Marvin is not playing well this year. I don't need Greggggggggg Doyel to tell me that. He had some big drops against the Steelers that were magnified because Marvin is Marvin. If Terrell Owens or Braylon Edwards had made those drops, no one would have cared. They are known as ball droppers (ok, stop snickering). Marvin is known as "Ninja Hands," and not because he knows how to beat the crap out of someone and throw them out of his bar. He snatched passes from the air like a Kung Fu Master snatches flies from the air with his chopsticks. This year, the master is slipping, but that is not a cause for panic.
At 36 years old, Marvin Harrison is still one of the fastest WRs in football. This is not like Jerry Rice, who was never that fast and was slower than my grandmother in the twilight of his career. Marvin is still in great shape and can still make the big play (ask Chris McAlister). And after a week of extra harsh criticism, Marvin responded in typical Marvin fashion: He shut up and let his play talk for him.
Marvin caught 9 balls for 77 yards and a TD. The TD was a thing of beauty, a slant caught four yards from the endzone. Marvin dragged two defenders into the endzone with him... from fours yards out. Marvin's improved play was the result of the Colts doing something different with him on offense. In the game recap comments, jay16 accurately conveys that change:
Marvin Harrison- I’ll be the first one to say on here, that I thought Marvin was just done. But what I saw yesterday changed my mind a little, especially for the rest of the year. They stopped using him on fly routes, and started working him on slants more, underneath zones, inside patterns things like that. Basically, it seemed like they changed the way they were using him, and the result was 9 catches, touchdown and what I thought was his most productive game of the season. If he has lost a step or two he still knows how to read coverages and can work the middle or short outside outs, and I thought for the first time this year he really shined.
I personally do not buy the "he has lost a step" talk because I have seen him consistently beat opposing corners. I think the issue with Marvin is comfort. Guys like Reggie and Gonzo are better than him now, and have established more of a comfort zone with a healthy Peyton Manning. Remember, Marvin did not play much last year, and this forced Peyton to adjust his game to Gonzo and Reggie. Peyton also missed all of training camp and pre-season, valuable time for him to reacquaint himself with Marvin.
One wrinkle that would be intriguing to see is the Colts shift Marvin to the slot in 3 WR sets. Anthony Gonzalez is not the Colts slot receiver. He is more comfortable playing outside. The Colts are using Reggie Wayne or Dallas Clark in the slot more. Why not shift Gonzo and Marvin in some "Kings" sets? It would allow the Colts more opportunities to get the ball to Marvin on slants and posts. Just an idea.