Perhaps no one in the NFL had as good a day as Bill Polian had on Sunday.
First, a blizzard sent on Buffalo, ensuring that even if the Colts HAD been 15-0, no fan in their right mind would have wanted the starters to play the whole game.
Then, Wes Welker blew out a knee in Houston (see! Injuries happen in the NFL).
Now, neither of those two events excuse what happened last week at the Luke. It was all handled badly and insensitively, and nothing that happened today alters that. It does take the "what ifs" out of the equation. What if the Colts had won the Jets game? They would have done the same exact thing they did today.
There are three key issues to talk about in this game:
1. This is not 2005. In 2005, the Colts starters played just three series in the final two games. Manning threw just 14 passes. The Colts offense had just 3 points.
This year, the Colts clearly put more of an emphasis on keeping some semblance of rhythm. The Colts starters played 9 drives. Manning threw 39 passes. The starting offense put up three touchdowns and a field goal in those drives. This is a better, more sound method of resting guys. It made a lot of sense to play the starters a full quarter, and I think that if the weather had been better, it would have been nice to see them play a half today. In 2005, the Colts starting offense went nearly a month without mounting a touchdown drive. This year, we managed a touchdown in the final game against a good passing defense in a snow storm. The 2005 Colts played the offensive equivalent of one quarter over the final two weeks. The 2009 Colts played the equivalent of a full game.
2. Playing the starters one quarter is the right move. Stop worrying about the logic of it compared to last week. It's the right move. It kept the offense in sync. Clark and Wayne got their numbers without ever putting themselves or Manning in serious danger. More importantly, the Colts offense showed that it can still move the ball effectively and get points. We can argue all day about whether 16-0 should have been more important to the Colts than it was, but no one should argue that milestones for the players isn't important. They do matter. They should matter. Two wrongs doesn't make a right. Pulling the starters in the Jets game was a mistake. Playing them today wasn't.
3. Indy needs to sign a second quarterback NOW. Look, God forbid anything happens to Peyton, but let's say he does get hurt with a two TD lead in the third quarter of the Super Bowl. Curtis Painter would find a way to lose that that game. In two games he is 8 for 28 with a passer rating of 9.8. Oh, he also lost two fumbles. Don't give me that "he played in the snow" crap either. So did Ryan Freaking Fitzpatrick. He completed 16 passes for three TDs. Painter is NOT an NFL QB. The Colts should sign ANYONE. Isn't Jeff Garcia around? Anyone? They cannot let everything ride on Painter. He may be the worst player currently employed in the NFL. We need some kind of backup plan that doesn't involve a guy with a career passer rating under 10.