logoby Dan Snapp

Move over, Charlie Brown. America’s got a new lovable loser: Your Indianapolis Colts.

Has there ever been a team so feted after two straight losses? Has ever a team been so unabashedly built up as the one you simply HAVE to root for?

The Colts broke down late against the dastardly Patriots a week ago, but chin up, America! There’s good news yet, because the Colts, while losing, “provided the blueprint” for how to win against the Pats. Imagine that.

Indy lost this Sunday as well, to the “energetic” San Diego Chargers (while providing yet another blueprint, hooray!). Don’t lose faith, though. See, they only lost because they were missing Marvin Harrison and Dallas Clark (how come the networks never mentioned that?).

And there was, like, weather (FOOTBALL was MEANT to be played INDOORS!!).

And the refs had it in for them (apparently no appreciation for Ben Utecht’s one-man homage to the ’75 Cowboys offensive line shift).

So OK, their kicker missed two field goals. And well, yeah, I guess you could probably also mention the six interceptions the franchise quarterback threw.

But still, they’re a team you can be proud of. Heck, Mark Schlereth told us Tony Dungy’s admittance of a tactical error cemented his position as one of the league’s elite, the tactical error itself only slightly diminishing the distinction.

Mark made another huge point about the special teams being so tired and all. I think that was especially apparent on Darren Sproles’ touchdown on the game’s opening kickoff. Hey, when they come out of the tunnel for pre-game, they sprint, dammit!

And just wait ’til you catch Dr. Z’s story on Manning:

“And even with strange numbers on the uniforms of Manning’s receivers, the Colts drove when they had to, scored, put points on the board, brought it back to 23-21 and took it down to the shadow of the Chargers’ goal, where a missed 29-yard field goal did them in. It was an amazing example of battlefield command, of somehow mustering a shattered army. But that’s what Peyton is so good at, fighting the odds.”

Forget the Colts’ D, the recovered fumble in the end zone, or the two picks and two fumbles by Philip Rivers. And certainly forget that last second pick when Peyton was trying to make something happen; in my book, he had a mere five interceptions. No, Z’s right: Manning’s the man alright.

Seriously, though, exactly how bad a game must Peyton Manning have before we’re permitted to call it as such?

The media’s gone off its rocker for this team. There’s always been the Manning love, and the kissing up to “one of the league’s good guys”, Dungy, but it’s been ratcheted way up this season.

The “Good vs. Evil” stories prior to the Pats game, the Silver Lining stories after the loss, and now the continual excuse-making – it all points to one thing: The media chose their champion in advance, and they’re sticking to their story. Although if the Colts screw up another one, the Steelers are waiting in the wings as the new People’s Champion.

There’s merit to the injury excuse, but whose fault is that? Football’s a game of attrition, where you have to prepare for losing starters to injury (like, say, the ’03 Pats did).

The Colts throw Craphonso against the wall to see what sticks, and we should feel sympathy? They made their choice long ago when they decided to pay for two No. 1 receivers. This one’s on Bill Polian.

America’s Darlings will likely pull out of their tailspin this weekend against the Chiefs, and get healthier for the stretch run (hopefully, Dwight Freeney’s injury is minor). Good vs. Evil II is likely still good to go.

Hope they’ve got their excuses ready.