Despite Double Teams, Wayne Continues to Produce
"Double coverage" is a phrase Reggie Wayne would prefer to ignore, but one he is becoming very used to.
With three games to go in the regular season, the three-time Pro Bowl selection already has eclipsed 1,000 yards receiving for the sixth consecutive year, the longest streak of any active player, and ranks near the top of the NFL in every receiving category.
With Marvin Harrison no longer lining up on the other side of the field, Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell said Wayne is getting more attention than ever from defenses this season. But that hasn't stopped the Colts' No. 1 wide receiver from having another spectacular season.
"It's part of the game," Wayne said. "There is nothing I can do. As long as we win, I'm excited. You're going to have those games where you're going to be bothered and some games where you disappoint a couple of fantasy coaches, but that's just how it goes."
This season, Wayne said he has had to take more of a cerebral approach to the game, describing his battle against opposing defenses as a "chess match" and a "game of thinking."
"I understand a lot of teams are going to key on me," he explained. "We just need those young guys, Pierre Garcon and Austin Collie, to go in there, step up and make plays."
Fortunately for the Colts, they have. With Wayne garnering so much extra attention, quarterback Peyton Manning has been forced to turn elsewhere at times, leading to a career season from tight end Dallas Clark and big performances from young receivers like Garcon and Collie.
Despite the approach by opposing defenses, Wayne has accumulated impressive numbers through 13 games this season, reeling in 87 receptions (2nd in the league) for 1,078 yards (4th) and nine touchdowns (4th). In addition, his 17 catches of 20 yards are tied for tops in the league, and his 65 receptions for first downs rank first.
Wayne even has been effective when he hasn't been catching the ball. The ninth-year veteran also has spent times as a decoy in the Colts' offense, a role the wide receiver said he embraces.
"I can go to Peyton on the sidelines and say, 'You know what? They've been doubling me on certain plays.' So, Peyton will send me on a nine-route just for the fun of it, and I'll take two guys of the picture," Wayne said. "I do what I can. If I'm running a decoy route to get an extra guy of the picture, then that's what I have to do."
Wayne said he accepts the role after going against single coverage for years while Harrison took on the double teams.
"Now, it's my turn I guess," he said. "They always said the grass isn't greener on the other side."
While Manning and Harrison are the most prolific quarterback-wide receiver duo in history, Manning and Wayne are the best active duo in the NFL with 60 touchdowns since 2001. The second-closest tandem, Carolina's Jake Delhomme and Steve Smith, have 43.
Wayne now has a chance to close in on several marks set by Colts legend and Hall of Fame member Raymond Berry over the last three regular-season games.
Wayne trails Berry by just 68 receiving yards for the second-most in team history, and needs just seven more touchdowns to surpass the legend in career touchdown receptions by a Colt.
"He's one of those guys that did it and did it the right way, and gave us young bucks the opportunity to go in and try to hunt him down a little bit," Wayne said of Berry. "He's a great person. I've met him a few times. Whenever my name is mentioned in the same category with him, it is always an honor."
Wayne said setting records and achieving milestones is something that "comes with the territory" of hard work.
"Whenever you put in time, work and effort, those kind of accolades are going to come your way," he said. "I've learned from Marv to just go out there and do it and do it on a consistent basis and get the job done. Everything else comes with it."
That strategy is one the Colts as a whole have utilized this season. Rather than getting caught up with setting records on a weekly basis, the Colts have set their focus on one game at a time, leading to their 13-0 start and their current 22-game regular-season winning streak, an NFL record.
Against Denver on Sunday, Wayne attracted plenty of attention as usual from the Broncos secondary, but still managed four catches for 43 yards.
After the game, the last thing on Wayne's mind was statistics.
"We were striving for this," Wayne said of the victory. "It was one of our goals. In the offseason, we wanted to clinch the division and try to get homefield advantage. We were able to do that and get it done early. Hopefully we can just keep going."
Back in November, Wayne began to see double teams on a regular basis after catching six touchdowns in seven games. At the time, Caldwell said his wide receiver's play did not stand out to him in particular because of the fact that he had played so well "over the last six or seven years."
"Overall, it was overshadowed because Marvin was here," Caldwell said. "I think the guys on our staff certainly had a great appreciation for Reggie and notice what he is capable of doing. Now, obviously, he doesn't share the spotlight. He certainly has taken over that No. 1 spot. He has performed extremely well.
"I would say he's at his zenith," Caldwell said. "And getting a little bit better."