11 Nov 2008
by Ned Macey
The linked article predominately features a discussion of the Steelers' declining passing offense. The Colts' offense has also declined this year, but their troubles are more easily identifiable. Basically, Marvin Harrison has been terrible.
The Colts' run offense has struggled at times this year, averaging only 3.3 yards per carry, but according to DVOA, it is basically league average. The offensive line was in flux earlier in the season but has now solidified. A number of factors lead to the disconnect between their yards per carry and their DVOA. First, they have not fumbled all season. Second, while they struggle on first down (worst in the league), they are much better in short-yardage situations, converting 20 of 27 power runs.
Most importantly, the Colts have played a number of dominant run defenses. Among their nine opponents are six of the top 11 run defenses, including the top three. When the Colts start running more effectively in the second half of the season, remember that they are now facing a number of poor defenses, not suddenly finding their old form again.
As for Harrison, it is unclear that the poor defenses will really benefit him. On the one hand, he has been extremely close to making a number of big plays this year, including two potential touchdowns on Sunday. The optimist would say that he and Manning just need to work on their timing now that Harrison is a step slower.
The pessimist (or dare I say realist?) would argue that Harrison is done. The other three main targets for Manning -- Reggie Wayne, Anthony Gonzalez, and Dallas Clark -- all have DVOAs that rank among the top 15 receivers. Harrison, meanwhile, is well-below replacement level and ranks 69th. Opposing defenses are not rolling coverage to Harrison. In fact, they are more likely now than ever to bring an extra safety into the box to stop the run on first down.
Until Harrison can start making more big plays, the Colts will not recapture their traditional dominant form. Given his age, we might safely say that the Colts offense will not recapture its dominant form this season.
23 comments, Last at 15 Nov 2008, 9:56am by Whatev
"Last team with the ball wins" is a cliche, but sometimes cliches are the best way to get across the central narrative of an important game. If you like great quarterback play, you have to watch the NFC Championship Game.