The same old song and dance for Colts

Cold, Hard Football Facts for Jan 03, 2009



The beauty of old-school rock & roll is that we find an opportunity for it to describe every moment of our lives.
 
In the wake of 8-8 San Diego's classic 23-17 overtime victory against the 12-4 Colts, we find that few summed up the outcome better than Aerosmith, back when they were still drug-addicted, hard-core, kick-ass rock & rollers:
 
show video here
 
In the case of the Colts, and much to the dismay of Colts fans who take so much pleasure in attacking the Cold, Hard Football Facts each year, and to the dismay of the pigskin "pundits" who prop up Peyton Manning each year, the Colts and their quarterback once again looked so great in the regular season, and looked so ordinary in the postseason.
 
It is, as Tyler and Perry once wrote, the same old song and dance year after year: The Colts, their offense and their quarterback in particular simply under-produce when the calendar turns to January, no matter how many undeserved MVP awards Indy quarterback Peyton Manning might win.
 
Saturday night was a real beauty, too: just days after Manning was named the league's best player, he and the Colts put just 17 points on the board, one of their worst outputs of the season, and joined the very, very short list of teams who lost in the playoffs to an opponent that didn't even have a winning record. As far as embarrassments go, it's something akin to your mother walking in on you as you try to rub one out in the bathroom.
  
Manning, who won the 2008 MVP award solely because of his illustrious name and not because of the merits, was once again one of the problems against San Diego. Sure, at the end of the day, his numbers looked quite respectable:
  • Manning completed 25 of 42 passes (59.5%) for 310 passes, 7.4 YPA, 1 TD, 0 INT and a 90.4 passer rating.
But the numbers, as they so often do with Manning, mislead uneducated observers, such as those who vote for MVP. Nearly one-quarter of those 310 yards he generated came on a single play: a short pass to the left flat that Reggie Wayne turned into a 72-yard TD as the confused Chargers defense looked to the sideline to figure out its personnel package.
 
Manning certainly deserves credit for a heads-up play by catching the Chargers out of position. But if we remove that one gotcha-play from his night, his performance was well below average for any quarterback, let alone the performance you might expect from the league's Most Valuable Player:
  • He completed 24 of 41 passes (58.5%) for 238 yards, 5.8 YPA, 0 TD, 0 INT and a ho-hum 70.5 passer rating.
The greater problem?
 
The 8-8 Chargers entered the game with one of the worst pass defenses in football this year (90.3 Defensive Passer Rating).
 
A legitimate MVP would have torn apart a bad pass defense on a mediocre team in the playoffs. An illegitimate MVP should return his trophy and write 100 times on the blackboard: "I will lead my team to more than 17 points in the playoffs."
 
The larger problem for the Colts is not just the one devestating defeat to an 8-8 team, but the habitual, extraordinary disparity between their performances in the regular season and their performances in the postseason over the past decade. In fact, the chasm in production is so deep and wide that somebody should declare it a national landmark and offer mule rides to the bottom:
  • The Colts are 117-59 (.664) in the regular season in the Manning Era.
  • The Colts are 7-8 (.467) in the postseason in the Manning Era.
  • The Colts have won 10 or more games in nine of 10 seasons since 1999 and reached the playoffs nine times. 
  • The Colts have failed to win a single game in six of nine playoff appearances.
It's been a remarkable streak of regular-season success. It's been a remarkable streak of postseason failure.
 
The biggest reason for the failures, of course, is a quarterback and an offense which habitually fail to live up to regular-season expectations. In the eight defeats, Manning and the Indy offense has almost always underperformed:
  • The Colts average a dreadful, Browns-esque 13.6 PPG in the eight playoff losses, far, far below their regular-season production: The Colts have averaged 26.1 PPG over the course of Manning's career.
  • Manning has a cumulative 70.4 passer rating in those eight playoff losses, far, far below his regular-season production: Manning has a career passer rating of 94.7, second best in history.
The Colts lose in the playoffs, in other words, because the offense does not perform well. And the Colts lost Saturday night because the offense mustered just 17 points
 
Looking back at Saturday's one-and-done defeat at San Diego, Indy fans will blame a defense that gave up a touchdown in overtime. They'll blame an ineffective ground game (64 yards on 22 carries). They'll blame the Cold, Hard Football Facts for attempting to illuminate the world with the truth. They'll blame everybody but the offense and the quarterback.
 
Apparently, in the seedy underworld of online gridiron analysis, it's forbidden to do anything but prostrate yourself at the feet of Peyton Manning.
 
The Cold, Hard Football Facts, for example, were shredded in every corner of cyberspace last week, by everybody from Colts bloggers to our own readers to the N.Y. Times itself, merely because we had the temerity to suggest that maybe somebody other than his Grand Lordship deserved MVP honors.  
 
But maybe we had a pretty good idea that it would all end so badly for Manning and the Colts. Maybe we had seen this same old song and dance before.

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