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
“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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.