What an absolutely amazing game last night for the Indianapolis Colts. No one gave them much of a chance as Peyton Manning and the undefeated Denver Broncos came to town. After Indianapolis lost an ugly game on Monday Night Football to the mediocre San Diego Chargers, most thought, “how in the world would they stop Manning and the top ranked offense in the NFL?”
Manning was on pace to break every passing record this year. He was sacked very minimally, didn’t turn the ball over and just torched defenses. This was an even better Manning than the one who played 13 seasons in Indianapolis.
Then with the controversy surrounding Colts owner Jim Irsay‘s comments the week leading up to the game, everyone was predicting a 10-plus point Broncos victory. Credit Irsay and Ryan Grigson on this one for building a defense that Manning typically struggles with.
The gist of what Irsay said last week was he wanted more Super Bowl rings and was going to build a better team to help him get more. He thought they should have had more than one after their decade of dominance under Manning’s lead on the field. So after last night’s dominating 39-33 victory, it was him and Grigson who deserve most of the credit.
The Colts took the chance last March to get rid of Manning and draft Andrew Luck. From there, they used the draft and trades to beef up this offense, surrounding the young quarterback with talent. It was this past offseason when the Colts front office gave them their best shot at Super Bowls.
Indianapolis signed mostly defensive players and spent a lot of money doing so. They got guys that could play that hybrid 3-4 scheme that guys like Manning usually struggle with. I predicted this Colts win over Denver from Day 1, saying Manning can’t beat this defense. Most called me crazy, but look who was right.
I grew up watching the Colts and now cover them on the media side. I know Manning inside and out. I watched him struggle against the Dallas Cowboys, the Chargers and even the dreaded New England Patriots year after year. Why did he struggle? It was they had a similar 3-4 defensive scheme the Colts now have.
Indianapolis brought in guys who can rush the quarterback and have a secondary that can play tight press coverage. They did just that Sunday night as Manning looked rattled. He threw 20 incomplete passes, an interception in a key possession late in the game and was sacked four times, most notably getting stripped of the football before throwing and giving up a safety on the play.
The pass rush, crowd noise and press coverage hurt Manning badly. His throws were off and he looked shaken. This was yet again another example of Manning’s kryptonite: guys blitzing from all over the field kept him guessing. Yes, I understand he had some good drives in the fourth quarter, but the Colts took the foot off the gas for a while. When they went up 36-17 in the fourth quarter, they had to.
That allowed Manning to pass with more ease, but when Indianapolis turned the pressure back on again, he failed.
Credit Irsay and Grigson on building a team-oriented football squad. This is a defense Manning will struggle with every time he plays them now.
Eric Smith is the Colts Beat Writer for Rant Sports. He’s covered the team the past four seasons and is recognized as an accredited member of the media by the Colts. Follow him on Twitter @ericsportsguru