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(Monday, September 21st)
Final Score: Indianapolis 27, Miami 23
Miami, FL (Sports Network) - Peyton Manning needed the 37th game-winning drive of his illustrious career to surpass Johnny Unitas as the franchise leader in wins among quarterbacks, and the Indianapolis Colts secured a 27-23 victory over the Miami Dolphins at Land Shark Stadium.
Manning's offense had the ball for only 14:53 in the entire game, the lowest total for a winning team of any game since 1977 -- Indianapolis ran only 35 plays, while the Dolphins totaled 84. But the reigning NFL MVP completed 14-of-23 passes for 303 yards and two touchdowns on the way to getting his 119th career win -- all with the Colts.
"I'm very proud to wear the same uniform as (Unitas)," Manning said. "He was very nice to me the times I was around him. I never saw him play, but my dad told me how good he was and what he meant to the city of Baltimore. It's very humbling to be mentioned with (Unitas), but it's a team record."
Indianapolis (2-0) has won its two games this season by a combined six points, and extended its regular-season winning streak to 11 games -- the longest active one in the league.
Dallas Clark was the main beneficiary of the passing attack Monday, catching seven balls for a career-high 183 yards -- including an 80-yard touchdown on the first offensive play of the game. Pierre Garcon caught only one pass in Anthony Gonzalez's absence, but it was a big one - a 48-yard touchdown reception with 3:18 left in the contest.
"I hope we don't have to do it that way," Colts head coach Jim Caldwell said. "We don't go into it thinking we're only going to have one possession in the third quarter. This league is based on possessions. We're not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but we're certainly efficient."
Donald Brown added a 15-yard touchdown -- the first of his career -- for the Colts, who garnered just 61 yards on the ground due to their premier aerial attack.
Ronnie Brown led a dominant Dolphins (0-2) rushing attack with 136 yards and two touchdowns on 24 carries. Miami's offense held the ball for more than 75 percent of the game, and Chad Pennington was an efficient 22-of-33 for 183 yards and an interception. Ted Ginn, Jr. had 11 catches for 108 yards in defeat.
"It's not about statistics. It's about winning games," Pennington said. "When you have an opportunity to score touchdowns, you can't kick field goals. I'm at a loss for words, I really am."
The Dolphins totaled 239 yards rushing and went 15-for-21 on third down opportunities, but in the end Manning's quick-strike offense proved to be too much.
"It's really disheartening," said Dolphins head coach Tony Sparano. "I don't have to ask you guys how many times you've seen games where you have the ball for 45 minutes...It's exactly the formula to beat that team. Exactly the formula."
With 10 minutes remaining and the game tied, the Dolphins took over on their own 22 and went to the passing attack, a stark difference from the dominating rushing game they used for the first 50 minutes of the contest.
Facing a 3rd-and-5 right away from the 27, Pennington found Ginn in the middle of the field for a 15-yard gain. After two unsuccessful run plays, Pennington hit Ginn again for 21 yards down to the Colts' 34.
The drive stalled from there, and Dan Carpenter's 45-yard field goal attempt split the uprights for a 23-20 lead with 3:50 to play.
But as Manning has done all his career, he led the team to the go-ahead touchdown late in the fourth quarter.
The first play of the four-play, 80-yard set went to Reggie Wayne for 15 yards, and the second to Clark for 17 yards to the Miami 48. After an incompletion to Garcon, Manning went back to the second-year receiver in the flat, and Garcon avoided several would-be tacklers and raced to the end zone.
"You're looking for the first down, and when you're down three it's a tough scenario," Manning said. "You want to score the touchdown to win the game, but you have to make sure you at least score to send it to overtime."
Miami then started from its own 18 took 1:13 on the first two plays of its final drive -- both running plays -- to get to the two-minute warning.
The Dolphins finally started to go the air and got down to the Colts' 42 with 35 seconds to play. Pennington nearly hit Ginn in the end zone on a long pass play, but the receiver had the ball tip off his hands. A desperation heave in the final seconds resulted in an end zone interception by Antoine Bethea, the game's only turnover.
The Colts got off to a quick start, as Manning found Clark down the middle of the field on the first play from scrimmage. Clark kept his balance to avoid a shoestring tackle and rumbled 80 yards for the touchdown.
Miami then took the more conventional way to score, going 75 yards in nine plays on its opening drive to tie the game. Ronnie Brown ran five times -- several times from the Wildcat formation -- for 42 yards, including a 14-yard score to cap it off just over six minutes into the game.
The Dolphins moved methodically down the field again on their next drive, using 13 plays to go 53 yards, and Carpenter drilled a 45-yard field goal in the early moments of the second quarter for a 10-7 lead.
Adam Vinatieri answered for the Colts with a 43-yard field goal with 9:14 remaining in the half to even the contest.
Each team added another field goal before halftime for a 13-13 score.
Carpenter missed a 49-yard field goal early in the third with a chance to put Miami in front, but the Dolphins' dominant rushing attack led them to the go- ahead score with a drive that spanned the final two quarters.
The march took 13 plays, went 80 yards and took nearly nine minutes to execute. The set involved 11 rushing plays for 68 total yards, and the only two passes saw Pennington convert crucial third down situations. Ronnie Brown ran in from three yards out 1 1/2 minutes into the fourth to put Miami in front.
Indianapolis, though, had an answer, choosing to work quickly in contrast to its opponent. On the second play of the six-play, 79-yard drive, Manning once again found Clark near the sideline, and he avoided a tackle and raced down to the Miami 27 for a 49-yard gain. On the ensuing 3rd-and-2, Manning used and audible and found Austin Collie out wide for four yards and a new set of downs.
The next play saw Donald Brown barrel through several defenders for a 15-yard touchdown and a tie score, 20-20, with 10 minutes to play.
The Dolphins started 0-2 last year before winning 11 of their final 14 games...The Colts hadn't played in this stadium since winning Super Bowl XLI against the Bears in February, 2007...It was the first home Monday Night Football game for Miami since December 25, 2006...The Colts have won the last three meetings between the teams...Indianapolis ran only three offensive plays in the third quarter.
09/22 00:34:15 ET
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