There's no point in sugar coating it:
The Colts would have won each of their last three losses if Peyton Manning had played better.
That's not to place all the blame on him, but against three elite teams (and the Chargers are statistically there), Manning made a series of ill advised throws.
Is he under pressure? Yes. Are his receivers letting him down? Yes.
Are the picks still his fault? Many of them, yes.
Last night, the Colts opened the game with a textbook first drive. The team came in well prepared and ready to play. They had a workable game plan on offense and defense. The coaches had 100% done their job.
Then, with a 7-3 lead, Peyton Manning threw a TERRIBLE interception. Was he under some rush? Sure. But the truth is that Manning is pressing. He is playing like the weight of the world is on his shoulders, and if he doesn't lead the offense to a touchdown on every drive, they'll lose the game. He's not throwing the ball away on third down. He's not living to fight another day.
The defense allowed 22 points to a great offense despite constantly facing short fields. If you had told me the D was going to hold the Chargers to 22, I would have been sure the Colts would win.
I fully recognize that the second pick wasn't Manning's fault. He was spun around as he threw (thanks Charlie Johnson!). The third pick was the result of an egregious no call, but it was also a stupid throw that didn't look like it had much chance of being completed. Manning is playing like the 2001/2002 Peyton Manning who knew he had to throw constantly and tossed up a lot of interceptions.
There are tons of issues with this team. It's amazing how the line has fallen apart since the loss of the two tight ends and Addai. This line was getting a lot of help from Addai, Eldrige, and Clark. Losing all three of them (not to mention Collie), has exposed the tackles as woefully inadequate (euphemism for "turnstiles to hell").
The switch to Linkenbach has also made the line visibly worse. The wideouts continue to under-perform. Garcon mostly played outstanding, but still blew a deep ball by inexplicably slowing up. Meanwhile Reggie Wayne had one of the worst nights of his career. Blair White, while scrappy simply is not fast enough to stretch the defense vertically up the seam.
No, he's not getting any help, but none of that changes the fact that if Manning simply throws the ball away on the first pick of the game, the whole game unfolds differently. Beyond that, his second pick six (which looked like it came on the same route as the first one) was another low percentage throw. Pass interference or not, it wasn't a good decision.
Manning's problem is that he's trying to do too much. The Colts have needed perfection from him, and he hasn't delivered.
- I'm blown away that people blame the coaches for that game. The game plan was sound on offense (throw short to TEs/RBs). The game plan was sound on defense (force long drives, bog them down in the redzone). I thought it was one of the better coached games of the season actually.
- I'll write about the line tomorrow. Basically, my suspicion is that they aren't playing any worse than they had all year. The Colts have just lost too many 'helpers' in pass protection. We'll explore it later.
- Explain to me how Rivers can be the MVP with a defense that good. Rivers and Brady both passed for under 200 yards against the Colts and both won. Having a run game is fun!
- The NFL needs another illegal contact point of emphasis. Officials are back to not calling contact they feel is incidental. That's two weeks in a row that they've let a lot of flaggable offenses go. That goes both ways, by the way. The Colts D is getting some of those calls too. Rules should be called the way they are written. If the NFL wants to allow contact, fine. They should write the rules to allow for it.
- Blair White is not Austin Collie. He is visibly slower on the field. He had a nice touchdown catch on a short route, and there are things he does very well, but the offense is missing a dimension when he's out there.
- Indy has the worst special teams in football. That debate is over.
- Funny how those call Javarris James to get more carries have calmed down. Don Brown is playing well, and had success on early carries, but this line is just terrible at everything.
- Mathis and Freeney were 'quiet' statistically, but they were getting pressure and forcing throws. The D played outstanding. There are still some coverage issues over the middle, but with two rookie LBs, what do you expect?
- I love how the Chargers have completely rebuilt their defense and have a completely new defensive coordinator from 2007, the narrative was how Manning struggles against this look. IT'S NOT THE SAME LOOK. It's not the same players. It's not the same coaches. It's just laundry. Lazy job all night by Collinsworth and Michaels.
- The sky is not falling. If this team loses to Dallas, then the sky will have fallen. Then we'll look back at the Pats game as the last stand of the Colts. This team is still winning 11 games, which by the way is guaranteed to win the South. They should get better with a few more bodies. This was a depressing loss, but not a crushing one.