It was the question widely asked before the season and during it thus far: “Could the Colts be THAT bad without Peyton Manning?”
They sure were Sunday night.
Indianapolis never even competed against the New Olreans Saints, suffering a 62-7 wallop at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
The team that handed the Colts (0-7) perhaps their most forgettable postseason defeat also delivered them perhaps their worst loss in francihse history. The Colts have never allowed so many points, a tie for most points scored in a game since the NFL-AFL merger, per the Associated Press.
So how could it get to this?
There’s not really much to explain as to how the game transpired.
The explosive Saints offense didn’t miss a beat without coach Sean Payton on the sidelines (Payton was in the press box nursing a knee injury he suffered during New Orleans’ previous game).
Drew Brees was as prolific as ever, completing 31 of 35 passes for 325 yards and tossing five touchdowns against the helpless Colts defense before being pulled at the end of the third quarter. Receiver Marques Colston asserted himself early and often, finishing with seven receptions for 98 yards and two scores, the first of which was an eye-popping one-handed grab. Tight end Jimmy Graham also caught two touchdowns.
In all, Brees connected with four teammates for at least five completions.
The Saints had their way with the Colts on the ground as well. Mark Ingram, Darren Sproles and Pierre Thomas themselves combined for 236 rushing yards. The Colts never had an answer, as has become an expectation against the run.
As for the Colts offense, four-of-11 third-down conversions should tell the story. Curtis Painter went nine-of-17 for 67 yards and an interception that was returned for a touchdown when the Saints already were leading 55-7.
The lone bright spot for Indy was rookie running back Delone Carter. The fourth-round pick from Syracuse carried the rock 11 times for 89 yards and a touchdown, and he broke loose for a 42-yard scamper along the sideline en route to that lone Colts score. But enve Carter suffered woes in losing a fumble to the Saints.
In short, it was as if the Colts didn’t even show up. Or is it that the team one would expect to show up is no more?
No NFL team should get blown out like that. The Colts did get blown out in epic fashion, and common logic generally would point its finger at a supposed lack of preparedness to play. If that was the case, then that’s on coach Jim Caldwell and his staff.
However, I am of the opinion — and apparently many Colts fans are as well — that Indy’s lack of talent is finally starting to get fully exposed without Manning. Failing to stop any offense that many times — the Saints earned 36 first downs and scored on their first nine possessions — that tells me the personnel on the Colts’ defense is just not up to snuff. That, in turn, points to Bill Polian, the club’s vice chairman.
If you look back at all the drafts since the Colts won Super Bowl XLI in February 2007 and tally all the picks, you’ll find Polian has missed a lot more than he has hit. That, combined with perennial top selections at the bottom of the first round, has accounted for a great decline in talent on the team’s roster.
It appears as if Polian’s time at the helm may be nearing its end, and soon his son Chris will be in full control of football operations with the Colts. I agree with fans who think the game has passed by the elder Polian to a degree.
However, the idea that Polian has ridden the opportunity to draft Manning first overall and “ride the coattails,” so to speak, is absolutely ridiculous and shortsighted. Polian constructed quite the formidable roster for Manning in the earlier half of the last decade, inlcuding a 2005 team that should have won a Super Bowl on paper. Manning, in fact, is far more to blame for the fact that it didn’t.
That’s not even counting his work outside Indianapolis — helping construct a Buffalo Bills team that went to four straight Super Bowls and doing the same with the expansion Carolina Panthers that went to the NFC Championship game in their second year of existence.
A little off topic, I know, but I just want to be clear that while I place blame on Polian for his letting the Colts’ talent level get this bad lately, in no way do I think his entire career has been defined by Manning. That’s absolutely preposterous and disrespectful to a Hall of Fame-worthy executive on so many levels.
The success of this Colts team, though, has been defined by Manning in recent seasons, and that showed more thoroughly than ever Sunday.
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