Jets 29, Colts 15

Taking a pass on history

Colts rest stars, suffer first defeat

By the second half, Peyton Manning (above) had to watch from Indy’s sideline as rookie Curtis Painter (below) ran the offense - and not too well, losing this fumble forced by Calvin Pace. By the second half, Peyton Manning (above) had to watch from Indy’s sideline as rookie Curtis Painter (below) ran the offense - and not too well, losing this fumble forced by Calvin Pace. (Aj Mast/Associated Press (Top); Matt Detrich/Indianapolis Star/Ap)
By Michael Marot
Associated Press / December 28, 2009

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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 yesterday, Caldwell never gave them a chance.

The New York Jets ended Indianapolis’s pursuit of perfection and its 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. 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 historic quest they had insisted was not a priority.

Only one other team - the 2007 Patriots - had gone 15-0 in the regular season. Only two other teams, the Patriots and 1972 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 yesterday, 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 rookie 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.

Jets coach Rex Ryan, who joked last week that he hoped the Colts rested their starters, got his wish.

“Indianapolis earned the right to do whatever they want,’’ he 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’s 1-yard TD run - and afterward, the fans who stuck around booed loudly again as the players shook hands.

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, and raced down the right sideline. He even managed to stay inbounds 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 team history.

But the Colts came right back. They moved 81 yards, the last coming when Donald Brown bounced off two 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 - 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. “The good thing is that none of this mattered in the standings.’’

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