[Updates from Thursday's Colts v Titans' game follow article in brackets]
When Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts walked off the field Sunday evening following their third straight loss, a chorus arose singing the possible end of the Colts' decade-long playoff run, and with it, the Manning era.
NFL Network claimed "there is no easy solution for the Colts," with "all" of their problems. ESPN's Mark Schlereth said on Mike and Mike in the Morning that the Colts "will not make the playoffs."
The Indianapolis Star was quick to point out that Manning "joins [Aaron] Brooks (2001), Brett Favre (1998) and Jim Kelly (1996) as the only QBs with at least three pickoffs in three consecutive games in the past 20 years."
Bleacher Report asked if the Colts' quarterback was overrated.
Hold your horses.
It's true that Manning and the Colts find themselves in unfamiliar territory. At 6-6, they have the most losses since 2002. That year, though, and every year since, they made the playoffs. You have to go back one more year, 2001, when the Colts lost 10, to find Peyton on the postseason sidelines.
It's true that Manning personally lost that Sunday game against the Dallas Cowboys with his four interceptions, for which he took credit post-game.
"Two interceptions for touchdowns put our defense [and our team] in the hole. I don't want to make any excuses...I've just got to play better. I've just got to make better decisions and better reads."
But, before you phone the glue factory and New Orleans' retirement homes, take another look. Manning is in fact having one of the best years of his career, interceptions not withstanding.
It may in fact be one for the record books. He deserves even more credit when you consider the lack of a running threat and a weak offensive line, and take into account the injuries the Colts have been dealing with all season: Addai, Clark, Collie, Hart—the Colts injury report is a long list, indeed.
Yes, Manning is on pace for 20 interceptions. If they come in bunches or lose games like the Dallas one, it's a big deal. Dan Marino threw 21, 23, 23 and 22 interceptions during some of his best years. Dan Fouts was a First Team All-Pro in 1979 with 24 interceptions. But will Manning continue to throw them?
And take a look at these other stats:
Currently, Manning stands at 3,709 yards over the first 12 games of the season. Averaged over the course of a full season, that would total 4,945—already third most ever thrown, behind the only two quarterbacks to throw for 5,000 yards: Dan Marino and Drew Brees (see top 10 below). Manning can even break the record.
It's almost certain he will break the single-season pass attempts record which is 691 off the arm of Drew Bledsoe (Patriots, 1994). Peyton has thrown the ball 534 times so far, which will give him a total of 712 for the full season—the first QB to pass over 700 times.
Less certain, though quite possible, Manning can break the single-season record for pass completions, topping Drew Brees' 440 in 2007 for the New Orleans Saints. Peyton stands at 353 through 12 games, which would give him 470 by year's end...plenty of breathing room.
With the Colts on the outside of the playoff picture looking in, there is even greater pressure on Manning to perform. In that same post-game press conference, Manning said, "I'm continuing to throw. I'll keep throwing." That sounds like a quarterback who will be able to achieve those yardage, completion and attempts milestones.
Secondly, it is difficult to believe Manning will continue to make the same mistakes. The odds are he won't repeat such a cluster of errors. History indicates that Peyton Manning does not fluster easily—rather, he rises to the occasion. As he takes the practice field over the course of this and the following weeks, his focus will be to protect the ball—which will certainly lower the turnover factor.
If running back Javarris James and the Indianapolis defense can show a little something down the stretch, the situation is ripe for the Colts to make the playoffs.
So, before you finish writing Manning's and the Colts' epitaphs, take a look at the team's upcoming schedule:
Game 13: at Tennessee Titans (Thu, Dec. 9)
Game 14: vs. Jacksonville Jaguars (Sun, Dec. 19)
Game 15: at Oakland Raiders (Sun, Dec. 26)
Game 16: vs. Tennessee Titans (Sun, Jan. 2)
The Colts can win all four of these games.
Three of their final four games are against fellow AFC South teams: two against the 5-7 Titans, and one against the 7-5 division-leading Jaguars (who are just a game up).
Tennessee is ranked 23rd this year in opponent passing yards per game, while AFC South leader Jacksonville is even worse, at 27th. And, don't forget how bad the Jaguars looked earlier this season.
It looks like the Raiders at home might be the scariest matchup here, one that may sabotage Manning's path to 5,000 yards and throw a wrench in the Colts' playoff plans. You can bet it is a matchup they will be ready for.
Follow your Colts all year long at Bleacher Report's Indianapolis Colts Site.
[Colts defeat Titans 30-28 and go to 7-6, half game behind the 7-5 Jacksonville Jaguars who play the dangerous Oakland Raiders on Sunday. Manning threw for 319 yards, upping his season total to 4,028, and is now on pace for an even better 4,957 total yards. He went 25 for 35 upping his completions and attempts to 378 and 569, respectively. His pace for completions (465) and attempts (700) slipped a bit, but he's still comfortably ahead of both records. He threw 0 interceptions in the game.
It was a critical victory for the Colts, who vie to take the AFC South - however, giving up 28 points to the Titans is not a good sign and in the end, whether the Colts make the playoffs or not this year may depend entirely on their defense.]
Top 10 Seasons - Passing Yardage (Team, Year)
1. Dan Marino - 5,084 (Miami Dolphins, 1984)
2. Drew Brees - 5,069 (New Orleans Saints, 2008)
3. Kurt Warner - 4,830 (St. Louis Rams, 2001)
4. Tom Brady - 4,806 (New England Patriots, 2007)
5. Dan Fouts - 4,802 (San Diego Chargers, 1981)
6. Matt Schaub - 4,770 (Houston Texans, 2009)
7. Dan Marino - 4,746 (Miami Dolphins, 1986)
8. Daunte Culpepper - 4,717 (Minnesota Vikings, 2004)
9. Dan Fouts - 4,715 (San Diego Chargers, 1980)
10. Warren Moon - 4,690 (Houston Oilers, 1991)
Top 10 Seasons - Pass Attempts (Team, Year)
1. Drew Bledsoe - 691 (New England Patriots, 1994)
2. Warren Moon - 655 (Houston Oilers, 1991)
3. Drew Brees - 652 (New Orleans Saints, 2007)
4. Drew Bledsoe - 636 (New England Patriots, 1995)
5. Drew Brees - 635 (New Orleans Saints, 2008)
6. Dan Marino - 623 (Miami Dolphins, 1986)
Drew Bledsoe - 623 (New England Patriots, 1996)
8. Rich Gannon - 618 (Oakland Raiders, 2002)
9. Jay Cutler - 616 (Denver Broncos, 2008)
10. Dan Marino - 615 (Miami Dolphins, 1994)
Top 10 Seasons - Pass Completions (Team, Year)
1. Drew Brees - 440 (New Orleans Saints, 2007)
2. Rich Gannon - 418 (Oakland Raiders, 2002)
3. Drew Brees - 413 (New Orleans Saints, 2008)
4. Warren Moon - 404 (Houston Oilers, 1991)
5. Kurt Warner - 401 (Arizona Cardinals, 2008)
6. Drew Bledsoe - 400 (New England Patriots, 1994)
7. Tom Brady - 398 (New England Patriots, 2007)
8. Matt Schaub - 396 (Houston Texans, 2009)
9. Peyton Manning - 393 (Indianapolis Colts, 2009)
10. Peyton Manning - 392 (Indianapolis Colts, 2002)