INDIANAPOLIS – Peyton Manning wasted no time throwing the football to tight end Jacob Tamme on Monday Night Football.
First play from scrimmage, Tamme runs an out-route left. Manning fires. The ball glances off Tamme's fingers and hits the ground.
“I was thinking, ‘Dang, I wish I could have gotten my hand out there and snagged it one-handed,'” Tamme said. “That would have been a great start.”
The good news for Tamme was that Manning came back again. And again. By night's end, Tamme – the replacement for injured Dallas Clark – proved he could fit into the Indianapolis Colts' offense. Tamme caught six passes for 64 yards and his first career touchdown. He had only six catches for 47 yards in his previous two seasons.
“I've had enough reps in practice with Jacob, but that's his first time getting game reps and it's definitely a difference,” Manning said. “He made some big catches, ran some good routes, took some hits. It's always a difference getting hit in games against a physical defense.”
The Colts (5-2) have a short week before traveling to play at Philadelphia at 4:15 p.m. Sunday.
The more Tamme plays, the more teams will catch on to what he can do. Catching footballs from Manning isn't necessarily new to Tamme. He's in his third season, and he says there have been plenty of times during practices that he has been on the receiving end of Manning passes. There have always been sets where Tamme was part of the mix in preparation.
The difference was the stage.
With Clark out for the season after wrist surgery, Tamme stepped into the Monday Night Football limelight, a major player in the traditional prime-time spectacle.
“As a group, you try to prepare hard every week from when training camp started until now,” Tamme said. “Even if you're not getting a ton of reps, you take it seriously. You take your job seriously because you know at any moment you can get in there and play the rest of the year. To get in there and play with the group of guys we have allows you to play with confidence.”
Tamme, who came to the Colts as a fourth-round pick out of the University of Kentucky, made two noteworthy plays Monday night. On the first, a 26-yard gain, he caught the ball, froze a defensive back and added another chunk of yardage onto the end of the play. On his touchdown reception, he broke into the end zone, stopped, caught Houston safety Bernard Pollard leaning forward, and broke to the back of the end zone. Both plays looked very much like the style of Clark.
“(Tamme) can run and catch,” Colts coach Jim Caldwell said. “He is a good route runner and he is a tough guy. He has been very involved in our special teams the last couple of years, and I think that's helped him. He was able to step right in and move right along and do some good things for us.”
Tamme said Clark, who was on the sidelines, offered him encouragement as he took on the role of primary tight end. He found Clark shortly after his touchdown catch.
“He gave me a high-five; there were a lot of high-fives,” Tamme said. “It's just good to work hard during the week and come out and do things in the game that you feel rewards you for preparing the way we're preparing.”