- The Washington Times - Monday, December 28, 2009

INDIANAPOLIS | Peyton Manning and the rest of the Colts accepted Jim Caldwell’s plan.

The hometown fans didn’t like the imperfect ending one bit.

With Manning and a handful of other key players standing on the sideline hoping to save the Colts (14-1) from yet another second-half deficit Sunday, Caldwell never gave them a chance.

The New York Jets ended the Colts’ pursuit of perfection and their NFL-record 23-game winning streak with a 29-15 victory that had fans serenading Lucas Oil Stadium with boos and Manning, the three-time MVP, offering support for his coach’s decision.

“Until any player in here is the head coach, you follow orders and you follow them with all of your heart,” Manning 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 can 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 historic 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.

“While the Jets’ win today ended Indianapolis’ streak and showed once again how difficult it is to go undefeated, I want to congratulate the Colts on a great run,” he said. “Peyton Manning proved once again this season why he is one of the best quarterbacks in the history of the NFL, and it was certainly no surprise to see him lead the Colts to an NFL-record 23 straight victories.”

Manning was 14-for-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.

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