Far From Perfect
Manning, Colts dealing with rare struggles.
By: Mitch Light | 12/2/10, 1:12 PM EST
By Charean Williams
Peyton Manning hasn’t been Peyton Manning the past two games, but the Indianapolis Colts haven’t been the Indianapolis Colts.
Manning has thrown seven interceptions the past two games, the most interceptions he has thrown in back-to-back games in his 13-year career.
The Colts lost both games — to the Patriots and to the Chargers — and sit 6-5. They aren’t used to being here. They started 14-0 last season, had a nine-game winning streak to close out the 2008 season, started 7-0 in 2007, started 9-0 in 2006 and started 13-0 in 2005.
“It’s certainly not fun coming in on Monday after a loss,” Manning said. “We’ve had many a season where we haven’t had many of those at all. It’s not surprising if you aren’t playing as well, executing as well, as you have in the past or as you should be doing. It ends up costing you ball games. It’s a hole that we put ourselves in. It’s a tremendous challenge, but it’s a tremendous opportunity. We have five games left. … We’ve got to find a way to dig our way out of this hole. As an old coach used to say: ‘Keep sawing wood.’ That’s all we know how to do.”
Manning remains a candidate for league MVP, an award he’s won an NFL-record four times. Manning has been the Colts’ offense, which ranks first in the NFL, and he is one of three passers with more than 3,300 passing yards this season. But he has fallen to 15th in passer rating at 90.8.
He hasn’t gotten much help.
The Colts have 13 players on injured reserve, including two of Manning’s favorite weapons in tight end Dallas Clark and receiver Anthony Gonzalez. Manning has completed passes to 14 different players.
Running back Joseph Addai has played in only six games as has running back Mike Hart, and the Colts rank 29th in rushing offense.
The Colts’ patchwork offensive line is getting Manning hit at an alarming rate, though he has been sacked only 13 times.
“I do think that, without question, he can’t do it all by himself,” Colts Coach Jim Caldwell said. “That’s why it’s a team game. So we just got to keep trying to win and get better, and you’ll see things improve.”
Manning admits all the moving parts have made it more difficult for him this season. But all is not lost: The Colts are tied for first place in the AFC South.
“Certainly, it has been a challenge from that standpoint, because of the different players playing,” Manning said. “It’s also different players practicing. Even some of the guys who are healthy aren’t always able to practice, which can affect your continuity and flow. But it’s something we have to deal with. All teams deal with it at different times. It’s something you have to work through.
“It’s a challenge, but it’s also a tremendous opportunity for some young guys, some different guys.”
Goodson makes good
The Panthers have DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart, who last season became the first teammates to have 1,100-yard rushing seasons in the same season. There weren’t many carries left for Mike Goodson, the team’s fourth-round draft pick in 2009.
Injuries to Williams, Stewart and Tyrell Sutton gave Goodson his first start and his first extended action.
“We just wait on the next guy, and whoever is up, goes,” Goodson said.
Goodson played in only eight games and had only 22 carries for 49 yards as a rookie. He had only 16 carries for 50 yards in the first eight games this season. All he needed, apparently, was a chance.
Goodson has made good the past three games as the Panthers’ feature back. He had 23 carries for 100 yards against the Bucs and 22 carries for 120 yards against the Ravens. Against the Browns, Goodson scored his first career touchdown and had 81 yards receiving.
In the past three games, Goodson has 59 carries for 275 yards and a touchdown and 16 receptions for 125 yards.
“I was ready,” said Goodson, who played at Texas A&M. “I got ready in my mind. I knew I had to take on the load. I just put it in my mind that I was going to do it, and I think I did pretty well for the first two games.”
Goodson, who has bulked up to 215 pounds after arriving at 190, still has work to do. He has fumbled three times, losing one.
But Goodson might not be long for the job, even with what he’s done. Stewart returned last week and had 12 carries for 98 yards.
“I leave those decisions to them,” Goodson said. “I’m just going to take what they give me and run with it. The opportunities I get, I can only try to do my best, so that’s what I’m going to try to do.”
Fourth and short
• Seven NFC teams already have seven victories. Those seven teams are fighting for five playoff berths. The Bears and the Saints have tough roads ahead, with their remaining opponents having a combined record of 31-24.
• Bengals running back Cedric Benson has grown increasingly frustrated. He had 18 carries for 41 yards last week, and with only two 100-yard games this season, he has only 788 yards. Benson had six 100-yard games last season in rushing for 1,251 yards in 13 games. With his contract up after this season, Benson is playing for his future.
• The Cardinals’ six-game losing streak is the longest since the team lost eight consecutive games in 2006. At 3-8, the Cardinals are assured of having their first non-winning season since 2007.
• Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan has 12 career game-winning drives in the fourth quarter or overtime.
• Since 2006, the Ravens are 4-1 against the Steelers when they allow two or fewer sacks.
• Patriots quarterback Tom Brady had a perfect single-game passer rating of 158.3 against the Lions on Thanksgiving, becoming just the sixth quarterback in NFL history to post multiple perfect passer rating games in a career.
• Raiders quarterback Jason Campbell has a completion percentage of 54.7 through eight games — seven starts — after being a 62.4 percent passer in 1,430 attempts in 45 starts with Washington from 2007-09.
• Steelers linebacker James Harrison has been fined $125,000 for four illegal hits this season.
• Running back Tashard Choice will get more carries this week in place of an injured Marion Barber. But it’s clear the Cowboys view him as the No. 3 back behind Barber and Felix Jones. He will only get opportunities because of injury and or situation. He has only 38 yards on 14 carries this season, and 45 yards receiving on nine catches. Choice has said the Cowboys assured him that his fumble that was returned for a touchdown by Redskins cornerback DeAngelo Hall in the season opener did not play a part in his lack of touches.
• Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew has had four consecutive 100-yard games for the first time in his career. He is nearing the 1,000-yard mark, having gained 991 yards on 230 carries.
• Dwayne Bowe finally is living up to the expectations the Chiefs had for him when they made him a first-round draft pick in 2007. Bowe spent last season in Todd Haley’s dog house. This season, Haley has nothing but praise for Bowe, who has 58 catches for 885 yards and a league-leading 14 touchdowns. Bowe had only 16 touchdowns in his first three seasons combined.
• Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco has thrown 17 touchdowns and three interceptions since Week 3.
• The Bears were undefeated in November for the first time since the 2005 team also went 4-0 en route to an 11-5 season.
• Peyton Hillis has 905 yards and 11 touchdowns, joining Hall of Famers Leroy Kelly and Jim Brown as the only Browns backs to score 11 touchdowns in a season.
• Oakland has fallen from second in the NFL in rushing at over 162 yards per game to fifth at 139.7. Darren McFadden has only 16 yards on 18 carries in his past two games.
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