The Indianapolis Colts run as kings of the AFC South died Sunday. It was 11 years old. The Colts dynasty was proceeded in death by the 1980s San Francisco 49ers, the 1990s Dallas Cowboys and the 2000s New England Patriots. The Colts are survived by the New England Patriots, Baltimore Ravens and the New York Jets.
The Colts looked like an early season contender for the Super Bowl, but as the season has progressed the Colts have fallen apart. But why?
The Colts injured reserve reads like a Pro Bowl ballot. Dallas Clark, Bob Sanders, Melvin Bullitt, Anthony Gonzalez, and starter Austin Collie has been in and out of the lineup with concussions the past few weeks.
With so many stars on the sidelines each week, the Colts are leaning more and more on Peyton Manning. In the past the team could lean on Manning, and he would provide, but Manning has played his worst season since his rookie year. The team can no longer expect to win without giving Manning more help.
Manning, Dwight Freeney and Reggie Wayne have all shown a marked decline this season. Sanders could almost be written off entirely, as he has not been healthy since the 2007 season. Dallas Clark is as dependable as any tight end when healthy, but he is 31 years old and doesn't look as fast as he used to be. How well be bounces back from injury will say a lot about his future.
And then there is Peyton Manning. A top 10 all-time player, Manning's career will not be defined by the 2010 season alone, but this year is putting doubt in the minds of fans and analysts. Ron Jaworski, the very respected ESPN analyst, said earlier in the season that Manning's skills were in decline- and we agree. Statistically, Manning is having a solid year again, but in looking at his play the past four weeks you have to be concerned.
Week 8: Two interceptions in loss to Philadelphia Eagles
Week 9: Season-low 185 yards passing and no touchdowns in a win against bottom-feeding Cincinnati Bengals.
Week 10: Manning throws three interceptions in a loss to the New England Patriots
Week 11: Manning throws four interceptions in a loss to the San Diego Chargers
This won't be a popular article. People love Peyton Manning. But the proof is in the numbers.
The Colts have refused to improve their offensive and defensive lines through the draft or free agency. The team continues to keep Bob Sanders on the roster despite him not being a factor in three seasons. Manning has talented receivers, tight ends and running backs, but the Colts defense is patchwork at best.
This is a franchise that could have put together a 49ers-like run in the AFC South. Instead, the Colts are 6-5 and facing a possible late-season fall.