Even Peyton Manning can’t win games on his own

INDIANAPOLIS - NOVEMBER 28: Peyton Manning  of the Indianapolis Colts looks to throw a pass while pursued by Kevin Burnett  of the San Diego Chargers during the NFL game at Lucas Oil Stadium on November 28, 2010 in Indianapolis, Indiana. The Chargers won 36-14. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

In terms of reading defenses, making adjustments at the line of scrimmage and putting the ball in a spot that only his receiver can make a play, Peyton Manning is the best. But if his performance Sunday night against the Chargers is any indication, then he’s at the point in his career where he needs more help around him.

Indy deactivated six starters for their Sunday night matchup with the Chargers, who promptly crushed the Colts 36-14. Manning completed 31-of-48 passes for 285 yards and two touchdowns, but he was intercepted four times, two of which were returned for touchdowns by San Diego.

Among the key players that were out for the Colts were Dallas Clark, Joseph Addai and Austin Collie. And outside of Jacob Tamme, there hasn’t been any backup that has stepped up in the trio’s absence. (Donald Brown has been unimpressive and inconsistency continues to plague Pierre Garcon.)

Try as he did, Manning was overmatched on Sunday night. Eric Weddle should have been called for pass interference on his interception-turned-touchdown, but take that play out of the equation and Peyton still struggled. He never seemed to get settled because he was taking hits inside the pocket and a lot of his throws sailed on him because he rarely had time to set his feet. Granted, he should have been better. He missed open receivers, he forced passes into coverage and even when he did make a competition, he wasn’t always on target.

He was bad. But if the Colts were completely healthy I don’t think it’s unreasonable to say that he wouldn’t have played as poorly as he did last night.

The Colts have now lost three of their last four games but the good news is that they should start to get some players back next week. Addai seems to be getting closer to returning and Collie (concussion) should be medically cleared to play soon as well.

For Manning’s sake, let’s hope that reinforcements are on the way. The AFC South is still the Colts’ division to lose but the Jaguars hung with the Giants on Sunday in the Meadowlands so they’re not likely to go away soon. Indy has a fight on its hands.

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Chargers build secondary through draft

In the weeks leading up to the kickoff the 2008 NFL Season, I’ll take a look at position groups that could potentially lift teams to new heights, or bury them and their postseason hopes. Today I take a look at how the San Diego Chargers have successfully built their secondary through the draft.

Like any good team and successful franchise, the San Diego Chargers took their time building their secondary. Instead of signing big name free agents to overpriced contracts every offseason, the Chargers built their defensive backfield through the draft and last year finished in the top 15 against the pass, as well as owned the NFL’s interception leader in Antonio Cromartie.

The only defensive back with more than three years of starting experience is corner Quentin Jammer, a former top five pick from the 2002 NFL Draft. While he’s never lived up to his lofty draft status (he’s never recorded more than four interceptions in a single season), Jammer certainly hasn’t been a bust either. He’s given the Chargers a steady starter and now a veteran presence in their secondary.

Opposite Jammer is Cromartie, a former 2006 first round pick who finished the 2007 season with 10 interceptions and a highlight-reel worth of amazing plays. When San Diego drafted the former FSU product in 2006, it was viewed as an incredible risk considering he had not played in an entire year after tearing his ACL in July of 2005. But Cromartie showed off his amazing talent and play making ability last year and now is a future star in the league.

The safeties are second year player Eric Weddle and former undrafted free agent Clinton Hart. Weddle doesn’t excel at one facet of the game, but he’s technically sound and the Chargers valued his versatility so much that they traded back into the second round to acquire him in 2007. Hart paid his dues on special teams before becoming a starter last year and he made the most of the opportunity, recording 85 tackles and five interceptions.

This unit isn’t going to stand out when discussing the best defensive backfields in the league, but the Chargers have certainly built a solid secondary over the years. Each player understands his role and the unit plays well together as a whole. It certainly helps that the front seven has done a great job of getting pressure on opposing quarterbacks, too.

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