The Indianapolis Colts got beat down by the San Diego Chargers at home last night, and it ended an amazing streak of 12 or more regular season wins at seven seasons. The 6-5 record is the worst mark for Indianapolis this late in the year since the 2001 season.
Peyton Manning is a gambler – a smart, prepared, and usually successful gambler, but a gambler nonetheless. He does not take sacks, so even when the offensive line is struggling or his skill position players are depleted, he’s not going to hold the ball. What he will do when things break down, like last night, is take risks before he wants to, and throw interceptions when the line fails. We saw that back in the game against San Diego in 2007 when he threw six interceptions, and we saw it again last night, when Manning threw two interceptions that were returned for touchdown (four picks total).
Still, let’s not overstate that defeat. A -5 turnover ratio, especially against a strong team like the Chargers, will make things look a lot worse than they are. We have known that the Chargers are much better than their record, and if they put things together and had some better luck and no major special teams breakdowns, they could dominate. The Chargers had the luck swing in this game. The second interception return by Eric Weddle was pretty clearly pass interference that directly led to the interception. The total yards were fairly even, though certainly San Diego was very efficient and would have put up more yards but for the return touchdowns that kept the offense off the field. The Colts did limit the Chargers from the huge plays in the passing game.
The Colts have their issues, as Manning is certainly missing Dallas Clark and Austin Collie right now and the chemistry with the replacements just isn’t right. For the first time since his rookie year, Peyton is currently below the league average in yards per attempt. The Colts are also now in a four-way dog fight for one playoff spot in the AFC South. I still think they are the favorites to win the division and claim the fourth seed, but one bad/unlucky performance at home against Jacksonville can change that. Houston is still lurking, and could still gain the tiebreaker advantage after yesterday’s win over the Titans. Even though Tennessee put up a stinker performance yesterday as well, I have a feeling that Kerry Collins will magically start healing faster now that the world has been exposed to the McQuilken-esque Rusty Smith, and they should be a much different team for the two late matchups with the Colts. The margin for error is gone, and another bad performance like tonight against the wrong opponent would bring the playoff run to an end.
[photo via Getty]