Peyton Place – A Football Soap Opera??

In the 1960’s, a soap opera called “Peyton Place” was a popular prime time TV show.  Now, about 50 years later, a new version of Peyton Place has emerged – this series starring Indianapolis Colts QB Peyton Manning.  Manning is one of the most decorated and successful QB’s in the NFL.  But his recent slew of interceptions has caused quite a script to be written about him and the struggling 6-6 Colts.

Some pundits have suggested that the Super Bowl MVP has been overrated all along, while others argue that he should be dropped from fantasy football rosters.  Colts fans are getting anxious and frustrated at their team’s recent play and boos from the crowd have been occurring more and more frequently.  Who can blame them?  It has indeed been an exasperating last few weeks.

It is true that Manning has thrown 11 interceptions in the last 3 games.  In Sunday’s game against the Cowboys, he threw 4 interceptions, 2 of which were returned by Dallas for TDs.

What accounts for this recent rash of interceptions?  Here’s our take on what has caused this uncharacteristic mid-season slump for Peyton..

Running on Empty

The Colts running game is basically non-existent.  They are 32nd in the NFL in rushing yards.  Running back Joseph Addai suffered a neck injury in Week 6, and since that time, there has not been an effective replacement for the veteran RB.  That’s turned Indy into a one-dimensional team. Even when Manning would not normally pass, he is forced to throw into coverage, which accounts for some of his interceptions these past few weeks.

Offensive Line Woes

An unreliable offensive line has done a poor job in pass protection.  So far this season, Manning’s been sacked 13 times, compared to last year when he was sacked 10 times over the entire season.  Manning is used to a “clean, protected” pocket.  Unlike Eagles QB Michael Vick, who seems unaffected by pressure and hits, Manning gets rattled when he is hurried or the pocket breaks down. 

Ever since the Colt’s 2009 Super Bowl loss, the offensive line has been a scrambled mess.   Colts President Bill Polian got rid of right guard Ryan Lilja after that loss.   Meanwhile, Lilja is on track to go to the Pro-Bowl for his incredible play with the Kansas City Chiefs this season.  That looks like a pretty poor decision by Polian that’s had a huge impact on Peyton’s ability to have enough time to make plays.  The players Polian has brought in to rebuild the o-line are just not stepping up.  Combine that with some key injuries on the line and it makes Peyton’s job that much harder.

It’s All About Timing 

The Colts have been plagued with key injuries to Peyton’s “go to” receivers. Peyton’s trademark is his remarkable ability to throw to the spot on the field where the receiver will end up.  This takes tremendous practice, as Manning and his receiver need to have the timing worked out precisely.   Injuries to TE Dallas Clark and WR Austin Collie have completely disrupted the passing game.  Dallas Clark’s size and speed forced opponents into double coverage.  With that threat eliminated, it frees up another defender to ball hawk.

With so many injuries to the receiving corps, Manning is relying on players who he has not had the time with which to work out the precise QB/receiver synchronization his timing-based passing has relied on all these years.  Reggie Wayne has played in the last few games, but even he has had injury problems this season which caused him to miss practices. Pierre Garcon has also recently returned after being out with an injury, but defenses are simply covering both him and Wayne, forcing Peyton to throw to his new, inexperienced receivers.

Some sports “experts” suggest that Peyton is “telegraphing his passes”.  Well, when he has no idea which routes his new receivers are going to run and where they may end up, what choice does he have but to stare down his receivers?!  This has accounted for a number of interceptions as well.  Sunday’s interception by Dallas rookie linebacker Sean Lee that he returned for a TD is a perfect example of how Manning is no longer able to look off receivers, allowing defenders to read his eyes and go for the INT.

How  Does the Peyton Place Script End? 

The Colts are expecting RB Addai and wide out Collie to return soon, which should help somewhat. Addai will help Indy once again become a two-dimensional team.   Collie and Manning have been in sync earlier this season, which should greatly improve the passing situation. 

In just two days, they face the Tennessee Titans, who are on a five game losing streak.  The Titans have a 23rd ranked pass defense that Peyton needs to exploit in order to change the momentum of the season and propel the Colts into a playoff slot. 

Manning is on track to break the record for most pass attempts in a single season.  So far this season, he has attempted 534 passes, completing 353 of them for over 3,700 yards.  Despite his recent interceptions, Manning says he will continue to pass…

I’m continuing to throw, I’ll keep throwing. I hope I throw it to our guys. I think one thing when you get on a little turnover stretch, the easy thing to do is become gun-shy and stop throwing it. I can assure you I won’t do that, I haven’t done that and I’ll continue to throw. I just need to make better decisions and better reads and throw it to our guys and not turn the ball over.”

If Indy is to make a run for the playoffs, make no doubt about it, it will be with Peyton Manning’s shrewdness and incredible passing ability.  So while some may want to jump on the anti-Peyton bandwagon and question his ability, his age and other melodramatic silliness, I say put your faith in him.  When it comes to crunch time, he is simply a master of the game and, despite the unprecedented challenges facing him, will find a way to win.

2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by PigSkin on December 7, 2010 at 12:28 pm

    Peyton has had a bad few weeks, but he’s still the best QB in the league. He’ll be back in sync with his WR’s and they’ll make a playoff run. Nice post. I agree with your run-down of his struggles.


  2. Posted by Pat Marletta on December 7, 2010 at 11:59 pm

    Very asstute analysis. Peyton has been too good for too long not to have faith in him. If he can get some quality players around him again, he’ll get right back to playing at the incredible level he’s been performing at for years.


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