Jets 29, Colts 15

Little did Rex Ryan know that when he joked about wanting the

Indianapolis Colts to rest their starters for this game, that he’d

get his wish.

With Peyton Manning and a handful of other key players standing

on the sideline for most of the second half, the New York Jets made

their coach’s Christmas wish come true. They ended the Colts’

pursuit of perfection and their NFL-record 23-game winning streak

with a 29-15 victory Sunday.

Fans booed lustily, but Manning defended coach Jim Caldwell’s

game plan.

“Until any player in here is the head coach, you follow orders

and you follow them with all of your heart,” he said. “That’s

what we’ve done as players. We follow orders. Our orders were not

to give up a turnover, not to give up a kick return for a

touchdown. There’s not many games, under any circumstances, that

you win when you have turnovers and give up a kick return for a

touchdown.”

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 AFC North champion Cincinnati.

But for the Colts, it marked the end to a 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.

Don Shula’s Dolphins are still the only NFL team to go an entire

season undefeated, and he congratulated the Colts on their attempt

at a perfect season.

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 on

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 and put the Colts hopes in jeopardy.

“Indianapolis earned the right to do whatever they want,” Ryan

said. “That’s a heck of a football team. We were just going to

line up and play, one way or the other. Whoever was in a Colts

uniform was who we were going to play against.”

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.

It was an odd response for a team that wrapped up home-field

advantage in the playoffs, won more games in this decade than any

team in any decade (115), broke the Patriots’ previous record for

longest winning streak (21) and had won a franchise-record 13

straight home games.

“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 fielded Pat McAfee’s

kick to start the second half 6 yards into the end zone, ran it

out, found a seam along the right side and raced down the

sidelines. He even managed to stay in bounds after getting hit at

about the Colts 20, going 106 yards to give the Jets a 10-9

lead.

It was the longest return in Jets history and tied for the

second-longest in NFL history with three others. Only Ellis Hobbs’

108-yard kickoff return against the Jets in 2007 was longer.

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.”

NOTES: Colts owner Jim Irsay honored longtime offensive line

coach Howard Mudd before the game. Mudd retired briefly this

spring, then returned during the summer and said this would be his

final season. … Clark caught four passes for 57 yards to go over

1,000 yards for the season. … Jones ran 23 times for 105 yards,

putting him within 12 yards of his career high. … Sanchez was 12

of 19 for 106 yards, but threw no interceptions.