NFL analysts love to talk about how many weapons Peyton Manning has at his disposal—but it doesn’t matter if Manning is either hurrying his throws into coverage or is flat on his back.
And in his last three games against the San Diego Chargers, Manning has been sacked 10 times, has thrown nine interceptions, and has lost one of two fumbles.
I’ve watched a number Colts games, and I've seen plenty of big plays to guys like Dallas Clark, Reggie Wayne, Anthony Gonzales, Joseph Addai, and all-time great Marvin Harrison.
When I’ve watched Indy play the Chargers, however, the Bolts have been in a foot-race to quarterback. It’s like a feeding frenzy.
The Chargers' pass defense was strengthened by the adversity it faced early in the season. Teams went to the quick passing game to avoid the pass rush of Shawne Merriman, Shaun Phillips, Luis Castillo, and Co.—and while it worked well early on, it now works in the Chargers’ favor.
Tom Brady and the Patriots kicked off the aerial assault with a win over a confused and bungling Chargers defense in the second game of the season. That was followed by a schooling at the hands another all-time great in Brett Favre, before an astounding performance by career backup Damon Huard and rookie WR Dwayne Bowe gave the Chargers all the footage they needed to make the necessary adjustments.
The Colts tried the same game plan...and it blew up in their faces.
You throw the ball against the Chargers at your own risk. Teams that have relied primarily on the pass against San Diego have failed miserably—and have thrown a TON of picks.
The Raiders threw the ball 37 times with one touchdown and two interceptions in their first battle with the Bolts. The Texans threw it 45 times with one touchdown and four interceptions. Manning heaved the ball an amazing 56 times with a whopping six interceptions and two touchdowns. The Chiefs threw the ball 40 times in the teams' second meeting, with three interceptions and a single TD. John Kitna and the pass-happy Lions tossed it 45 times with a predictable five interceptions (a sixth was dropped) and just two touchdowns. Jay Cutler of the Broncos was simply dominated by the Bolts—no stats needed.
It's hard to imagine that Manning will throw six interceptions against the Chargers again this weekend—but if Addai doesn’t get going on the ground, he could easily throw three or four.
Don’t get me wrong—I’m not predicting a Chargers victory (or loss, for that matter) in Sunday's Divisional Playoff battle. I just haven't seen anything from the Colts to lead me to believe that they can suddenly protect Manning.
The only thing that can neutralize the Charger pass rush is a good running game, and I don't believe the Colts have the goods to make it happen.