Remember that guy Dallas Clark who used to torment opposing secondaries and light up the scoreboards?
You know the guy who routinely broke long seam routes for key third down conversions and demoralized opponents with majestic leaping one-handed catches. Him. Where'd he go? What happened to him because the that impostor wearing the #44 jersey is not the All-Pro dynamic playmaker out of Iowa that we've come to know and love.
Last year through 5 games Clark had 31 catches for 295 yards and 3 touchdowns. This season, 14 catches for 136 yards and one touchdown. Those numbers tie him for 16th in the league amongst tight ends for receptions (I couldn't bear to look to see how far down he was for yards or touchdowns).
Now if you haven't seen the games, a fair argument could be something along the lines of 'he hasn't established a good rapport with Painter' or even 'Painter just isn't the quarterback Manning is.' To some extent both are true and all of the Colts receivers numbers have suffered.
Yet if you've watched the games, you know it's more than just having an inexperienced quarterback.
Something is bothering Dallas and effecting his concentration.
Through week 4, Clark was tied for 7th in the league with three drops. After another three more today (plus one overthrown ball that he often catches) his total has skyrocketed to six. Depending on what happened today around the league, Clark might now be alone at the top of the inglorious list.
For a guy who has been so incredibly sure-handed for the past decade the thought of Clark leading the league in drops - especially considering how few catches he has - is shocking.
Clark has almost entirely disappeared from the offense.
Against Houston, Clark caught 4 balls out of 5 targets (80 percent). From there his season has gone into a tailspin.
The following week he only caught 4 of 8 balls (50 percent). Then against Pittsburgh he only snagged 2 of 6 balls (33 percent).
This week, Clark's receptions-to-target ratio fell to 1-5 (20 percent).
So what is wrong?
Many commentators were concerned that the Colts' veterans would tank once the season was officially lost. That would be another fair rationale had you not seen the games. Especially today, a game which Clark dropped 3 easy catches and one (un-official drop) overthrow which he has made 100 times before, Clark appeared deeply distressed and really upset with himself. Knowing Clark and his work ethic and commitment, plus seeing his reactions today, it seems unlikely he is tanking the season.
Another possibility is that there is bad blood between Clark and Painter. Again, doubtful. The Colts' locker room vets would sniff that out and put it to rest.
One more excuse, would be some sort of mental hurdle in coming back from the wrist injury or even that his wrist isn't fully healed. Again, that seems doubtful.
The only other alternative is that a off-field personal matter is affecting his performance on it. Clark looks like he is genuinely trying and engaged in the games but that his focus is just not there.
Let's hope for Clark and for the Colts that Dallas can overcome whatever his bothering him.