Peyton Manning was ruled out with a neck injury, so we knew going into the 2011 NFL season opener that the Houston Texans were the clear favorites. But, 34-7 good? I don’t think anyone saw that coming.

You would think that just their aerial attack would struggle, but Manning’s absence has had a domino effect on the rest of the team’s performance as well.

Obviously 39-year old Kerry Collins, who came out of retirement to join the Colts under a month ago, struggled and understandably so considering he’s had little experience running their complex offense.

Typically, Manning would spread the ball to a plethora of receivers. Last year, eight receivers had more than 19 receptions. Today, Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark were virtually the only ones targeted, leaving Pierre Garcon and Austin Collie without an impact.

Moreover, their rushing attack had, but only ran the ball 16 times.

The reason for this is that the gameplan has always been predicated around setting up the run through the pass and changing it all of a sudden will be difficult to adjust to. At the same time, if they hope to be competitive without Manning, then they must learn to rely on Joseph Addai and Donald Brown more.

The root problem to all this is their porous offensive line. Even though they only surrendered 16 sacks last season, it wasn’t because of stellar pass protection but rather due to Manning’s quick release out of the pocket. The Texans registered three sacks on Collins today, hit him seven times, and forced a pair of fumbles as well. Their on pace to endure 48 sacks which is more than they’ve given up in the past three years combined. If they don’t fix those issues soon then Collins will soon find himself injured and they’ll be left with Curtis Painter as their only option.

As for the defense, nobody should be too surprised by the fact that they allowed 384 yards. Frankly, it’s always been one of the worst in the league. The only difference is that, now, it’s being highlighted and exposed. Without the ability to sustain drives on offense, it puts more responsibility on the defense.

Up until now, the Colts have figured that they would have a multiple-score lead at all times, giving them the leeway to employ a unique strategy of undersized defenders playing in attack mode. Now that they’re without that lead, and going to be playing catchup for the most part, their defense no longer has room for error.

Knowing offenses don’t have the pressure to throw all game long, the Texans were able to run the ball 41 times for 167 yards-and that was without last year’s NFL rushing leader Arian Foster.

And they didn’t even Matt Schaub to be at his best. He was 17/24 but threw a pair of interceptions.

On top of that, their special teams coverage was absolutely horrendous—but there shouldn’t be any excuse for that. Danieal Manning returned a kickoff for 46 yards and Jacoby Jones scored on a 91-yard punt return.

These little things are what’ll make the difference between being respectable and utter humiliation.

But as you can see, Manning is the catalyst behind this entire team, not just their passing game. Until he comes back, I don’t see how the outcome will be much different than today’s.


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