Indianapolis Colts Need to Give Peyton Manning Strong Rushing Attack

Alek FrostCorrespondent IJuly 17, 2010

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - FEBRUARY 07:  Quarterback Peyton Manning #18 of the Indianapolis Colts looks to hand off to #29 Joseph Addai against the New Orleans Saints during Super Bowl XLIV on February 7, 2010 at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images

It happens to the best of us. We get old and Peyton Manning is no exception. Calm down, Colts fans, I am not saying that Peyton is not still in the prime of his career.

But I have noticed a trend over the years that is too obvious to ignore. As both great and average quarterbacks age, the only way they continue their winning ways is for their respective teams to establish a solid running game.

John Elway is a prime example: He led the Denver Broncos to the Super Bowl on three occasions before he turned 30 and lost every single time. He lost because despite a very strong Broncos' defense, he did not have a strong supporting cast on offense. The fact that the Broncos reached the Super Bowl three times is a testament to both John Elway's God-given abilities and a very good defense.

Elway was in his twilight years before he won his two Super Bowl rings.

At 37, Elway was good, but not the same quarterback who garnered nicknames like "The Comeback Kid" or "The General." He was a savvy, rifle-armed veteran quarterback who despite diminished skills, threw for a career-high 27 touchdown passes during his first championship season.

How was Elway so successful? It probably had something to do with third-year running back Terrell Davis . Davis rushed for 1,750 yards and 15 rushing touchdowns in Mike Shanahan's superb zone-blocking scheme that produced a surfeit of 1,000 yard-rushers. Elway also had more weapons like tight end Shannon Sharpe and receivers Rod Smith and Ed McCaffrey , but that Bronco team leaned on their running game.

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In 1998, Elway's last season, the team leaned on the running game even more as Terrell Davis ran for 2,008 yards and 21 rushing touchdowns. Elway had 22 touchdown passes in just 356 pass attempts.

Elway is not the only example of a strong running game helping a veteran quarterback. Just last season, Brett Favre enjoyed one of the best seasons of his career when he joined the Vikings and Adrian Peterson . The Vikings reached the NFC Championship passing the ball 553 times compared to 467 rushing attempts.

The 2009 Colts reached the Super Bowl with a pass-heavy approach with 601 pass attempts compared to 366 rushing attempts.  For now, this will work for the Colts because Manning is playing at an elite level, coming off his fourth Most Valuable Player in 2009.

But three years from now, Manning will be 37, and a running game could help with the wear and tear of the season.

Balance is key but balance means nothing if you do not have the horses.

That is why the Colts are less balanced now than their 2006 Super Bowl run. That year, the Colts passed about the same number of times (557) but ran the ball a lot more (439). Joseph Addai averaged 4.8 yards per carry, still had untarnished legs, and had Dominic Rhodes to spell him. In fact, in the 2006-2007 playoffs, Manning played less than spectacularly. He had a quarterback rating of 70.5 and threw just three touchdown passes to seven interceptions, but the Colts won because of this balance.

The Colts simply need to incorporate a stronger rushing attack because Manning's twilight years are on the horizon.

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