Loss Perfectly Acceptable to Colts Brass
INDIANAPOLIS - Though the fans' boos might still be echoing through the rafters of Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis Colts President Bill Polian is not lamenting the loss of a perfect season.
"That's not a goal. It never was a goal," Polian says. "Our goal is later on, and who knows how that will come out? But we want to give ourselves the best shot."
Quarterback Peyton Manning and other key starters were lifted in the third quarter of a 29-15 loss Sunday to the New York Jets that dropped the Colts to 14-1.
The Colts led 15-10 when Manning exited. The boos peaked a short while later when rookie backup quarterback Curtis Painter lost a fumble that was recovered for a touchdown by the Jets.
The Colts clinched home-field advantage for the AFC playoffs in their 13th game. Coach Jim Caldwell said his decision to bench Manning and others was based on the "delicate balancing act" between keeping the team sharp and keeping it healthy for the playoffs.
Caldwell said Monday that he wasn't surprised by the fans' reaction: "Anytime we lose, we're all disappointed. . . . So we certainly share in their disappointment."
The Colts finish their regular season Sunday at the Buffalo Bills.
"We anticipate that we'll play that game much the same as we did the one (Sunday)," Caldwell said. " Our next quest is making certain we're in great position to do well in the playoffs."
When the 2006 Colts won the Super Bowl title, they won the AFC South at 12-4 but were competing for playoff seeding up to the finish of the regular season.
The 2005 Colts had a 13-0 start that assured them home field in the AFC playoffs. Manning played sparingly in the final two regular-season games, and the Colts were eliminated in their playoff opener by the eventual champion Pittsburgh Steelers.