Indianapolis Colts Issues: Are They Still the Force They Once Were in the NFL?

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Indianapolis Colts Issues: Are They Still the Force They Once Were in the NFL?
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In a league that has changed immensely in the past two or three years, the Indianapolis Colts have by far been one of the most coveted teams in football in the present era.

Aside from the Pittsburgh Steelers and New England Patriots, the Indianapolis Colts have been the epitome of a well-rounded football team. 

With the dominance starting during the Tony Dungy era, Peyton Manning and his high-powered offense have set the imaginary bar in the league for expectations, even though the Colts have been known to outdo themselves nearly every season.

When it comes to rewinding and reminiscing about the days of old, the Colts bring forward very fond memories. 

Sure, their 2006 Super Bowl victory was a moment to relish for every fan in blue and white, but simply watching the town's unofficial sheriff take the field 16 times a year has it's own memorable luxury.

I guess when the history books are published and the NFL has moved on, the Indianapolis Colts could be considered somewhat of a dynasty, even though their championship trophy case only features the Lombardi Trophy once during their recent dominant patch.

However, as every true fan knows, sooner or later a dynasty must come to an end, and if you were seeking an example of this, the New England Patriots of nowadays are a perfect example of what once was the most impressive team in football, only to take a minor step down from their frequent trips to Disneyland each February.

By looking at the Indianapolis Colts right now, most fans knew this day was coming.  As young as Peyton Manning still is, sooner or later the AFC South division was destined to catch up with Indianapolis, especially since the Houston Texans and Tennessee Titans are no longer the cupcake teams they once were some years ago.

But while we're on the topic of the AFC South, the Indianapolis Colts suffered a wake-up call on Sunday afternoon, one in which Jim Caldwell's snooze button was well and truly pressed, particularly toward the start of the second half.

For those who have been living under a rock the past 10 hours, the Jacksonville Jaguars officially faced their fears at home in Municipal Stadium, knocking off the favorite Indianapolis Colts, in a shock victory thanks to the right boot of kicker Josh Scobee.

In terms of impressiveness, this tops the list so far this season.  But in terms of disappointment, the loss for Indianapolis already leaves them with the equal amount of losses they endured last season, with two.

So where did it all go wrong for the Colts?

While I'm no highlight-tape expert, this game was very close from the get-go.  Most Colts fans realize that the Jaguars have a tendency to play Indianapolis rather tight, and there has been more than just one occasion where this match up has come down to the wire.

From the very beginning the Jaguars seemed to have just as much momentum as Jim Caldwell's men.  Jacksonville quarterback David Garrard was pumped, and when he decided to go for a drive with Mercedes Lewis toward the end zone for a touchdown late in the fourth quarter, it seemed like the Jaguars had really hit the switch in the "on" position from there on out.

Unfortunately for Indianapolis, this is far from just half of the story.  Instead of a mere upset victory occurring, the Colts costly turnovers made the team sitting ducks for the Jaguars to pick off, and when Peyton Manning did just that, Reggie Wayne's fumble after a decent catch put the icing on the cake for Jack Del Rio and his side.

Prior to this affair, the Colts went in knowing that the team they were playing was full of confidence. 

What they didn't know though, was that many people would go on to question whether or not the Colts glory days had finally come to an end, after a fairly unfamiliar start to the 2010 season, and more importantly a 2-2 record that was nowhere near imaginable.

To answer the question of the fans, the Colts golden days are of course slowly dying.  While this team is in no position to hit the panic button, some serious issues have plagued the Colts recently, which have failed to really hurt the team in the past.

 

The Lack of a Run Game

The first issue that comes to mind is the run game.  In 2009 the Colts ranked dead last in rush yards, a stat that was purely overlooked due to Peyton Manning's dominance as the starting quarterback.

As of now though, this stat has become an issue.  Since Joseph Addai's recent collapse in the running game following his 2006 brilliance, the Colts have notably excluded the run game from their overall strategy, something that has perhaps caught up with them more recently.

No matter what anybody says, a run game is vital to an offense.  Mike Shanahan and the Washington Redskins proved that this weekend against Philadelphia, and no matter how brilliant Peyton Manning may be, the luxury of having a suitable rusher would be all that more favorable.

 

Injury Issues

Secondly, the Colts have been bitten by the injury bug.  For the consecutive week in a row wide receivers Pierre Garcon and Anthony Gonzalez were missing in action, two key players who always offered Peyton Manning that extra option to throw to.

To make matters even worse, standout second year player Austin Collie is now listed as questionable after suffering a heel injury on Sunday, and the man just spoken about, Joseph Addai, has also been struggling with a recent knee injury.

Key losses to talented players will always affect a team.  Given that many standout guys still remain healthy, perhaps Peyton Manning's fourth-quarter pick wouldn't have occurred if the likes of Pierre Garcon were on the field.

 

A Minor Lack of Confidence

Let's face it, the Colts haven't been in this position recently, and Peyton Manning's attitude in a postgame interview pretty much summed up where the team stands right now.

To put it simply, Peyton Manning stated that "We couldn't seal the deal," something that was evident from the final two-minute drive in Jacksonville.

Not only has this lowered the Colts' confidence a little, they also take on the 3-0 Kansas City Chiefs at Lucas Oil Stadium next week, a game that could mean the difference between the top seed in the South, and a wildcard berth.

Confidence has always been high for this team, and realistically it still is.  Still, things have changed for the Colts, both on and off the field.

 

Is The Colts Golden Era Over?

Not just yet.  Things look down and dull, but there's no reason to exclude the talent on this team.  Keep in mind that Indianapolis do rank second in points scored and second in total yardage on offense. 

This stat may be symbolic of Peyton Manning's efforts, but it also says a lot for the receiver corps.

Perhaps this game will act as a smack in the face for Indianapolis.  A loss to a division foe isn't ideal, and now that the Colts have as many wins and losses as Jacksonville, it may serve as a kick start for this offense.

Hopefully for Jim Caldwell, he will see a few more players back in action against Kansas City.  A loss next week is definitely not on the cards, and it isn't something this team needs right now.

The golden era isn't over right now, but you do get the feeling that anything short of a top seed ranking in the AFC South this year would bring the Colts down a peg. 

With Houston hanging in there, and Tennessee still a threat, Indianapolis have their hands full for the remainder of the season, something that is about as unfamiliar as Peyton Manning throwing an interception in this day and age.

Like the old saying goes, "What goes up, must come down."  Indianapolis are far from down, but a deflating 59-yard field goal thanks to Josh Scobee certainly bursts the Colts' bubble a little.

 

Ryan Cook is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. He is also an NFL columnist for Real Sports Net and a Green Bay Packers writer for Fan Huddle and PackerChatters. Ryan is also a contributing writer for Detroit Lions Talk, Gack Sports and Generation Y Sports.  Don't forget to follow him on Twitter.

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