Manning makes most of limited yards

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Peyton Manning had modest traditional stats Sunday but broke the 90 barrier in Total QBR.Peyton Manning passed for 230 yards Sunday in the Denver Broncos’ 24-17 victory over the San Diego Chargers in the NFL Divisional Playoffs. Manning’s passing yards were his second-fewest of the season. But Manning piled up those yards when it counted the most, leading to a milestone Total QBR for the Broncos quarterback.

Manning’s final statistics (25 of 36 passing, two touchdowns, one interception) might not seem like the high-flying numbers fans got used to during his record-breaking regular season, but the circumstances surrounding his big plays helped him post a career playoff-best 91.1 Total QBR.

Most 90+ Total QBR Games

Since 2006, includes playoffs

In the first quarter, Manning completed 7 of 9 passes for 71 yards and one touchdown, helping the Broncos build their 7-0 lead; his Total QBR was 98.9. By halftime, Manning had thrown for 100 yards, two touchdowns and one interception, completing 11 of 16 throws and leading the Broncos to a 17-0 lead; his Total QBR was 90.4.

The Broncos held a double-digit lead until there was 3:53 left in the fourth quarter, making Manning’s second-half performance less relevant than the plays he made in the first half. His Total QBR did not drop below 85 after his first completion, with 8:41 left in the first quarter.

Manning has the most games (including the postseason) of 90+ QBR since 2006 – and it’s not close. Sunday’s game was his first in the postseason with a QBR that high in the eight seasons for which ESPN has QBR data.

Panthers go nowhere inside the 10

The Carolina Panthers’ offense was locked down inside the San Francisco 49ers’ 10-yard line in the 49ers' 23-10 victory. The Panthers’ offense contributed -9.5 expected points, the Panthers’ worst showing in that part of the field in the eight seasons of ESPN’s data set.

The Panthers rushed the ball four times from the 49ers’ 1-yard line, getting stopped all four times for a combined loss of one yard, including one failed fourth-down attempt in the first quarter. In all, the Panthers ran eight offensive plays inside the 10-yard line and came away with three points.

Expected points reflect strength of Patriots’ rushing game

As if six touchdowns weren’t impressive enough, the New England Patriots on Saturday had the second-greatest expected points of any team’s rushing game in a playoff game since 2006. LeGarrette Blount (four touchdowns) and Stevan Ridley (two) powered the Patriots’ offense against the Indianapolis Colts, combining for 38 rushes and 218 yards. The Patriots’ rushing game added 12.2 expected points, the team’s best rushing EPA in a playoff game since 2006 (their previous best was 4.2).

Brady posts high QBR despite no TD

The Patriots’ win over the Colts on Saturday marked the fourth time in 25 postseason games that Tom Brady did not throw a touchdown pass. Brady posted a 75.1 Total QBR, the greatest mark for any quarterback without a touchdown pass in a playoff game. He completed six of his nine third-down pass attempts, all completions for first downs, including five on touchdown drives.

Compared with Brady’s 66.7 percent conversion rate, the Colts’ Andrew Luck (7 of 14 third-down passing) posted a 42.9 percent conversion rate. The regular-season league average was 39 percent.

Wilson's low QBR doesn't stop Seahawks

Russell Wilson had a 25.9 Total QBR on Saturday against the New Orleans Saints, the second-worst rating in a playoff victory in the last five seasons. Wilson completed nine of 18 passes for a career-low 103 yards. He was sacked three times and averaged 5.7 yards per attempt. Wilson also owns the third-worst Total QBR in a playoff victory, posting a 36.0 QBR in a win against the Washington Redskins last year.

The Seahawks’ special teams added 7.6 expected points to their net scoring margin, their highest total in a playoff game since 2006, helping them overcome Wilson’s low QBR. Steven Hauschka hit three field goals, including a 49-yard kick. The Seahawks had an average starting field position of their own 33-yard line and held the Saints to a starting field position of their 25-yard line.