Manning Hits 4,500 Yards; Wayne and Clark Total 100 Catches Each
Amidst snowfall, freezing temperatures and gusty winds, the Indianapolis Colts ended their regular-season on a disappointing note Sunday. But a pass-happy first quarter enabled several of the team's offensive starters to achieve season milestones.
Quarterback Peyton Manning hit 4,500 passing yards for the second time in his career and tight end Dallas Clark and wide receiver Reggie Wayne each caught their 100th passes of the season against Buffalo in a 30-7 defeat.
Prior to the start of the year, Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell established several specific team goals he thought would ultimately help the team attain its most important one, the Super Bowl.
Atop the list, was winning the AFC South. Next came clinching the number one overall seed in the AFC playoffs, therefore securing home-field advantage.
Backed by a 14-game winning streak this season, the Colts accomplished both. And with the two goals in hand, the team's third goal became making sure it was healthy as possible as it prepares for the post-season.
That enabled Indianapolis to rest its banged up players the final two weeks and give its reserves and younger players increased playing time.
Caldwell said the team is disappointed in the loss, but said the game ends what has been a "good year, so far."
"It has been one of those years where the team has played so well, overcome a lot of obstacles, and the coaching staff has done a tremendous job with the players of achieving something we set out to do in accomplishing our goals," he said.
Overshadowed in the loss, were Manning, Clark and Wayne achieving individual goals.
Unlike the team goals set before the season, Caldwell said the Colts never set out to accomplish individual benchmarks.
"I told them before the ballgame we were certainly aware…but we never go in with the intent of trying to achieve those, those just happen along the way," Caldwell said. "I told them I didn't think either would be in the game long enough to achieve it, but I told them if they were in it long enough and they were close we'd be able to get it done."
The team's main focus Sunday was to get some "offensive flow" going, according to Manning. The quarterback said any individual goals were just an "added bonus."
The team's offense did, indeed, get some flow going in the first quarter when they put together a 72-yard touchdown drive, capped by a one-yard rushing score by running back Mike Hart, the first of his career.
Over the course of the drive, Manning completed a series of short passes and screens to Wayne and Clark, helping the Colts move the chains while also helping the players achieve their season marks.
Manning, who finished 14-of-18 for 95 yards and one interception, said it was never the team's intent to help Wayne and Clark get to 100, but the game's circumstances dictated so.
"Let's face it, Pierre (Garcon) is out, (Gijon Robinson) is out, (Joseph) Addai is out, who do you think I'm going to throw it to?" Manning said after the game. "Reggie and Dallas are my main two weapons. I was just trying to find a way to move the ball down the field."
On the drive, Manning set a milestone of his own, surpassing 4,500 passing yards for the second time in his 12-year career.
Clark, who was named to his first Pro Bowl earlier in the week, reeled in his 100th catch of the season early in the second quarter, joining Tony Gonzalez as the only tight ends in history to amass 100 receptions in a season.
It has been a career year for Clark, who finished with seven catches for 52 yards Sunday. The tight end finished the year with 100 catches for 1,106 and 10 touchdowns.
Wayne, who entered the game just five catches short of 100, caught five passes from Manning in the first quarter for 21 yards, helping him reach the milestone for the second time in his career.
Like Clark, Wayne is near the top of the NFL in every relevant receiving category and finishes the season with 100 catches for 1,264 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Caldwell said it is not rare for so many players to achieve milestones during a year as successful as the one the Colts have experienced.
"That's typical of any season like ours," Caldwell said. "We've had a good stretch of victories; typically there are going to be some outstanding performances along with that."
• Rookie quarterback Curtis Painter battled a tough Buffalo defense and snowy weather conditions Sunday, but the team's 2009 sixth-round draft pick did show some signs of improvement in his second career game, highlighted by a 21-yard pass to tight end Jacob Tamme in the second quarter.
• On Saturday, the Colts announced kicker Matt Stover would handle Sunday's placekicking duties, as Adam Vinatieri continued to rehabilitate his right knee. Vinatieri remained on the active roster, but did not travel to Buffalo. In his place, Stover converted his only attempt, an extra point on Indianapolis' lone touchdown. The Colts also announced they had placed tight end Tom Santi on Injured Reserve and activated tight end Colin Cloherty off the practice squad to the active roster.
• Caldwell said the Colts escaped Sunday's game fairly healthy and would have a better understanding of where the team stands Monday afternoon.
• With the regular-season complete, Manning said the team's 14-2 season is officially history. "Here we are now in playoff mode," Manning said. "And that's where our focus is."