Wide Receiver's Big Game Leads Colts to Victory in Season Opener
INDIANAPOLIS – After referring to himself as a "decoy" all preseason, Reggie Wayne got his wish on Sunday and took center stage against Jacksonville.
The Colts wide receiver – who jokingly asked for more balls to be thrown his way after a three-catch preseason – reeled in a game-high 10 receptions for 162 yards and a touchdown against the Jaguars.
"You see how it works?" Wayne asked with a smile during his post-game press conference. "When you say something, they listen."
With a rookie cornerback covering him most the game, and wide receiver Anthony Gonzalez going down in the first quarter with a knee injury, Colts quarterback Peyton Manning targeted No. 87 early and often, with 10 of his 28 completions going to Wayne.
"You want to be involved as much as possible," Wayne said. "I don't think I'm going to have this type of day every week – I hope so – but I'll take whatever they give me. Whenever they call my number, I just want to make something happen."
Wayne made something happen even when the Colts did not call his number on Sunday. The wide receiver's first catch came on a ball intended for tight end Dallas Clark. The short pass over the middle deflected off Clark's hands and wound up in Wayne's, who scampered down the middle for a gain of 15.
It would not take long before Manning found Wayne again – this time, on purpose. In the middle of the second quarter, after completing a four-yard pass to him on second down, Manning threw a deep fly route to Wayne, who out-jumped Jacksonville rookie Derek Cox and caught the ball for 39 yards and a first down. Five plays later, Wayne caught another ball for nine yards, eventually setting up a three-yard touchdown rush by running back Joseph Addai.
Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell called Wayne's performance, "simply outstanding," but was not surprised by the way he played.
"The thing about it is…he's been playing Pro-Bowl caliber football for a long time," Caldwell said. "It's not anything new in terms of what he's able to do. He doesn't surprise us in that sense, and he shouldn't surprise anybody…because he's always been able to step up and play well consistently."
Indianapolis fans used to chant "Reggie" after a made 3-pointer. Now, the fans chant it after a touchdown.
The fans got their wish when Wayne scored in the third quarter on a 35-yard catch, giving the Colts the cushion they needed to win the game. On a deep pass over the middle from Manning, who combines with the wide receiver to form the most prolific active QB-WR duo in the NFL (53 TDs), Wayne caught the ball in the end zone just as a Jaguar defender was closing in to deliver a strong blow.
"The only thing you can do is catch it, close your eyes and hope you don't get blasted too much," Wayne said. "I felt like it was taking forever (for the ball) to come down. If it makes any sense, I kind of cushioned myself for the blow."
Manning said he could tell the Jaguars respected Wayne, despite Pro Bowl cornerback Rashean Mathis lining up on the other side of the field most of the afternoon. Instead, the Jaguars relied heavily on Cox and used a safety to try to contain Wayne on deep routes.
"That's kind of what we expected," Wayne said. "They did a lot of roll coverage's here and there, and they did a good job of mixing it up. And Peyton did a good job of figuring it out. I would go to the sideline and tell him what I see and we would go from there. It was just as we planned."
• Wayne's 162-yard day is his fifth game with 100 -yards receiving in his last six against the Jaguars. It also is the 27th 100 -yard day of his career and the ninth time he has finished with 10 receptions or more.
• Rookie Pat McAfee's first NFL game could not have gone much better. On his first punt of the afternoon, which came in the third quarter, McAfee booted a 45-yard punt that pinned Jacksonville at its own nine yard-line. McAfee's second punt came during a crucial stretch in the fourth quarter, but the rookie came through like a seasoned veteran. McAfee's 43-yard punt bounced just short of the goal line and straight into the air. Long snapper Justin Snow stopped the ball from going into the end zone, tipping it back to rookie defensive back Jacob Lacey, who downed it at the one.
• Defensive end Dwight Freeney had a big day, including a sack of quarterback David Garrard for a loss of eight on Jacksonville's first drive. Freeney came close to recording other sacks later. Freeney deflected one pass of Garrard's and landed two additional hits on the Jacksonville QB.