It was a sight to see. Â The starters for the (14-0) Indianapolis Colts exited the game with a 15-10 lead, midway through the third quarter against the (7-7) New York Jets. The decision to bench the starters ultimately cost the Colts a chance to go 15-0, as they were defeated 29-15 at home by the Jets. New York scored 19 unanswered points in route to a victory that very few thought they could win.
As Peyton Manning was substituted for reserve quarterback Curtis Painter, most speculated that Manning was injured, but a trend soon followed. After Manning, out came tight end Dallas Clark and wide receiver Reggie Wayne. When the Colts punted the ball, their defense took the field minus starters Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis. The Colts benched their starters in favor of their reserves.
The message sent by Colts head coach Jim Caldwell was clear, going undefeated doesnâ€™t mean a thing without a championship ring. Besides being in the record books, what incentive would Indianapolis receive by going all out against the New York Jets, a team in desperation and in need of the a win to continue their playoff push. If anything, trying to go 16-0 would be a detriment and would risk injury to important players.
In a league where injuries can happen on every play, the philosophy of Indianapolis head coach Jim Caldwell must be understood and respected. Caldwell is looking at the bigger picture for his team, even if that meant sacrificing a chance at history.
Â If the starters would have remained in the game, who knows what may have happened. What if Peyton Manning was sacked by Jets linebacker Calvin Pace as backup Curtis Painter was, causing Manning to get a concussion, putting his playoff availability in jeopardy, what would the Colts have done then?
The Philadelphia Eagles have been forced to play without all-pro running back Brian Westbrook for the majority of the season. Westbrook suffered a concussion earlier this season and has had symptoms ever since.
In respect to the New York Jets, they did what they had to do, win the game. The Jets improved to 8-7, and in control of their playoff destiny. If the Jets can defeat the Cincinnati Bengals at home next week, New York will make a playoff appearance as a wild card team.
The Jets snapped the Colts 23-game winning streak, dropping Indianapolis to 14-1 on the season. New York was not handed a win simply because Indianapolis decided to bench their starters. The NFL is filled with professionals, some are just better than others. Â The Jets played hard and ended the Colts quest for perfection.