Four time MVP Peyton Manning had another interception filled game Sunday throwing 4 picks against the Cowboys, who are under .500 and just had a coaching change. This is following another 4 interception game and a 3 interception game against the Chargers and Patriots. This strikes the question, is Manning starting the decline of his career or is this just a mere trip up and he will come back either this or next season just as strong as he was before?
Manning’s interception woes can be attributed to many different factors; the bad playing of his offensive line, his injured running back, the fact that the backup running back is terrible, his injured receivers and tight end, coaching, or just a Manning problem.
Manning’s offensive line has been struggling lately allowing him to get hit and interfered with during some of his throws. In the Chargers game a couple of the interceptions involved defensive players hitting his hand as the ball was being released. I don’t think the offensive line is entirely to blame because the defence knows that Manning is going to throw and there is a small run threat.
Earlier this season starting running back Joseph Addai got injured. I’m not saying that Addai is one of the league’s elite running backs; I’m not even saying that he is above average, but the play of his replacement Donald Brown has been far from adequate. Brown averages 36.1 yards per game and 3.3 yards per carry. Without the threat of the run defences are going to stack up the secondary and not give Manning anywhere to throw, especially in Reggie Wayne’s direction.
The obvious answer for Manning’s struggles is the injuries to their starting wide receivers and tight end. Just one year ago Dallas Clark was one of the league’s best tight ends and now he is left watching from the bench due to injury and Austin Collie was just starting to become a serious threat as well before the injury bug bit him. In the early parts of the season those two players were two of Manning’s top 3 targets along with Reggie Wayne. Missing these players forces Manning to use less skilled receivers that he would rather not throw to, but if Peyton Manning is so great, shouldn’t missing a couple targets only be a hurdle rather than an excuse for the team that has been one of the top two in the conference over the past 10 years?
Maybe the answer lies off the field, in coach Jim Caldwell. Although Caldwell was the coach of the year last season, he inherited a great team from a great coach in Tony Dungy. If he was truly the best coach in the league he would be able to use Manning, Wayne and whatever he has to be better than 6-6. Last year they used a lot of the same schemes and players as the year before and it all clicked for an 15-1 record, but as the memory of Tony Dungy fades and the years go by we will see how well Jim Caldwell does as a head coach.
Finally, is it just a Peyton problem? I categorize a Peyton problem as something that is simply off in his play right now. This can be playing through injury that he hasn’t told anyone, tweaking his delivery of the football, or a slump where he has to go to the film room and fix the small problems to get the team back on track.
Look for the Colts to squeak into the playoffs this season and be back to their normal 12 win ways in the 2011 season.