Ryan bothered by perception game was handed to Jets

Easily the hottest topic around the league right now is the decision by Colts coach Jim Caldwell to bench QB Peyton Manning and several other starters in their 29-15 loss to the Jets in Week 16 — which allowed the Jets to stay in the AFC wild-card race.

By now you know the story. Leading 15-10 midway during the third quarter, Caldwell replaced Manning and others, effectively pulling the plug on a chance at a perfect regular season.

On the opposite sideline, the decision also had a sizable impact. Now, with a win against the Bengals in Week 17, the Jets (8-7) will find themselves in the playoffs.

Caldwell took questions about his decision Monday, and doesn’t seem fazed by the second-guessing. Not so much for Jets coach Rex Ryan, who admitted he’s irritated by the perception that the Colts handed the game over to the Jets.

“It bothers me a little bit,” Ryan said. “You have to earn everything you get in this league. Whether you’re playing against a starter or backup, whatever. For half the year, people played against our backup nose tackle. I don’t think anybody’s made note of that. I know this is Peyton Manning or whatever, but he did play two and a half quarters.

“Again, that’s fine. People can make their own conclusions and draw their own conclusions. But I look at it as we won by 14 points in that game. I think we were right there. We’re just fighting toe-to-toe with them. Our job is to try to get it done regardless of who is on the field.”

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