It’s been interesting to watch just how much things have changed for the Colts over the course of the season, because we’ve witnessed a progression in how the greatness of QB Peyton Manning can overshadow other issues on his team. And I mean that in the most positive sense.
When injuries first bore down on the Colts, there was no TE Dallas Clark or WRs Anthony Gonzalez. WR Austin Collie was in and out of the lineup and even WR Pierre Garcon was dinged up. But we witnessed the emergence of TE Jacob Tamme and the Blair White Project, and everybody was loving it. There was more of a running game with Joseph Addai, Manning had time to throw and the consensus was he making this group better.
Fast forward a few weeks, and everything has changed for the Colts.
The team has been weathering a perfect storm, in a sense, because they can’t run the ball, the turnover at receiver is now an issue and they have had trouble protecting Manning, who at the same time isn’t playing well as he would like.
I’ve seen Manning clutching the ball often, and he just hasn’t had time to pull the trigger. He’s making too many throws he would like to have back, especially the late interception against the Patriots. The truth is, you can’t totally absolve Manning among the Colts’ problems.
The perception has gone from Manning made his receivers great to the same receivers now just aren’t good enough. I’m wondering which one is real. The truth has to lie somewhere in between.
There is no easy solution for the Colts. Lately they’ve been forced to play from behind, which is a huge issue because their defense is built to rush the passer. The Colts are 29th against the run at 142.8 yards per game, and while losing four of the last five games they’re even worse at 156.2 yards per game. That becomes a problem because they can’t just unleash DEs Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis on teams who can rush the passer.
Playing from behind also changes everything about how Manning goes about his business.
The Colts have to get that figured out in these next four games. They have Tennessee (5-7) twice, go to Oakland (6-6) and have Jacksonville (7-5) at home. If the Colts manage to beat the Titans Thursday night on NFL Network, don’t discount what that means as they will have a couple of extra days to prepare for the Jaguars. If they can utilize it the right way, it might be just enough.
While logic tells me the Jaguars are the best team in the division, I still believe the Colts will find a way to win games and get in the playoffs.