INDIANAPOLIS – Peyton Manning and the rest of the Colts accepted Jim Caldwell’s plan.
The hometown fans didn’t like the imperfect ending one bit.
With Manning and a handful of other key players standing on the sideline hoping to save the Colts (14-1) from yet another second-half deficit Sunday, Caldwell never gave them a chance.
The New York Jets ended the Colts’ pursuit of perfection and their NFL-record 23-game winning streak with a 29-15 victory that had fans serenading Lucas Oil Stadium with boos and Manning, the three-time MVP, offering support for his coach’s decision.
“Until any player in here is the head coach, you follow orders and you follow them with all of your heart,” Manning said. “That’s what we’ve done as players. We follow orders.”
The victory was more significant to the Jets (8-7), who took control of their playoff destiny with the victory, and would make the postseason for the first time since 2006 with a win next week at home against Cincinnati.
But for the Colts, it marked the end to a historic quest they had insisted was not a priority.
Only one other team – the 2007 New England Patriots – had gone 15-0 in the regular season. Only two other teams, the Patriots and 1972 Miami Dolphins, had ever gone into the playoffs with a perfect record.
Manning was 14 of 21 for 192 yards, playing long enough to join Brett Favre, Dan Marino and John Elway as the only members of the 50,000-yard club.
Caldwell, players and team president Bill Polian, however, said perfection was never the goal; winning the Super Bowl was. And Sunday, they showed exactly what they meant.
The first-year coach pulled Manning & Co. with a 15-10 lead and 5:36 left in the third quarter.
Stunned fans didn’t react immediately, but when Curtis Painter, Manning’s replacement, returned to the field for his second series, the boos began. They grew louder when Painter was hit by linebacker Calvin Pace and lost the ball, with Marques Douglas recovering and scoring. A 2-point conversion pass from Mark Sanchez to Dustin Keller made it 18-15.
Jets coach Rex Ryan, who joked earlier this week that he hoped the Colts rested their starters, got his wish.
“Indianapolis earned the right to do whatever they want,” he said.
The Jets sealed it with two fourth-quarter scores – Jay Feely’s 43-yard field goal and Thomas Jones’ 1-yard TD run – and afterward, the fans who stuck around booed loudly again as the players shook hands.
“I don’t blame them a bit, man,” three-time Pro Bowl center Jeff Saturday said. “I probably would have booed, too. I don’t blame them. They pay to come see us win games, and we didn’t get it done.”
New York took advantage of the opportunity.
The Colts’ downfall began when Brad Smith returned the kickoff opening the second half 106 yards to give the Jets a 10-9 lead.
But the Colts came right back. They moved 81 yards, the last coming when Donald Brown bounced off two Jets defenders and scooted into the end zone to make it 15-10 with 10:13 left in the third quarter. Brown’s conversion run failed.
That was it for Manning, Reggie Wayne, Dallas Clark and Joseph Addai – and the Colts’ streak.
“Football logic has to come into play, and that logic is it makes no sense to have guys out there with the potential for injuries,” Polian said. “We played for 16 weeks, sharp as any team in football. The good thing is that none of this mattered in the standings.”
Jets 29, Colts 15
Ind—Addai 21 run (kick failed)
Ind—FG Vinatieri 22
NYJ—FG Feely 35
NYJ—B.Smith 106 kickoff return (Feely kick)
Ind—Brown 1 run (run failed)
NYJ—Douglas 1 fumble return (Keller pass from Sanchez)
NYJ—FG Feely 43
NYJ—Jones 1 run (Edwards pass from Sanchez)
|Total Net Yards||293||277|
|Time of Possession||33:06||26:54|
RUSHING—N.Y. Jets, Jones 23-105, Greene 16-95, B.Smith 2-16, Sanchez 2-0, Clowney 1-(minus 14). Indianapolis, Addai 6-40, Brown 16-22, Painter 1-3, Collie 1-(minus 1).
PASSING—N.Y. Jets, Sanchez 12-19-0-106. Indianapolis, Manning 14-21-0-192, Painter 4-11-1-44.
RECEIVING—N.Y. Jets, Cotchery 4-45, Keller 3-19, Edwards 2-18, Clowney 1-11, Woodhead 1-8, Richardson 1-5. Indianapolis, Collie 6-94, Clark 4-57, Wayne 3-33, Baskett 2-16, Santi 1-22, Brown 1-12, Robinson 1-2.
MISSED FIELD GOALS—None.
Subscribe to the sports newsletter
Get the day’s top sports headlines and breaking news delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.