Is it better to rest your starters and focus on winning the Super Bowl, or play them in pursuit of an undefeated season?
Indianapolis coach Jim Caldwell’s choice was to sit quarterback Peyton Manning and other key starters in a home game on Dec. 27 against the New York Jets. The result was a 29-15 loss after the Colts brought in the reserves leading 15-10 with 5:36 left in the third quarter.
The loss handed the Colts their first setback of the season, after coming into the game with a 14-0 record.
“Until any player in here is the head coach, you follow orders,” Manning said. “That’s what we’ve done as players. We follow orders.”
Fans at Lucas Oil Stadium booed the decision and Colts followers have been upset ever since. The Colts had their record 23-game regular-season winning streak snapped as well as their a shot at a perfect 16-0 season. They also won’t have a chance to become the first team to win the Super Bowl and finish 19-0.
Caldwell defended his decision.
“There’s no question that what’s done is done,” Caldwell said. “It’s more so how you react to things that happen to you. I think it (preparing for the playoffs) will serve (the players) well.”
But Caldwell may have jumped the gun and hurt his team. It was the next-to-last regular-season game, not the last contest. And since the Colts get a bye in the first round, it would mean more than three weeks without quality playing time for the starters. Indianapolis’ passing game requires precision and can’t allow for rust to gather.
Most importantly, Manning and his teammates wanted to go unbeaten with a chance at winning the Super Bowl and finishing 19-0. No team has done that. Only the Miami Dolphins went unbeaten as Super Bowl champions at 17-0, after the 1972 season.
And what kind of respect did the move show the players? It’s what they have worked so hard for since training camp last summer.
Now, Indianapolis has been exposed as a team that might be vulnerable, and the Colts could be a little less confident. But if they’re as angry at Caldwell’s decision as the fans are, maybe it will push them to a championship.
- 1,000 Catches: Terrell Owens can be obnoxious at times, but he’s been one of the league’s top receivers. Owens, who plays for the Buffalo Bills, recently became the sixth player in NFL history with 1,000 receptions.
- High-Powered Offense: The Houston Texans strung together a streak of three consecutive games from Weeks 14-16 with 400 or more offensive yards, setting a franchise record.
- Top Gun in Steel City: Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger is the first quarterback in Steelers history to pass for 4,000 yards in a season.
- For Making Packers Gm Look Good: All is not lost in Green Bay since Brett Favre left. His replacement, Aaron Rodgers, is the first player in league history to throw for 4,000-plus yards in each of his first two years as a starter.
Eight quarterbacks through Week 16 had passed for at least 4,000 yards this season, the most in a single season in NFL history (seven in 2007). Here’s the list:
Matt Schaub, Texans, 4,467 yards
Peyton Manning, Colts, 4,405
Drew Brees, Saints, 4,388
Tom Brady, Patriots, 4,312
Aaron Rodgers, Packers, 4,199
Tony Romo, Cowboys, 4,172
Philip Rivers, Chargers, 4,155
Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers, 4,108
Did You Know?
Miami has beaten every NFL team except the Houston Texans, who defeated the Dolphins 27-20 in Week 16. Miami is 0-5 all-time against Houston, with four games decided by a field goal or less.
After missing the postseason last year with an 11-5 record, New England is back in after clinching their seventh AFC East title in the last nine years…The Philadelphia Eagles are in the playoffs for the eighth time in the 2000s…In their last home game at Giants Stadium on Dec. 27, the New York Giants lost 41-9 to Carolina, eliminating them from playoff contention. They were the NFC’s top playoff seed last season…Arizona has double-digit wins for the first time since 1976, when the team was located in St. Louis… The Cincinnati Bengals have qualified for the postseason for just the second time in 19 years…49ers running back Frank Gore has run for 1,000 yards in four straight seasons… Titans defensive coordinator Chuck Cecil has been fined $20,000 by the NFL for verbally abusing officials. Cecil made remarks in a Week 16 game against San Diego after Tennessee was called for a roughing the passer penalty. The Titans were then flagged another 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct.
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