Overnight, the Indianapolis Colts went from a popular NFL team pursuing history to public enemy number one.

Peyton Manning and Jim Caldwell watch on as the Colts' hopes of a 19-0 season go up in flames.

After pulling their starters in the second half Sunday, the Colts threw away a chance at unprecedented perfection.

Everyone with a pen and a pad has lambasted the Colts for their decision.

Defending what happened Sunday is virtually impossible, but here goes nothing.

1.) Pressure shifts to Colts Brass

No matter what happens, pressure has been lifted off the Colts’ players.

All responsibility for a first-round playoff flameout will rest on the shoulders of general manager Bill Polian and head coach Jim Caldwell.

Regardless of what they said to the media, it was obvious what the players wanted to do. They didn’t ask to be pulled and had no choice in the matter.

2.) Colts will play with a chip on their shoulder

The Colts have long been a media and fan favorite. Their style of play is appealing and the Colts get more positive publicity than Oprah.

Due to the decisions of Polian and Caldwell, that has all changed.

The team knows the public thinks they will fold in the playoffs due to management’s choice to take the foot off the gas.

In light of the intense scrutiny, the Colts will have an “us against the world” mentality that has been lacking in years past.

3.) Media obsession is over

The outpouring of criticism surrounding the Colts’ decision to pull starters will eventually die down and they’ll simply be one of 12 playoff teams.

When the Patriots pursued a 19-0 season, the media attention was 24/7. Dozens of writers and camera crews surrounded the complex at all times.

Some say the pressure built and finally buried the Patriots when they turned in their worst performance of the season in the Super Bowl.

Maybe it did, maybe it didn’t. Either way, the Colts are no longer the focus of a perfect-season media storm.

4.) The injury angle

This defense is last on the list of reasons – it’s a shaky theory. The fewer plays Peyton Manning, Reggie Wayne, Dwight Freeney and company take part in, the less likely it becomes they will suffer injury – that is hard to dispute.

Could Wayne break his toe stepping out of his Escalade tomorrow? Of course.

But the less your stars are on the field, the less chance there is of them getting hurt, plain and simple.

Sunday’s game had zero impact on the Colts playoff positioning. Polian and Caldwell believed eliminating a minuscule chance of injury outweighed chasing a perfect season. Not many share their philosophy.

There’s only one way for the Colts to end the criticism – win the Super Bowl.

Some will still whine about how they threw away the opportunity for the 19-0 season, but the way I see it, if a team wins the Super Bowl, all decisions made along the way contributed to the ultimate goal – case closed.

If the Colts fizzle in the first round; the backlash will be harsh to say the least. Polian’s resting starters approach will blow up in his face again.

Should the Colts win their playoff opener and then fail to win the Super Bowl, it would be hard to blame their demise on resting the starters. The decision will still be unpopular, but an unlikely explanation for their playoff exit.

Whatever happens, Polian and Caldwell have put an enormous amount of pressure on themselves. We’ll see if they end up looking like geniuses or fools.

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