The League

Dave Goldberg
Sports Reporter

Dave Goldberg

Covered the NFL for the AP for 25 years and now is a senior NFL writer for Fanhouse.com

Game dumped

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Peyton Manning clearly looked unhappy on the sideline. Colts fans booed. And other players, even those who have been there before, were bewildered.

"At the airport in ind headn to philly and everyones lookn at me like I'm the one that put peyton on the bench! Hahaha damn!'' defensive end Raheem Brock, who's in his eighth season and has done this before, tweeted Monday morning.

Yes, it's the Colts' team policy, handed down by president Bill Polian, to sit players once playoff positioning has been set. Never mind how it scrambles the rest of the playoff race, giving a random advantage to the team Indy is playing when the big guys sit -- in this case the Jets.

But it never before killed an unbeaten season.

I have mixed feelings about it.

If the Colts win the Super Bowl, their fans will savor the title, although there probably will be some "woulda, coulda, shouda'' muttering. And if they lose in the playoffs, it won't matter anyway -- San Diego has knocked them out the last two years and is perfectly capable of doing it again.

On the other hand, people love to see history. The Patriots' unbeaten 2007 regular season, including the dramatic 38-35 win over the Giants to clinch it, will be one of the most memorable 30 years from now, even more so because those same Giants ended their run in the Super Bowl, taking the title Bill Belichick's guys assumed belong to them. When someone says "the imperfect season,'' we know exactly what it means.

The Colts? Manning gritted his teeth and said those "team policy'' words. We know that and so do players on teams who smile if the schedule comes out and shows them playing Indy in one of the last two weeks. It's a path to the postseason -- one that Tennessee took two years ago when the Colts lay down in the final week and put the Titans in the playoffs over Cleveland.

What can be done about it? Roger Goodell won't get on the phone to Polian or Jim Irsay, the owner, and tell them the NFL would like an unbeaten team. And the competition committee won't debate it -- Polian's a member and there are others on it who do the same thing with less attention. Maybe Congress. It wouldn't shock me if some committee whose members like TV face-time held a hearing called: "Benching your MVP QB and other starters in late-season games and its effect on the economy.''

More likely?

A playoff loss. If not to San Diego... would people actually root for Belichick, New England and the "forces of evil'' in a playoff game against the Colts?

At least the Pats don't dump games.

By Dave Goldberg  |  December 28, 2009; 9:09 AM ET  | Category:  Indianapolis Colts , Peyton Manning Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: Momentum matters | Next: Protecting Peyton matters more

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Momentum is a force which can't be reconciled with expediency. It's a tough call, but it was a mistake which Indy. made before. They paid the price with a loss in the first round.

Posted by: rdorff | December 28, 2009 10:26 AM

The Colts tanked. How is this different from a player intentionally playing poorly to lose a game? Why was Shoeless Joe Jackson banned from MLB? The Jets, an inferior team, now have a clear path to the playoffs and superior teams have lost their playoff opportunity because of this decision. I live in Indy and will now pull for anyone but the Colts. They threw the game. The NFL has no credibility.

Posted by: oldforbes | December 28, 2009 11:51 AM

stop the whining. your telling me the steelers {losers of 5 straight mid season} broncos,{6 and 0 early now freefalling}and the rest of the mediocre wild card bunch are any more deserving than the jets. if manning got hurt later on in this game , colt fans would have had a stroke.and the jets have been known to blow an opportunity or two in their time. we"ll see how this turns out after the bengals next week.

Posted by: brianbrian529 | December 28, 2009 5:55 PM

Call it what it is -- the Colts threw the game. The sad thing is, it happens all the time and it really is a ripoff for fans who paid to see a good game. Why should anyone watch the last couple of games of the season if you know your team is going to lay down? The thing about that season finale Pats-Giants game was that the game didn't matter to both teams playoff prospects but they both played to win and the fans got their money's worth. Maybe the NFL should add incentives to teams, good and bad, to play hard to the end. Consider how many losing teams also give up this time of year.

Posted by: keithmo | December 29, 2009 1:18 PM

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