National Football League
Then there was one: the Colts
National Football League

Then there was one: the Colts

Published Dec. 22, 2009 11:51 a.m. ET

It's gotten lonely at the top for the Indianapolis Colts, the NFL's last unbeaten team.

The Colts became the third franchise in league history to have a 14-0 record when they beat Jacksonville 35-31 last Thursday night. When Dallas upset New Orleans 24-17 on Saturday night, the Saints' dreams of a perfect season were shattered.

So the Colts, who joined the 1972 Miami Dolphins and 2007 New England Patriots as the only 14-0 clubs, will challenge the record books solo. While Miami finished that season with a championship and a 17-0 mark, the Patriots lost in the Super Bowl to the New York Giants to end up 18-1. No team has gone 19-0.

Indy could do it with victories over the New York Jets on Sunday at home, then against the Bills on the road.


``It's a great conversation for those who love our sport,'' coach Jim Caldwell said. ``We know what the most important thing is: We want to be in the best possible condition we can be in. We want to do well in the playoffs. That's what we think about and we'll adjust and move along game by game like we've done all year. We'll make an assessment on how we'll play this next game some time in the future.''

The future isn't quite now, but such star players as Peyton Manning and Reggie Wayne have made it crystal clear they would like to be on the field. Both went all the way in the comeback victory over Jacksonville and, while Manning insists the final decisions always are up to the coaches, he isn't beyond a bit of lobbying on his own behalf.

``Caldwell makes the call, we follow,'' Manning said. ``So we'll see what happens. But the idea is to keep working on some things so ... obviously personally I hope we still play.''

The Jets are 7-7 and on the very fringe of the playoff race. Their defense is formidable, and leaving the Indianapolis offense to rookie Curtis Painter could be a recipe for defeat.

Manning is only 7-4 against the Jets, who the Colts haven't played since 2006.

It also would seem most fair for the Colts to approach the game the same way they did in Jacksonville, also a contender for a wild-card berth. Of course, what matters most to Indy is what is most beneficial for a Super Bowl crown for the second time in four seasons.

``The playoffs are their own separate entity,'' he said. ``We want to make certain we are functioning well and at the top of our game when it's time to get going.''

If the Colts get past the Jets to complete an 8-0 home schedule, frigid Western New York would be the site of the last step to 16-0. Indy has won its last six meetings with Buffalo, and the Bills already have been eliminated from contention.

Long winning streaks and high playoff seeds are routine for the Colts since Manning arrived in 1998. As recently as 2005, they reached 13-0, finished 14-2, only to lose their first postseason game to Pittsburgh.

That was with Tony Dungy in charge. He retired after last season, replaced by the man he chose for the job, Caldwell. No rookie coach has had anything close to the success Caldwell has had in 2009.

One reason he is 14-0 is his staunch belief in the system and style of Dungy. Wisely, Caldwell has stuck with a winning formula, although, obviously, the Colts have taken it into the stratosphere this year.

``I like where we are,'' he said. ``Oftentimes, complexities arise when you are doing well. We'll take those and deal with them as we go.''

They've done pretty well at it so far.


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