 win over the Denver Broncos on Sunday, Tamba Hali became the eighth player in Chiefs history to record double-digit sacks in a season and first since Jared Allen in 2007.

Hali also reached another benchmark previously achieved by Allen, becoming the only player in the league this season with at least 10 sacks and two or more fumble recoveries. Allen, James Harrison and Clay Matthews were the only players in the NFL to reach those levels in 2009.