INDIANAPOLIS – On the day the Colts inducted the most prolific wide receiver in franchise history into their Ring of Honor, Reggie Wayne reminded the fans in Lucas Oil Stadium why he may one day join Marvin Harrison in the pantheon of franchise immortals.
Wayne grabbed five passes for a season-high 122 yards, including a remarkable 56-yard touchdown catch-and-run, but the Colts fell 27-19 to the Carolina Panthers Sunday to drop to 0-11.
"It's always good when you're involved but it doesn't change for me," said Wayne. "Whenever my number's called I just want to rise to the occasion. I'm just kind of upset because I felt like that was a game we should've won. Not taking anything away from Carolina. They came in and stuck to their game plan and they came out victorious but at the same time, we feel like we gave them that game just like we did quite a few times this year. We've just got to some kind of way get over that hurdle."
Wayne had his biggest game since the season opener, when he had seven catches for 106 yards and a touchdown against Houston. The touchdown and a 40-yard reception that set up a 31-yard field goal by Adam Vinatieri were his two longest plays of the season.
In the nine games in between Houston and Carolina, however, Wayne averaged four catches, 47 yards and did not reach the end zone.
"The thing is, we're inconsistent," Wayne said. "We've got to do it week-in and week-out. We've just got to figure it out. At the beginning of the game we started a little sluggish but we started to feel them out a little bit. And we came out the same way in the third quarter, a little sluggish, before we started figuring it out. We've just got to come up with a way to do it all four quarters, all 60 minutes. We had some good things, just not enough."
The passing game was dormant in the first half, when quarterback Curtis Painter was just 2-of-6 for 19 yards, but came to life in the second. Painter was 13-of-23 for 207 yards after halftime, with Wayne catching four balls for 108 yards.
Carolina led 24-13 in the fourth quarter when Wayne caught a short pass from Painter, ducked under two Panthers defenders and took off, running through an attempted arm tackle by Sherrod Martin on his way to the end zone. The two-point conversion try failed but facing a 24-19 deficit, it was still a one-score game for the Colts.
"That play was about a 10- or 12-yard route than he went the rest of the way so hats off to him," said Painter. "(You have to credit) some of the guys downfield for getting some blocks for him. He definitely made that happen."
Carolina's Kealoha Pilares returned the ensuing kickoff 76 yards, setting up a 41-yard field goal by Olindo Mare that made it 27-19.
Painter then drove the Colts to the Carolina 3-yard line but Sherrod Martin snared a tipped ball intended for Austin Collie and danced the end line for a game-sealing interception.
"The confidence level was high," said Wayne of the last drive. "We felt like we had everything going the way we wanted it to go. We just … turnover. That's not going to help."
With Harrison on the sideline late in the first half, Wayne took the opportunity to chat with his former teammate, who retired after the 2008 season with 1,102 receptions, 14,580 yards and 128 touchdowns, all franchise records. He ranks third in NFL history in receptions and fifth in receiving touchdowns.
If Harrison is the best the Colts have ever had at the position, Wayne is not far behind. He ranks second in franchise history with 834 receptions, 11,400 yards and 71 receiving touchdowns.
With his big game, Wayne surpassed Keenan McCardell (11,373) and Rod Smith (11,389) and moved into 22nd-place on the NFL's all-time receiving yards list.
"Actually, I snuck out to go see the induction into the Ring of Honor (in a halftime ceremony)," said Wayne. "I felt like that was an opportunity that I couldn't miss. I felt like I had to be there to see it happen. I wanted to see him talk and he actually talked. He seemed excited, he seemed happy. Whenever you see Marv like that it's a good thing to see."
Suffice to say, however, that when Wayne joins Harrison on the facade of Lucas Oil Stadium, his speech will last longer than 12 seconds.
"The question is if they do me," Wayne said with a smile. "That's up in the air. Marvin deserved that. If they call me up, if they can find my phone number later on down the line, I'll answer."
That's the thing about Wayne. When the bell rings, he's always been there for the Colts.