All Manning Era Team: We take a look at the greatest single seasons by position in the Peyton Manning Era (1998-2011). Today, we look at the:
Offensive Line and Defensive Line:
Despite all the criticism of the Colts’ offensive line the past few years, Peyton Manning actually played behind some pretty good lines.
During the 2004-2005 years, the Colts offensive line was the best in football. Looking back on the line that Manning criticized following the playoff loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 2005 playoffs, he probably would take that line back in a second.
The line in 2004, though, was clearly the best. The blocking of Tarik Glenn, Rick DeMulling, Jeff Saturday, Tupe Peko, and Ryan Diem provided Peyton Manning time to produce the greatest statistical season the NFL had ever known up to that point. They also paved the way for the NFL’s 4th leading rusher, Edgerrin James.
They allowed only 13 sacks on Manning, the league’s MVP. The offense turned the ball over only 17 times in the entire season.
The Colts were second in the NFL in total yards and first in the NFL in points – 39 more than the second best. The Colts 522 points averaged out to a staggering 32.6 points per game.
The Colts offensive line in 2004 was the best of any unit Peyton Manning played behind in his career in Indianapolis, and quite possibly in Denver as well. There is no question that they deserved this spot on the All Manning Era Team.
The defensive line has been both the strength and weakness of the Colts’ defense during Manning’s tenure. The defensive ends of Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis were the strength of the defense, but the defensive tackles often times were viewed as the weakness of it.
In 2004, Freeney had a career high and league leading 16 sacks, but it was actually his 2002 rookie season that made this list. Freeney recorded a career high 41 tackles, 13 sacks and a career high 9 forced fumbles.
Freeney, the best pass rusher in the NFL, had many seasons that could have been on this list, but his 2002 season was the best all around season by a defensive end in the Peyton Manning Era.
Freeney’s counterpart, Robert Mathis, also is one of the best pass rushers in the league. The two formed the greatest pass rush duo in the NFL and one of the best the league has ever seen.
Mathis makes the list for his 2005 season, where he recorded 54 tackles, a career high 11.5 sacks (matched in 2008) and a career high 8 forced fumbles.
While Freeney is the better of the two, Mathis was often overlooked duo to Freeney. His 2005 season helped the Colts to a 14-2 record and really started the dynamic duo’s reputation as the best pass rush duo in the league.
When the Colts run defense was gashed to close out the 2006 regular season, the Colts defensive tackles were blamed, whether right or wrong. Ever since, the Colts defensive tackle position has been considered a big weak spot.
But the Colts of the Manning Era have actually had quite a few good seasons from a DT.
Montae Reagor’s 2004 season is one of those. Reagor notched 41 tackles, 5 sacks, 1 forced fumble and 2 pass deflections. Reagor was a very good player for the Colts from 2003-2006, when he was involved in a serious car accident on the way to a game against the Washington Redskins (incidentally, that was the game where Peyton Manning’s neck injury is believed by many to have started). Reagor was placed on injured reserve and after the Colts won Super Bowl XLI, Reagor was released due to his injuries. He rebounded nicely to play a season for the Eagles. Montae Reagor was a very good DT for the Colts, and his 2004 season was the greatest season he had.
The other spot on the defensive line (the Colts ran a 4-3 defense during the Manning Era, so that is how the All Manning Era Team is laid out) belongs to defensive tackle Tony McCoy’s 1998 season. In Peyton Manning’s rookie year, McCoy had 51 tackles and 6 sacks. Although the Colts went 3-13 that season, McCoy was great. His 1998 season certainly is deserving of this list.
Offensive and defensive linemen are among the most underrated players in the game of football. It starts and ends with the line. The Colts have definitely had their share of poor line play, but that is overshadowed by the spectacular play of so many. These men are all very deserving of their spots on the All Manning Era Team.