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Peyton Watches as Colts' Lose First Game 23

Posted: December 27, 2009, 9:06 PM ; Updated: December 28, 2009, 7:48 PM

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- 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.

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23 Comments

Poor Peyton
But I knew it was goin to be over for the colts tohugh
Isnt that heart breaking for them?

I DON'T KNOW WHAT TO SAY.... OH THAT'S A STUNNIN LOSS FOR THE COLTS

I knew yhey would choke. The only team who can go undefeated is the Patriots bacause they blew out opponents along the way and got some swagger. Colts had soooo many close calls I knew it'd be only a matter of time.

I am happy they lost. GO JETS !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

caldwell is stupid, I say play to win

I i like the colts but I knew they would finish off the season perfect.

they can't finish perfect if they lost

the colts had nothing to fight for why risk getting your star players injured right before the playoffs caldwell was smart by playing his starters part of the game if manning or wayne got injured the colts would be done for in the playoffs the colts have a better chance to win the super bowl if they have there star players

Why so said peyton because we lost the first time this season!!!

Why so said Peyton because we just lost!!!

hey peyton why so sad because we just lost!!!

Haha Colts(but I feel bad for the Colts fans that went to the game because they did not get to see the starters play).

smart move by caldwell. peyton manning needs 2 get some r&r b4 the playoffs.

I absolutely hated Caldwell's decision. The super bowl is all that matters? A team wins the super bowl every year. Only two teams have gone undefeated the entire season. Oh, and remember the year the colts had to keep their starters to get a playoff spot. Yeah I remember, it was the year they won the Super Bowl! Dumb choice Caldwell, dumb choice.

Indianapolis Councilman is asking the NFL to refund every fan who went to that game's money because the Colts only played the starters for half the game.

Caldwell is amazing RIGHT?!:(

i am glad that they benched their starters (cuz i don't like the colts) but it would have been smarter to risk injury. what are the chances someone's just gonna happen to get injured in this game? its just the jets, not the best defense in the nfl. PATS RULE!!!!

The colts did do a smart thing by sitting there starters but DON'T DO THAT WHEN YOUR LOSING!!!!!!!!!

by the way it is caldwell, not cadwell and he did the right move to sit the stars. the colts won't be thinking about December 27th come playoffs, but they would be had Manning gotten hurt.

by the way it's roethlisberger not rotlesberger! But I do agree with you when you said the colts are HUGE WIMPS!

dude....i understand that they didn't want manning or any other stars to get injured, but did the pats sit brady or moss or welker wen they were undefeated in the regular season? Did the steelers sit rotlesberger last year when they clinched the playoffs? NO!!!!!!!!!!!! they took risks so they could do good. if the colts wanna be wimps and not take risks, let them lose!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

the colts rock and they should brought there starters in when they where behind and then they wouldn't be on the news that they lost 24/7

Smooth Cadwell.

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