Their flights may not be as majestic as those of eagles or falcons but ducks and other waterfowl still manage to get where they're going, even when covering staggering distances. The black brant migrates approximately 3,000 miles from Alaska to Baja California. Pintails originating in Alaska make a roughly 2,000-mile trek to Hawaii for the winter. Still, there is no duck that is watched -- or hunted -- quite like a Peyton Manning pass.
"I do throw ducks," Manning told reporters on Thursday when asked about criticism of his throws made by Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman. "I've thrown a lot of yards and touchdowns ducks. So, I'm actually quite proud of it."
The 37-year-old quarterback's sometimes wobbly passes may not cut as precise and majestic an arc through the skies as those thrown by some of his younger peers with stronger arms, but they always seemed to reach their destinations as the 2013 Denver Broncos became the most prolific passing and scoring offense in NFL history. After Manning threw a record-setting 55 touchdown passes during the regular season, he added four more as the Broncos reached Super Bowl XLVIII. With the Lombardi Trophy on the line, Sherman will be one the players hunting Manning's ducks. Sherman has long had his sights on those passes.
In a column for "The Monday Morning Quarterback" published late in the 2013 season, Sherman ranked Manning as the smartest quarterback in the NFL but questioned his arm strength. Notably, he called him out for throwing "ducks."
What makes him special: When we played Peyton in the preseason, I found a new appreciation for the way he makes adjustments at the line of scrimmage; he controls the protections, and if he sees the blitz coming he slides it. The thing that sets him apart is that he’ll change it to a run play if you don’t have enough players in the box, and they’ll get five or six yards because you’re not ready for it. Nobody else has both the authority to do that within their offense and the understanding to know when it’s appropriate.
His arm, however, is another story. His passes will be accurate and on time, but he throws ducks.
Asked about those comments during Super Bowl week, Sherman stood by his assessment, including the positive aspects.
"He's a great quarterback," Sherman said. "He does a great job. At the same time, when he catches the ball, he doesn't necessarily catch the laces all the time. But he throws an accurate ball regardless of how he catches it, how he gets it. He delivers it on time and accurately."
When asked about Sherman's comments on Thursday, Manning did not disagree with the scouting report.
"They say he's a smart player," Manning said. "I don't think that's a real reach, what he's saying there."