It’s becoming predictable. It’s becoming routine.
Every year, NFL fans gasp in awe at the Indianapolis Colts. Every year, from pre-season to the onset of the playoffs, the Colts’ “unstoppable” offense is critiqued, analyzed, studied and praised like it’s the second coming of sliced bread. But then, every year, right around the middle of January, it all falls apart.
Peyton and Edge and Marvin and Reggie are sent packing, while what remains of the NFL slugs it out. And Peyton’s forced to try and explain it, every single time.
This year, more than any other year, was supposed to be the year for the Colts. They had fixed their defense. Their offense was even more balanced. They had beaten the Patriots. They had home field advantage. And they had the experience and the irremovable sting of their early exits of the last two years as backbone, as a reminder. They were destined.
So, what went wrong? What keeps happening? Why couldn’t the Colts stake claim to their destiny? And why can’t Peyton get over the hump?
Like all things, it’s complicated. But then again, like all things, it’s simple.
Two words: playoff football.
I think of that term and I think of the Patriots. I think of the Steelers. Heck, I even think of Carolina. Before I think of the Colts.
In the playoffs, the field shrinks. The sidelines tighten. In the playoffs, the defense gets meaner, tougher, while the offense tends to stagnate. And in the playoffs, the weaker ones are devoured.
Watching the Colts fall behind 21-3 to the Steelers felt like watching one of those bad movies where you know exactly what is going to down before the first line is even spoken. The plot’s predictable. The dialogue is stale. You’ve seen it all before.
It’s bad news too if you’re a Colts fan. Because it’s not an easy fix.
The Colts play finesse ball, both on offense and on defense. Their overall game is one of precision and timely execution. Peyton checks off at the line, gauges the field, goes through four different receiver options in his head in less than three seconds and then finds his target.
Reverse it and you have the same for the defense. There, the Colts are small and fast and sharp and quick. Which is all very nice. It gets you 14-2 and four straight months of non-stop ESPN coverage and analysis. But it doesn’t get you to the Super Bowl. Just ask Peyton.
And it’s gonna keep happening until the Colts get tougher. Having the best offense in the game three years running doesn’t mean anything when you’re sitting at home come Super Bowl Sunday. Indianapolis looked outmanned and outclassed facing Pittsburgh. They went from a full season of looking like the fastest team on Earth to the weakest in one game.
Playoff football is Richard Seymour. Tedy Bruschi. Troy Polamalu. All of the brilliant X’s and O’s go out the window. What lies beneath the surface of the NFL, what makes football football, rears its ugly head. And it’s a face that Peyton and his crew are going to be staring at for a long time coming unless they do something quick.