Five things I took from Colts' win
September, 22, 2009
By Paul Kuharsky | ESPN.com
|Doug Benc/Getty Images|
|The Colts' defense was unable to slow down Ronnie Brown and Miami's rushing offense.|
Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky
The Colts' offense had the ball for only 14:53 Monday night in Miami. Surgically precise when they needed to be, the Colts took an unconventional blueprint to the extreme and beat the Dolphins, 27-23.
Peyton Manning’s MVP case starts earlier: More than one NFL analyst tracks MVP candidates starting in the first week of the season. Move Manning on up.
Is there another player in the league as willing and able to deal with and excel in such bizarre circumstances? In that small window, he connected on 14 of 23 passes for 303 yards, two touchdowns and a 133.9 passer rating.
With Reggie Wayne doubled throughout, he turned to Dallas Clark and, for the winning points, Pierre Garcon.
It was Manning’s 119th win, which pulled him even with Johnny Unitas for fifth all-time and past Unitas, who won a game in San Diego, to become the Colts’ all-time leader in quarterback wins. His reflections on the milestones seemed pitch-perfect.
Oxygen needs to be handy at the defensive bench: Not everyone is built to do what the Dolphins did in terms of rushing yards (239, a good share out of the Wildcat), third downs (15 of 21) and time of possession (45:07).
But Miami’s success certainly did nothing to lead the plan out of vogue. Certainly Tennessee, San Francisco, Houston, New England, Baltimore and the Jets have the type of personnel to try a similar approach, or have some experience having done it.
Even if none of those teams run 84 plays on offense, a well-executed plan can produce a tired Colts defense. And a tired Colts defense is a lot less threatening than a fresh Colts defense.
Stopping the run remains as issue: The 114 yards the Colts yielded in a two-point win over the Jaguars in Week 1 was regarded as a pretty good effort.
But the two week numbers are not very good. Last year’s team gave up an average of 4.2 yards a carry. This year’s number so far is 5.2.
(One aside: Teams running the Wildcat should not leave their quarterback on the field. The extra blocker sure seemed to key a lot of Miami’s success out of the formation.)
Anyone who thought Indy’s run defense was going to be fixed by adding bigger defensive tackles and installing new defensive coordinator Larry Coyer is disappointed through two weeks, but not with the end results.
Donald Brown scored some points: The rookie running back appeared to make a very nice adjustment on his 24-yard reception in the second quarter.
And he was the running back on the field for the Colts’ final two series. He had three carries and the 15-yard touchdown run on the first possession of the final period. And on the final drive, he helped pick up linebacker Reggie Torbor as he came after Manning on the quick pass to Garcon that turned into the winning score.
The broadcasters said they had no indication anything was wrong with Joseph Addai. Let’s interpret Brown being on the field for crunch time as a good development for him, not an indictment of Addai. Maybe it was matchup-specific.
It’s a bad scenario for a short week: Manning and his guys will be fresh Sunday night on another national telecast, but is there anything the defense could look less forward to in five days than a flight to Arizona?
The franchise has experience at back-to-back prime-time road games, but only 10 of these players were around for it. They’ll have to regale the kids with stories of how they won them both when they faced a similar scenario in 2003.