I know what you're saying: the NFL is a game that changes week-to-week, eight years is basically an eternity. It's impossible to look at a team that long ago and try to extrapolate a gameplan for beating them today. Normally I would agree with you, but I don't think I've ever seen a team with as much continuity over as extended a period of time than the Colts.
Sure, most of the names and the faces have changed, but the most important player on the team is still in place. Peyton Manning has defined everything the Colts have tried to do since the team drafted him. Even if the rest of the team is completely different, there is a lot of value in knowing how to disrupt Peyton Manning. Finding success against the Colts usually means stopping Manning. That much hasn't changed at all since 2002.
As a result, there is a lot of real value in the breakdown of a Redskins win over Manning and the Colts that LaVar Arrington posted on his Hard Hits blog at the Washington Post.
The Colts entered the game as the clear favorite with Peyton Manning at quarterback, Edgerrin James at running back, and Marvin Harrison at wide receiver. They were stacked on offense, but we knew that if we killed the head, the body would die. And Manning was that head.
Arrington lists the things his team focused on to prepare for the game, and how that helped them slow down Manning.
The first was being organized and disciplined when they lined up before a play. Lesson: You can't telegraph your defense before the snap. If Manning recognizes the defense you want to play, he will adjust and find a way to beat it. Force him to adjust to the defense while the play is happening, not before he snaps the ball.
Second, and this is something we've seen in the past, you absolutely have to get his jersey dirty. Arrington speculates that he put at least half a dozen hits on Manning and nearly recorded an interception. Lesson: You can't give Manning time to pick the defense apart; you need to have a good pass rush to force the issue. Looking at you, Orakpo.
The last thing LaVar mentions is how the intelligence of Jessie Armstead helped his defense stay a step ahead of Manning. Lesson: Peyton Manning is known for changing the play and calling out all sorts of who-knows-what at the line; the defense needs to be led by someone who has the football IQ to make the appropriate changes on the fly. London Fletcher is the leader of the defense, can he keep up with Manning in a game of football chess? The football game could very well come down to who wins that mental matchup.
Coverage is always important on a core of dangerous Colts receivers, but the real focus of the defense should be putting pressure on Peyton Manning and staying a step ahead of the offense.