Jim Caldwell, Head Coach of the Indianapolis Colts, pulled out his starters in the third quarter and seriously jeopardized the Colts’ chances to finish off a perfect season. Perhaps, behind the sour-sweet reaction from Indianapolis fans, Caldwell might have just made the best decision in the long run. Back in 2007, the New England Patriots team had proved that perfection has its own flaws. The Patriots had had the perfect season – almost. There is a certain cruelty in the Patriots ending their perfect streak in the game that mattered most: the Super Bowl XLII. So this year’s Colts might not be perfect, but they are quite virtuous, and this might very well be what makes the difference between holding a perfect record, or the Vince Lombardi Trophy. Let’s face it: the NFL record 23 regular-season winning game strike came to an end while 3 times MVP Payton Manning looked from the sidelines. But Manning and Co. are going to the postseason in top shape, with home team advantage, and no late season injuries to regret. Perhaps this perspective was not clear enough for most of Indianapolis Colts’ fans who filled the Lucas Oil Stadium with boos. Caldwell pulled out Manning and Co. with a 15-10 lead and 5:36 left in the 3rd quarter. And it did not seem that bad. But things were about to change.
First, replacement QB Curtis Painter was hit by linebacker Calvin Pace. Following the hit, Painter lost the ball and Marques Douglas recovered it and scored. Then Mark Sanchez completed a two point conversion pass to Dustin Keller to make it 18-15.
Judging by the way the Colts fans shouted their boos, it seemed like they knew that the cow manure was about to hit the wind spinner. In the fourth quarter, the Jets closed the game with two more scores. Jay Feely’s 43 yard field goal, followed up by a 1 yard touch down, came with no offensive reaction from the Colts. And the die had been cast. The Jets saw an opportunity, and took it. At the end, the Colts lost their perfect season 29-15 against the Jets. But this has been one heck of a regular season. The only team that had gone 15-0 in regular season was the 2007 New England Patriots. Only two other teams, the Pats and 1972 Miami Dolphins, had gone into playoffs with a perfect record. This year, both the New Orleans Saints and the Colts could have gone flawless into the last game, and, even if not necessarily plausible, a Saints-Colts final seemed possible. But the Saints now have two defeats in a row. And considering the Jets’ win over Indianapolis, it looks like Don Shula’s Miami Dolphins are still going to be the only team to go undefeated an entire season. Caldwell’s decision came like an answer to the New York Jets’ prayers. Without Payton Manning, Dallas Clark, Reggie Wayne and Joseph Addai in the field, things got way easier for the Jets. Now, after this win, the Jets will not depend upon other teams’ performances to qualify for the playoffs. If they are able to take a home victory over the Cincinnati Bengals this coming week, the Jets will make it into the postseason for the first time since 2006. There was a bit of controversy around Caldwell’s call. But Manning, the players, and the management stand behind his decision. The bottom line is that the Colts have one goal in mind: to win the Super Bowl. If they are able to do so, losing the perfect streak is a small price to pay.