NFL Nation: Colts-Dolphins 092109

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham

The Miami Dolphins work incredibly hard to gain yards, to consume time off the clock, to get ahead of their opponents.

They know how to grind.

Then their defense gives up a quick, crippling score.

Summary strikes have been an all-too common occurrence for the Dolphins' defense this season. They're tied for fifth in allowing touchdown drives of six plays or fewer. They have surrendered 13 of them.

In Sunday's game against the New England Patriots, the Dolphins opened the second half with a 16-play touchdown drive to take a one-point lead. Three plays later, Randy Moss stiff-armed Vontae Davis and sprinted off for a 71-yard touchdown that won the game.

In Week 2, the Dolphins held the ball for more than 45 minutes against the Indianapolis Colts. The Dolphins took two fourth-quarter leads on drives of 13 plays and 10 plays. The Colts, who started the game with a touchdown on their first play from scrimmage, responded with touchdowns on six plays and four plays.

Only once have the Dolphins not yielded a touchdown in six plays or fewer, in a Week 4 blowout of the Buffalo Bills. The Dolphins gave up three apiece to the Colts and the New York Jets in Week 7.

To get an idea of where the Dolphins stand, ESPN Stats & Information investigator Matt Lyon ran the data. Here are the worst 10 teams in allowing touchdowns so quickly: Not a lot of playoff teams in that bunch.

On the flip side, only two teams have given up fewer of these touchdown drives than the Jets and Patriots -- four each. The Colts and Denver Broncos are best with one apiece.

The Bills are tied for 15th with eight touchdowns allowed in six or fewer plays.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham

A few days ago, I asked readers to submit their votes for the most absurd AFC East outcome through the first half of 2009.

 
 AP Photo/Mike Groll
 The ugly Buffalo-Cleveland game in Week 5 was a tough loss for Bills fans to endure.
While the comments section beneath that blog quickly turned into a trash-talking session between New York Jets and Miami Dolphins fans, a few readers actually attempted to make cases for the game they felt was supremely ridiculous.

The most compelling cases were made for the Week 5 disaster between the Cleveland Browns and Buffalo Bills in Ralph Wilson Stadium.

That catastrophe deserved to end in a tie, but the Browns won 6-3 thanks to a muffed punt deep in Bills territory in the final minutes. Browns quarterback Derek Anderson completed 2 of 17 passes for 23 yards. His 11.8 percent completion percentage was the second-worst for a winning quarterback since the NFL-AFL merger.

Coming in second was the Indianapolis Colts' 27-23 victory over the Dolphins in Week 2. The Colts became the first team since time of possession became an official stat in 1970 to win while holding the ball for less than 15 minutes. The Colts ran only 35 plays.

Here are some of the better submissions on the subject:

Jesse in Omaha wrote into the AFC East mailbag that the Browns-Bills game "was the lowest point I've had as a fan in a long time. Even if I were a Jets fan during the loss to the lowly Bills, at least I could stand by the fact that the opposing team tried to win the game. I'm not convinced Cleveland wanted to beat Buffalo that day."

In the comments section, glui8 declared the Browns-Bills was, "hands down, the most absurd result. Not only was it the worst football game I've ever seen played, whether it be Pop Warner, high school, college or pro, but the losing team (and this is the reason I'm picking it as the most absurd) got beat by a quarterback that completed two, yes, two passes for a whopping total of 23 yards. THAT IS ABSURD and, in my opinion, is way worse than any of the other games nominated."

DolflyerpacerV316 added: "Gotta be the Browns-Bills game. Seriously, they lost to the Browns? Who does that? How they only scored three on the Browns is the first mystery, but losing to them? That just defines absurd!"

Also in the comments section, mrf042579 weighed in: "I'm going to have to vote for the Colts-Dolphins game. As a Bills fan, I am tempted to vote for any of their games, but in all honesty, how do you lose a game when your opponent runs 35 plays and has the ball less than 15 minutes?"

There was no doubt in stevejdolphin's mind: "It was easily the Dolphins-Colts game. I watched that game, and the way the Dolphins completely controlled the pace of the game while their offense was on the field was incredible. This also needs to be put in perspective with all the coaching changes the Colts had in the off-season. This was the second week of the season, and the Colts had struggled the week before against the Jaguars. They didn't have their second-best receiver in Anthony Gonzalez. For Peyton Manning to pull out a win with everything stacked against him is impossible. It happened and it was without a doubt the most absurd AFC East result."

SportsFan1236 made the case for another game, going with the Dolphins frittering a 21-point first-half lead against the Saints: "They went from dominant to dominated. Sorry, but that was the most pathetic loss of the year. To lose a game in a final minutes is bad, but to lose your momentum and such a huge lead right before half is horrible. Could have beat one of the best teams, if not the best team, in the league and choked it away."

To refresh your memories, here are the thumbnails from the other runners-up:

Week 1: Patriots 25, Bills 24. The Bills don't trail for almost 59 minutes, but Leodis McKelvin fumbles a kickoff inside the final two minutes, setting up Tom Brady with a short field. Brady throws his second touchdown in a span of 1:16 to escape with a dramatic victory.

Week 4: Saints 24, Jets 10. The Jets' offense gives up more points than it scores and more points than its defense allows. The Saints score touchdowns on two of Mark Sanchez's four turnovers.

Week 6: Bills 16, Jets 13 (OT). The Bills allow 318 rushing yards, second-most in Jets history. Thomas Jones runs for the most yards of his career, setting a Jets record. His 210 yards are the fifth most in a defeat since the merger. But the Jets throw six interceptions, five of them by Sanchez.

Week 7: Saints 46, Dolphins 34. The Dolphins hold a 21-point lead for the first 29 minutes of the game but collapse the rest of the way, giving up 24 points in the fourth quarter to become the first team in 22 years to blow a 21-point lead and lose by at least a dozen.

Week 8: Dolphins 30, Jets 25. A sublime Jets defense holds the Dolphins to 104 total yards (third fewest in franchise history) and 1.9 yards per pass attempt. The Dolphins score one offensive touchdown, but two Ted Ginn kickoff returns and a Jason Taylor fumble return -- all in the third quarter -- make the difference.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham

Nowhere else in sports have stats been more irrelevant than in the AFC East, where illogical verdicts have been rendered on a near-weekly basis.

The Miami Dolphins have had their share but came out ahead for a change Sunday by gaining 104 yards in a victory over the New York Jets, just the latest in a growing collection of incredible results relative to the box score.

There have been enough of these crazy outcomes to put them up for a vote. Take a look at the seven candidates below and then submit your vote and your reasoning in the comments section. I will tally them up and compile the most compelling arguments for a blog entry later in the week that reveals your pick for the most absurd game through the first half of the 2009 season.
 
 Geoff Burke/US Presswire
 There have been several outcomes in the AFC East this season, including the Jets’ Week 6 loss to the Bills, that defied statistical probability.


Not sure if this explains anything, but I attended six of the seven games.

Week 1: Patriots 25, Bills 24. The Bills don't trail for almost 59 minutes, but Leodis McKelvin fumbles a kickoff inside the final two minutes, setting up Tom Brady with a short field. Brady throws his second touchdown in a span of 1:16 to escape with a dramatic victory.

Week 2: Colts 27, Dolphins 23. The Colts run only 35 offensive plays because the Dolphins hold the ball for an amazing 45:07. But the Colts average an obnoxious 10.7 yards per snap and 12.3 yards per pass attempt, becoming the first team to win with a recorded time of possession of less than 15 minutes.

Week 4: Saints 24, Jets 10. The Jets' offense gives up more points than it scores and more points than its defense allows. The Saints score touchdowns on two of Mark Sanchez's four turnovers.

Week 5: Browns 6, Bills 3. Browns quarterback Derek Anderson starts, plays the entire game and completes two passes for 23 yards. His 11.8 completion percentage is the second-worst since the NFL-AFL merger for a winning quarterback with at least 15 attempts.

Week 6: Bills 16, Jets 13 (OT). The Bills allow 318 rushing yards, second-most in Jets history. Thomas Jones runs for the most yards of his career, setting a Jets record. His 210 yards are the fifth most in a defeat since the merger. But the Jets throw six interceptions, five of them by Sanchez.

Week 7: Saints 46, Dolphins 34. The Dolphins hold a 21-point lead for the first 29 minutes of the game but collapse the rest of the way, giving up 24 points in the fourth quarter to become the first team in 22 years to blow a 21-point lead and lose by at least a dozen.

Week 8: Dolphins 30, Jets 25. A sublime Jets defense holds the Dolphins to 104 total yards (third fewest in franchise history) and 1.9 yards per pass attempt. The Dolphins score one offensive touchdown, but two Ted Ginn kickoff returns and a Jason Taylor fumble return -- all in the third quarter -- make the difference.

Missed YACkles doomed Dolphins

September, 22, 2009
9/22/09
10:38
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham


Miami Dolphins coach Tony Sparano revealed a couple of stats from his video breakdown of Monday night's indigestible 27-23 loss to the Indianapolis Colts.

The Dolphins missed seven tackles the entire game. Sure seemed like more. Not bad.

The Dolphins surrendered 154 yards after the catch. Not good. Not good at all.

Colts quarterback Peyton Manning ran only 35 plays -- the fewest in Colts history. But they gained an absurd 10.2 yards per play. Manning was 14 of 23 for 303 yards and two touchdowns.

"Eight of those receptions yielded 154 yards after the catch, and you have to believe in your heart that if you get them down on the ground a couple of times, then maybe we have a chance," Sparano said. "We missed some tackles, yeah."

Overall, however, Sparano wasn't upset with how his team tackled -- or didn't.

"We did not have a lot of missed tackles," Sparano said. "They tackled pretty well, it is just a few of them were glaring."

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham


NFC Stock Watch: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Falling

1. Miami Dolphins defense: No words were minced in the Dolphins' locker room after the Colts needed only 35 offensive plays and less than 15 minutes time of possession to beat them Monday night in Land Shark Stadium. Head coach Tony Sparano and defensive spokesmen Joey Porter and Jason Taylor each admitted the loss was theirs to bear.

The Dolphins' offense did enough. They turned every possession into a long slog. The Wildcat was purring. Ronnie Brown was shredding. Chad Pennington was his usual efficient self. But the defense leaked all over the place. The Colts averaged 10.3 yards per play, and Peyton Manning barely was unbothered all night.

Galloway
2. Joey Galloway, Patriots receiver: It's so strange to see two veterans such as Galloway and Tom Brady unable to get on the same page after so many weeks of practices, exhibitions and two regular-season games. Galloway looks like he was dropped off on the Patriots' doorstep yesterday and told to play without a peek at the playbook.

Brady has been finding his other receivers. He connected with Randy Moss 12 times in the season opener. Brady found rookie Julian Edelman -- who played quarterback in college -- eight times on Sunday. But Galloway has been a mystery. Through two games, Brady has tried to hook up with him 14 times, but Galloway has five receptions.

Ginn
3. Ted Ginn, Dolphins receiver: I'm hesitant to include Ginn on this list. Statistically, he had a wonderful night. He had 11 catches, tying him for third on Miami's single-game receptions list, for 108 yards.

But Ginn had the chance to win it for the Dolphins. He dropped what would have been the game-winning touchdown in the waning moments. Pennington's pass hit Ginn in the hands, in the end zone. The catch wouldn't have been simple, but it's the kind that ninth-overall draft picks should be expected to make.

Rising

Ryan
1. Rex Ryan, Jets head coach: He believed in his team so much he dared to disregard the Patriots weeks before they would meet. His players, energized by their leader's bravado (especially compared to their aloof former coach, Eric Mangini), amped up the pregame rhetoric with some smack of their own.

When the Jets and Patriots finally crossed paths Sunday at the Meadowlands, Ryan and his players backed up their big words with a 16-9 victory. Ryan's dynamic defense was vital to the effort, harassing Brady all afternoon, and hasn't allowed an offensive touchdown through the first two games.

Jackson
2. Fred Jackson, Bills running back: You can't even call Jackson a castoff because nobody really ever wanted him. Bills fans know the story, but the rest of the country still probably has no clue who this guy is. Jackson went undrafted, obviously, out of Division III Coe College. He played in the arena minors, found his way to NFL Europa, the Bills practice squad and the active roster.

Jackson was the NFL's most underrated running back last year and, with Pro Bowl back Marshawn Lynch suspended, has been catalyst for a surprising Bills offense. Jackson ranks fifth in rushing with 220 yards and has added 108 more yards receiving. He rushed for a career-high 163 yards in Sunday's romp over the Buccaneers.

Brown
3. Ronnie Brown, Dolphins running back: Brown might be the NFL's most underappreciated superstar. Rarely is he mentioned in conversations about the best running backs. Adrian Peterson, Matt Forte, Maurice Jones-Drew, Michael Turner ... Those are your first-round fantasy football picks. People look at his stats and see a player capitalizing off a gimmick offense.

Fact is, Brown is a stud. He proved it again Monday night, doing just about everything humanly possible to propel the Dolphins to victory. Brown ran for 136 yards and two touchdowns in a wacky loss. Maybe Sparano should have used Brown on defense, too.

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham


MIAMI -- Some interesting stats from a game the Dolphins should have won:
  • The Dolphins broke their single-game record for time of possession (since it became an official stat in 1977) by keeping the ball for 45 minutes, 9 seconds.
  • Their previous mark was 43:39 on Dec. 7, 1987 against the New York Jets. The Dolphins won that game 37-28.
  • Five previous times in franchise history the Dolphins have had more than 41 minutes in time of possession. They won each time. They had the ball for 40:56, but lost to the Buffalo Bills in overtime Oct. 9, 1983.
  • Indianapolis is the first team since time of possession was logged to win the game with control of the ball for less than 15 minutes.
  • The Dolphins limited the Colts to 35 offensive plays. That's a Colts record, two fewer than what they had in a 31-17 loss to the Denver Broncos on Dec. 21, 2003.
  • The Dolphins ran 85 plays, but that's not a Colts record. The New England Patriots got off 88 in a 23-20 overtime victory over the Colts on Oct. 29, 1989.
  • Miami ran for 239 yards, its best rushing performance since they gained 270 on the ground Dec. 1, 2002. Ricky Williams had 228 yards in a loss to the Bills.
  • Only three teams since 2003 have lost when rushing for 239 or more yards. The New York Jets did it last year against the Oakland Raiders.
  • Miami threw it, too. Ted Ginn caught 11 passes, tied for third-most in club history. Given all of the prolific passing performances over the years, that's saying something.
Douglas Jones/US Presswire
Colts tight end Dallas Clark helped Peyton Manning make the most of their time on offense
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham

MIAMI -- The Miami Dolphins' defense defied everything that established its identity last year.

Colts-Dolphins coverage
Paul Kuharsky
- Five things I took from Colts' win
- Wrapup: Colts 27, Dolphins 23

Tim Graham
- Manning squishes soft Dolphins
- Rapid Reaction: Colts 27, Dolphins 23

- All Colts-Dolphins coverage
It wasn't hard-nosed. It didn't punish opposing ball carriers. It flat-out missed tackles. It didn't come up with stops in critical situations.

A proud defense went limp Monday night and gave away a game that was absurdly lopsided in Miami's favor. The Indianapolis Colts defeated the slack-jawed Dolphins 27-23 at Land Shark Stadium, a result that was far from unexpected until you looked at the box score.

"It's really disheartening," Miami coach Tony Sparano said in his postgame news conference. "I'd like to ask you guys how many times you've seen games like that."

Nary a one, Coach.
Manning By Distance Thrown
-- 14 yds or less 15 yds or more
Cmp-Att 9-10 5-13
Yds 114 189*
TD 1 1
Rtg 147.5 111.9
* 80 came on first play of game.

The Dolphins kept the ball out of Peyton Manning's hands like few teams could. Miami had the ball for 45 minutes, 7 seconds -- eclipsing their team time-of-possession record by 88 seconds. They rushed for 239 yards. They ran 84 plays from scrimmage. The Colts ran just 35 -- three in the entire third quarter; their previous record for fewest offensive plays in a game was 37.

The Colts converted only three third downs, for crissakes. The Dolphins converted an incredible 15 of 21.

"That's exactly the formula to beat that team," Sparano said, "exactly the formula."

Miami's smashmouth defense, however, turned toothless.

Dan Carpenter kicked a 45-yard field goal to give the Dolphins a three-point lead with 3:50 remaining.

Manning glanced up at the clock and knew that would be more than enough. The Colts had all three of their timeouts and the two-minute warning. With the way he was turning the Dolphins into ribbons, he could have taken a knee or two just to make the finish a little more interesting.

Steve Mitchell/US Presswire
Joey Porter could not rattle Peyton Manning when it counted.

Four plays are all it took. Even with AFC reigning sackmaster Joey Porter and NFL active career sacks leader Jason Taylor on the field and Manning certain to be throwing, the Dolphins still couldn't disrupt him.

Manning found Reggie Wayne for 15 yards to give the Colts some breathing room.

"Once you give them a chunk play like that and let them out of that end of the field," Sparano said, "all of a sudden the candy store's open."

Then Manning found tight end Dallas Clark -- as he had all evening -- for 17 more yards to close in on field-goal territory with a comfy 3:39 to play.

But that possibility was rendered moot when Manning threw a screen pass to Pierre Garcon, who darted past a few Dolphins who probably should have brought him down at some point before he traveled 48 yards for a touchdown.

It was vintage Manning, yet that provided no solace in Miami's locker room.

"There's no consolation prizes," Taylor said. "You don't get anything for being in second place besides a T-shirt, and that thing will shrink in two weeks.

"Who cares about finishing close, or 'You had them until the end and they're just great?' The Colts are a good football team, but they’re beatable. We should have won the game, and we didn't."

Since the NFL started tracking time of possession in 1977, no team has won with such a paltry number (14:53), according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

So you can imagine what Manning did with those 35 measly plays. Even without injured No. 2 receiver Anthony Gonzalez, the Colts averaged 10.3 yards a snap.

Manning and Clark connected on the game's first play for an 80-yard touchdown to render Land Shark Stadium a mausoleum. Clark finished with seven catches for 183 yards, often abusing inside linebacker Channing Crowder.

Miami's offense, meanwhile, was relentlessly efficient.
Ronnie Brown By Formation
-- Wildcat Other
Att 7 17
Yards 62 74
Yds/Att 8.9 4.4
First Downs 4 4
Touchdowns 1 1
Ronnie Brown hadn't churned up so much real estate since it was worth something in South Florida. Brown rushed for 136 yards -- his highest total since November 2006 -- and scored two touchdowns. Ricky Williams and Patrick Cobbs combined for another 92 rushing yards.

Brown made the Wildcat look dangerous again after so many games of pedestrian results. He took a direct snap and darted for a 14-yard touchdown on Miami's first drive, its first Wildcat touchdown since Week 10 of last year.

And the Dolphins wasted all of it in their home opener.

"They did a good job tonight, and we failed them," Taylor said of the offense. "We failed the team on defense."

Miami surrendered crucial gains throughout the night, but they were scattered about because Indianapolis never seemed to be on the field.

Manning hit Clark for a 20-yard gain to set up a 48-yard Adam Vinatieri field goal with two seconds left in the first half. That "cheap field goal," as Porter put it, tied the game at 13.

But the Dolphins' offense downright dominated in the second half. Miami opened with an 11-play drive, held the Colts to a three-and-out and went on a 13-play touchdown drive that ended 1:37 into the fourth quarter.

As Sparano said, it was the perfect game plan. But his team is 0-2, the only team in the AFC East without a victory.

"Nobody's crowned champion after two weeks," Porter said. "True enough, we would love to be 2-0 instead of 0-2, but we're not good enough to give away games.

"Those are the games that are going to hurt. When you have a team in position to put them away, you've got to put them away. Good teams do."
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.

Colts-Dolphins coverage
Paul Kuharsky
- Five things I took from Colts' win
- Wrapup: Colts 27, Dolphins 23

Tim Graham
- Manning squishes soft Dolphins
- Rapid Reaction: Colts 27, Dolphins 23

- All Colts-Dolphins coverage
Here are five things I took from the game:

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.

Wrapup: Colts 27, Dolphins 23

September, 21, 2009
9/21/09
11:57
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky


The shape of the game said Dolphins.

Peyton Manning, of course, said something different.

The Colts' dead-tired defense gave up big rushing yards and way too many third-down conversions. They earned minimal possession time -- just 14:53 -- for the reigning MVP.

But what he got was enough, and Miami paid for failing to find enough touchdowns.

Colts 27, Dolphins 23.

The Titans and Texans were rooting hard for the Dolphins and hoping they could wind up in decent shape in the division. The Colts instead got to 2-0 thanks to Manning’s quick throw to Pierre Garcon in the face of a big blitz.

The young, speedy receiver has gotten a lot of attention as part of a duo taking on a bigger role for the post-Marvin Harrison Colts. He is even more important with Anthony Gonzalez out as the result of a knee injury suffered in the opener.

Picking up blocks from the other young receiver, Austin Collie, as well as Jeff Saturday and Mike Pollak, on the perfect play for the perfect moment, Garcon scored his first NFL touchdown from 48 yards.

And when the Colts defense survived one last Miami drive -- a too-slow 2-minute drill for a team lacking explosion -- Indy improved to 2-0 and moved a game up on Houston and two up on Tennessee and Jacksonville.

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham


MIAMI -- The Miami Dolphins actually rolled out the orange carpet before Monday night's game. Flash bulbs popped as various celebrities, most of them with a piece of the team, strutted into Land Shark Stadium to see their team play the Indianapolis Colts.

Tiger Woods, Jennifer Lopez, Venus and Serena Williams were there. Jimmy Buffett performed in the parking lot before kickoff.

Stephen Ross tried to bring some sizzle to his first home opener as Dolphins owner, but his team fizzled in the final minutes of a 27-23 Colts victory.

The Dolphins are 0-2 but would be .500 in a wide open AFC East had their defense made a stop.

Dan Carpenter kicked a 45-yard field goal off the Florida Marlins' infield dirt to give the Dolphins a 23-20 lead with 3:55 to play.

Here's what the Colts did on the ensuing drive:
Four plays, 44 yards, 43 seconds. Lead lost. No response.

Miami's offense, effective behind running back Ronnie Brown for much of the game, crumbled on the final drive. They wasted time, burned timeouts before they wanted to, and recovered their own fumble.

Brown's effort was wasted. He rushed for 136 yards and two touchdowns.

Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky


Miami’s offensive line has blocked very well for the run and done well protecting Chad Pennington into the early fourth quarter.

I’ve been struck by how Jake Long, the Dolphins’ giant left tackle, has neutralized Dwight Freeney on so many snaps. Freeney last week influenced the win over the Jaguars in a big way working against rookie Eugene Monroe.

But Monday night, Miami’s big second-year blocker has engulfed Freeney is a lot of situations, and Freeney’s lone sack of Pennington came on an ill-advised roll out that put Freeney in the one situation where he has a clear advantage against Long -- covering a lot of ground.

The Colts are trying to mount a touchdown drive than can pull them back even. Perhaps Freeney and the defensive line have saved their big plays for late.

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham


MIAMI -- The Miami Dolphins and Indianapolis Colts enter halftime tied at 13 on "Monday Night Football."

Some observations from the Land Shark Stadium press box through two quarters:

The Wildcat gets frisky: The Dolphins ran the Wildcat four times in the first quarter for 33 yards, including Ronnie Brown's 14-yard touchdown to tie the score on their opening drive. The offense needed a spark after last week's performance in the Georgia Dome, and the Wildcat seemed to provide it.

Brown gains one fewer yard on Miami's first possession than he had all last week: Brown looked like a superstar, running for 42 yards on the opening drive. He went into the half with 83 yards. He eclipsed the 100-yard barrier three times last year, topping out at 125 in Week 5.

Dolphins tackle Jake Long has done well against pass-rush specialist Dwight Freeney: Long had a rough opener against the Atlanta Falcons, giving up two sacks, half a sack less than the total he gave in his Pro Bowl rookie season. Freeney recorded a sack in the second quarter, but it was due to the Colts' coverage on a play that forced Chad Pennington to scramble.

Peyton Manning seems to be completing passes at will: Manning has completed 7 of 14 passes for 159 yards and a touchdown. He connected with Dallas Clark for a 20-yard pickup to put the Colts in field goal range with two ticks left in the second quarter. Adam Vinatieri kicked a 48-yard field goal to tie the score.

The Dolphins must figure out how to contain Clark: He scored an 80-yard touchdown on the game's opening play, and three of his four receptions have been for first downs.

Dan Carpenter has made two difficult kicks for Miami: He nailed 45- and 44-yard kicks in the second quarter, both of them off the Florida Marlins' infield dirt.

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham


MIAMI -- Just like that, the Miami Dolphins have located their offense.

They struggled badly in their opening-day loss to the Atlanta Falcons in the Georgia Dome, committing four turnovers and scoring their only points with a touchdown in garbage time.

Yet they were unfazed by Dallas Clark's touchdown 12 seconds into the game and responded on their first possession with a remarkably efficient Wildcat-accented touchdown drive to tie the score.

The Dolphins drove 67 yards on nine plays, taking 6:06 to get Ronnie Brown into the end zone. Brown took a direct snap and weaved his way in from 14 yards out.

Miami needed to convert just one short third down.

Brown carried five times for 42 yards on the drive, which included three Wildcat plays -- Brown runs of 9 and 14 yards and a handoff to Ricky Williams for 5 yards.

Chad Pennington completed all three of his pass attempts for 33 yards.

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham


MIAMI -- Never have I been so prophetic, so fast.

On Monday morning I posted an item about the Miami Dolphins' trouble containing Tony Gonzalez in Week 1 after not letting tight ends break big plays on them all last season and noted how they might have just as much trouble containing Indianapolis Colts star Dallas Clark.

Twelve seconds into Monday night's game in Land Shark Stadium, the Colts are ahead. Peyton Manning threaded a pass down the seam to Clark for what turned into an 80-yard touchdown.

Clark blew past linebacker Akin Ayodele, caught the ball and shrugged off safety Gibril Wilson to rumble the length of the field.

One play, Colts lead 7-0.

Gonzalez caught five passes for 73 yards versus Miami on opening day. Three of his receptions were for more than 15 yards, including a 20-yard touchdown.

The Dolphins didn't allow a tight end to score from more than 15 yards out last year.

The Dolphins get to face San Diego Chargers tight end Antonio Gates next week.

Colts-Dolphins inactives

September, 21, 2009
9/21/09
7:50
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham


MIAMI -- The Indianapolis Colts have scratched safety Bob Sanders for Monday night's game in Land Shark Stadium, while the Miami Dolphins have deactivated the same eight players as they did in Week 1.

Dolphins rookie Pat White will be the second quarterback again so he can run Wildcat plays without concern over the third-quarterback rule.

Indianapolis Colts

Note: It originally was announced in the press box defensive end Keyunta Dawson, and not Moala, was inactive.

Miami Dolphins

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