Irsay backs pulling of starters
INDIANAPOLIS — Jim Irsay was a football fan long before he was owner of the Indianapolis Colts.
So when he hears outsiders criticize Indy's move to pull its starters in Sunday's game, at the expense of a perfect season, he understands the passion. He just disagrees with the sentiment.
Yesterday, after three days of hearing national media personalities and local fans express outrage over the Colts' decision, Irsay responded. Not only did he support the decision made by president Bill Polian and first-year coach Jim Caldwell, Irsay said he approved it.
"For anyone to attack the virtues, the intentions or the integrity of what we're trying to do, I think, is misguided because our goal is to win a world championship," he said in a conference call with three reporters. "As owner, I take everything into account and I could have, as I have on occasion, overruled some things. But in this case, that was not the case and it was the right direction to go and it was really a close call."
Fans have been furious since Peyton Manning and others were yanked out of Sunday's game with 5:36 left in the third quarter and the undefeated Colts holding a 15-10 lead. The Colts didn't score again and wound up losing 29-15, ending their league-record 23-game winning streak and their shot at the first 19-0 season.
Angry callers spent two days flooding local radio talk shows. Some contended they should get refunds, others said they were giving up their season tickets. Terms like "arrogant" were used to describe the team's braintrust, and on Polian's weekly radio show Monday night, one caller asked why he decided to run away from history.
The anger started to dissipate yesterday, a day Manning and defensive captain Gary Brackett uttered the same line: It's time to move on.
"Three's no question that what's done is done," Caldwell said. "It's more so how you react to things that happen to you. It's something that is on the mind of our guys. I think it (preparing for the playoffs) will serve them well."
While he acknowledged it was difficult, even for him, to watch the undefeated season slip away, Irsay called the decision "courageous" and said the difference between winning and losing in the playoffs could come down to whether Indy's best players are healthy.
DAVIS NEARS RECORD
Vernon Davis knows that regardless of whether he catches another touchdown pass in San Francisco's season finale Sunday to tie an NFL record, he has produced a year to remember. A breakout season to say the least.
He's a Pro Bowler for the first time in his career, a month shy of his 26th birthday. And he will be a starter for the NFC squad in the Jan. 31 game at Miami.
All the accolades aside, Davis acknowledges he'd get a real kick out of finishing with more touchdown catches than New England star Randy Moss, who has 13.
"Just try to get another one, maybe two, stay ahead of him," Davis said with a grin. "That'd be nice."
With 12 TD receptions, Davis is one away from tying Antonio Gates' NFL record by a tight end. It would seem he should get some chances to do it Sunday at St. Louis. Davis scored one touchdown in the season's first meeting with the Rams, a 35-0 victory by the 49ers back on Oct. 4 at Candlestick Park.
"It's been a tremendous season for me," Davis said. "I've been getting a lot of opportunities, playing hard, doing everything I've got to do to be successful and just making plays and helping my team win."