- Peyton Manning
- Denver Broncos
- Broncos 31, Bengals 23
- 27-for-35, 291 YD, 3 TD, 2 INT
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- Andrew Luck
- Indianapolis Colts
- Colts 23, Dolphins 20
- 30-for-48, 433 YD, 2 TD, 0 INT
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The Pregame Pressure
Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos faced a lot of pressure heading into Sunday's game against a desperate Cincinnati Bengals squad that had jumped out to a 3-1 start before dropping three straight games. The Bengals sorely needed a win to stay in contention in the AFC North, and would be throwing one of the NFL's top pass-rushing defensive fronts at Manning. (Cincy entered the matchup with 23 total sacks.) The Broncos needed to win this game to stay alone atop the AFC West.
Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts also faced plenty of pressure heading into Sunday's game against the Miami Dolphins. The two young AFC squads entered with identical 4-3 records, and the matchup had potential playoff implications. The Dolphins arrived in Indianapolis having won three straight games, holding each opponent to 14 points or less. Miami also boasts a disruptive pass rush, and had collected 22 sacks on the season prior to Sunday. Finally, Luck faced the added emotional pressure of performing with head coach Chuck Pagano in attendance, following his recent cancer treatments.
The In-Game Performance
Manning put together another impressive performance in the Broncos' 31-23 road victory over the Bengals, completing 77.1 percent of his passes for 291 yards and three touchdowns (while giving up two interceptions). He helped the Broncos convert nine of their 14 third-down opportunities and led two key fourth-quarter touchdown drives to seal the win. He did all of his damage without getting much assistance from the Broncos' run game, which produced just 68 rushing yards.
Luck had the best game of his young career on Sunday afternoon, completing 62.5 percent of his passes for an NFL rookie-record 433 yards and two touchdowns. He helped the Colts convert a whopping 13 of 19 third-down opportunities and completed five or more passes to four different receivers. He led a game-winning drive that culminated in a 43-yard Adam Vinatieri field goal with six minutes remaining in the contest.
The Post-Game Pick
Manning would be my choice for MVP if the season ended today, but Luck had the more impressive Week 9 performance. His passing yardage was remarkable, but his work on third downs really stood out. He continually avoided pass rushers, found the open receiver and delivered accurate passes. Also, despite putting the ball in the air 48 times, he avoided turning it over. It's very rare to see a rookie quarterback carry a team the way Luck did on Sunday. He was the clear winner in this faceoff. -- Daniel Jeremiah