"Four years ago, after a crushing playoff loss to the Steelers, Colts quarterback Peyton Manning threw his offensive line under the bus without actually throwing them under the bus, attributing the loss to some "problems in protection."
On Tuesday, Colts president Bill Polian was more direct in assessing the performance of the men charged with keep Peyton in one piece.
"The offensive line, by our standards, did not have a good game," Polian said during his weekly radio show, per John Oesher of Examiner.com. "They were outplayed by the Saints' defensive line, I thought, pretty decisively."
Polian also blamed the loss on a failure to execute "in a handful of critical situations." He specifically cited the onside kick to start the second half; he didn't mention the fateful play that triggered a 14-point swing with three minutes and change to play.
If Polian believes that the 74-yard interception return by Tracy Porter resulted from a failure of execution, then Polian is a member of the "Reggie Wayne ran a bad route" camp. But with Porter claiming that he was in the right place at the right time due to trends and tendencies he saw while studying film, it was a failure not of execution but of coaching and/or line-of-scrimmage decision-making from Manning.
Manning, after all, gets a ton of credit when things go well for changing plays at the line of scrimmage via a series of shouts and gesticulations. So why doesn't Manning get any of the blame for not changing the play when, for example, coach Jim Caldwell calls for a run on third and short deep in their own end in the closing minutes of the second quarter? Or when resorting in crunch time to a Madden-style crutch play that the team has won many times -- and thus the opponent has reason to think might be coming?
Then again, the quarterback is the last guy the team president will blame. The franchise already is in line to give Manning a blank check as part of his next contract; if Polian pisses Peyton off now, a couple of extra zeroes might get added to the final figure.
Still, it would have been nice to hear Polian take some of the blame for failing to hire a special teams coordinator who'd have his guys ready at all times for a surprise onside kick.