Inside Manning's stretch of struggles

At the start of the season, Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning was a popular pick to win a third consecutive MVP award.

Sunday in the Colts’ 38-35 overtime loss to the Dallas Cowboys, he completed a different kind of trifecta all together.

Manning became the first quarterback with three interceptions in three consecutive games since 2001, when Aaron Brooks did it. In the last 20 years, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, only those two and Brett Favre in 1998 and Jim Kelly in 1996 have done it.

Manning threw three interceptions in New England, four against San Diego and four against the Cowboys in the three losses that dropped the Colts from 6-3 to 6-6. They trail Jacksonville by a game plus a tiebreaker in the AFC South.

That’s 11 interceptions against eight touchdowns in his last three games.

Some context:

  • Manning has never thrown more than eight interceptions in a three-game span in his career.

  • He threw 11 interceptions in the first four games of his rookie season in 1998.

  • He’s had three seasons -- 2003, 2004 and 2006 -- when he finished with fewer than 11 interceptions. (Ten, 10 and 9, respectively.)

"I really don't have a great explanation,” Manning said of the recent struggles to reporters in Indianapolis after the game. “I have made some poor decisions, poor throws. I have been throwing completions and my incompletions are interceptions and not incompletions. The times that I have not thrown it to our guys, I have thrown it to them and they have been very costly. To have two interceptions for touchdowns, to put our team in the hole, I don't make any excuses.

“I'm continuing to throw, I'll keep throwing. I hope I throw it to our guys. I think one thing when you get on a little turnover stretch, the easy thing to do is become gun-shy and stop throwing it. I can assure you I won't do that, I haven't done that and I'll continue to throw. I just need to make better decisions and better reads and throw it to our guys and not turn the ball over."

ESPN Stats and Info says Manning’s biggest issues over the last six games have come on balls thrown more than 10 yards in the air.

He was 10-for-16 for 206 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions on such throws against the Cowboys.

The lack of a running game is also hurting him. Thirty-six of Manning's 48 pass attempts came with fewer than the standard seven men in the box, leaving more Cowboys in pass coverage. When Dallas showed only five men in the box, Manning was picked off three times, resulting in 17 Cowboys points, including the game-winning field goal in OT.