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Is Peyton Manning a choker?

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For a quarterback that has won the NFL MVP a record four times, and is favorite to win it a fifth time this season, how is it that Peyton Manning has only one Super Bowl ring?

Manning has a worse passing rating in the post-season than in the regular season, which may point to the fact that he can't handle the pressure in big moments.

On a wet evening in Miami February 4th 2007, Manning finally got that elusive World Championship ring for the first time. Considering the fact that 'The Sheriff' has been down the play-off road 12 times before this season, maybe it's a lack of quality play in clutch moments that has hindered Manning, proving a 'choker' status.

Alternatively, it could simply be circumstantial for him, with big-game defeats not necessarily falling on his head, and happening because of mistakes by team-mates.

Lets just remember that one of the most successful QB's in recent times, Ben Rothlisberger, who has won two rings, has been a relatively poor performer overall in the post-season, with a 22.4 passer rating in his first SB win.

So, is Manning a choker then? His post-season stats certainly suggest he's not as comfortable in big moments compared with his regular season stats. The four-time NFL MVP has a regular season passer rating of 97.3 compared with a 88.4 for the play-offs.

Manning has more interceptions in the post-season than games played. However, so does Rothlisberger, who known for is clutch play in the 4th quarter.

Taking a look at some of Manning's most famous play-off defeats in his career, there are certainly two ways to look at them overall.

It's clear that in 2003 and 2004 seasons New England Patriots had his number as they forced five interceptions from him as he lost twice. His completion rate in his first ever AFC Championship Game was even below 50%.

Those mistakes aren't just prevalent in the earlier stages of Manning's career, with a crucial interception thrown late on in the Colts 31-17 defeat to New Orleans in the SB XLIV as the Saints' Tracy Porter sealed the game with a 71-yard return.

However, as we delve into the stats that define the other years of Manning's play-off record, there are more circumstantial reasons for him losing, even if his play had been mixed.

In the 2005 season the Colts destroyed opponents on their way to a 14-2 record, but they were dealt a devastating defeat by Pittsburgh at home in Divisional play-offs.

On this occasion Manning had a passer rating of 90.9, but it was a missed 46-yard field-goal by the usually reliable Mike Vanderjack that meant the Colts couldn't take the game to over-time.

Yet again, in the Colts back to back defeats to San Diego in the post-season, his rating was above 90, although there were two interceptions that blighted the January 2008 encounter.

And lets not forget last season, where it took the now famous 'Mile High Miracle' 70 yard TD reception by Jacoby Jones to see the game to OT, despite the fact that Manning's new team Denver should have been home and dry.

A QB at the end of the day can't simply be labelled as a 'clutch' player or a 'choker'. However, they can be labelled as a player that has provided many clutch moments or choked regularly in their career.

So far Manning probably has had more choker moments in his post-season career than that of a clutch nature.

But, that's not to say that when his career at Denver and in the NFL is over, the great QB can't overturn that scale with an Indian summer of play with the Broncos - just as his boss Jon Elway did in the 90's, which started at the age of 37 - the same age as Manning is now.

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NFL Playoffs
Denver Broncos
Peyton Manning
Indianapolis Colts

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