The following players contributed the most to the team's successes and failures in an unlikely winning effort:
Who Looked Good On Offense?
Peyton Manning turned in one of his finest performances to help carry his team to a victory in South Florida. Manning had the ball for less than a quarter of play and managed to connect on 14 of 23 passes (61 percent) for 303 yards and two touchdowns, and a near-perfect 133.9 passer rating.
With the game on the line, Manning manufactured a four-play, 80-yard drive that was capped by a 48-yard catch and run to Pierre Garcon, which created at the line when Manning audibled to exploit an oncoming Dolphins blitz.
Dallas Clark caught seven of eight passes for an astounding 183 yards and a touchdown. To open the game, Clark ran a route up the seam, broke a tackle and took the ball 80 yards for a score.
Clark's first-quarter touchdown was just the beginning of a big night
Incredibly, he generated more than 100 yards after that play. Whether the Dolphins lined up a linebacker or safety on Clark, he consistently got free, reeled the ball in, and broke tackles.
Running backs Joseph Addai and Donald Brown were able to combine for 58 yards on 10 carries, with Addai taking the ball six times for 32 yards. Brown had a more impressive game, scoring the Colts' lone rushing touchdown on a 15-yard run through the heart of the Dolphins defense, adding one reception for 24 yards.
Almost all of the team's success on the ground was limited to runs up the middle, as Addai and the offensive line continued to struggle finding success on the stretch play.
Adam Vinatieri responded to the call Monday night, connecting on both of his field goal attempts (43 and 48 yards). Sure, one of his attempts was a bank shot but without his connections the game could have taken a different turn. The Colts could not afford to come away from any scoring opportunity empty and Vinatieri did his part to make sure they did not.
Other players who deserve mention are the offensive line for their excellent run blocking, as well as holding a blitz-happy Miami defense to one sack. Both Austin Collie and Pierre Garcon came away with clutch catches to keep our winning drive alive. Garcon's catch and run for the winning touchdown was a thing of beauty and is hopefully a sign of things to come.
With less than 15 minutes of offensive possession to review, and offensive efficiency that would beat just about any team in the NFL, there were few offensive goats against the Dolphins. There were a few blown plays that could have made a difference in the game, however, which would have allowed the defense some much needed rest.
On the Colts' first possession in the third quarter, with an opportunity to put together a drive for the lead, Addai completely missed a Joey Porter blitz on the right side, leading to the Dolphins lone sack of the game, backing up the Colts for a second and 18.
This blown block allowed the Dolphins to hold momentum, put the offense in a tough position on the wrong end of the field, and helped lead to a three-and-out, which put an exhausted Colts defense back on the field and allowed the Dolphins to retake the lead.
The Colts were also unable to generate yards with the stretch play as Addai hesitated to cut the ball upfield, insisting on attempting to find the edge when it simply was not there. There were too many times that Addai failed to generate yards in tough situations when the run did not go into the soft gut of the Dolphins defense.
Not to take anything away from the Colts rushing production, which is impressive on paper, but it was clear that the Dolphins were selling out defensively to generate pressure and willing to allow the Colts to run the ball to the middle of the field.
As a result, a critical examination of our rushing success shows that the offensive line did block well and the backs did generate good yards but it was Donald Brown that did something extra with the ball once he had it in his hands.
Who Looked Good On Defense?
The Dolphins' offensive line dominated the Colts defensive line for much of the game, punching the ball forward for long sustained drives, mostly fueled by a persistent ground game.
The lone bright spot on the interior defensive line for the Colts was Eric Foster. Foster finished the game with four solo tackles, including one for a loss, and a pass defensed. Foster was able to anchor against the run better than his larger teammates and nearly sacked Pennington on one play, penetrating the Dolphins' offensive line.
Tyjuan Hagler also put forth his best effort Monday night, making five tackles, including three solos and one for a loss, and one pass defensed. Hagler found ways to break up plays, make open field tackles, and limit the Dolphins offense when plays came his way.
Also making notable plays were Clint Session, Gary Brackett, Raheem Brock, and Jacob Lacey. While Lacey's tight coverage on Ted Ginn Jr. in the end zone was mostly ignored during the broadcast of the game, he placed himself high in the air with Ginn Jr. and interrupted his concentration, leading to an incompletion.
Cornerback Tim Jennings was an anomaly throughout the game. While Jennings appeared many times making solid tackles to stop the Dolphins run game short or defending a deep pass down the middle, he also disappeared in third and long situations, allowing such large cushions that the Dolphins were able to convert and keep a tired Colts defense on the field.
Monday was another inconsistent night for the enigmatic Jennings
Doug Benc/Getty Images
While the Colts' defensive scheme allows cushion to stop big plays, it should be clear to anyone who watched Jerraud Powers play the same position a week ago that giving a cushion and allowing easy third-down conversions are two different things entirely.
Keyunta Dawson also struggled when called upon to spell Dwight Freeney. Dawson was unable to read and react to runs his way, allowing the Dolphins to generate chunks of yards and continue long clock-eating drives, which forced an exhausted Freeney back onto the field. When the defense needed its backups to step up into a big role, Dawson failed.
Third-year defensive tackle Ed Johnson returned to the starting lineup for the first time in a year Monday night. The team hoped he would compliment Antonio Johnson to give the Colts a stout two-man front on the interior of the defensive line.
Instead, both Ed and Antonio Johnson were consistently pushed off of the line, allowing offensive lineman to come free through the hole to lay blocks on linebackers and safeties. One of the biggest goals of the Colts front office during the offseason was to become stouter against runs up the middle but the Johnson tandem was ineffective in doing so Monday night.
Also worth mentioning is that the entire defense struggled with tackling, with Antoine Bethea missing a handful of tackles by engaging the ball carrier too high. One thing seemed clear: the absence of Bob Sanders was costly in a game where his speed, sure tackling, and high energy could have helped answer the Dolphins wildcat looks.
Finally, it is worth noting that Chad Simpson looked sluggish and indecisive returning kicks. If it was not already clear entering the season, the first two games indicate that the Colts return game still needs work.
Despite all of the negatives, the Colts finished the game with a win, remain undefeated, and are on top of the AFC South. Despite the poor defensive play throughout much of the game, the defense displayed a lot of guts to hold the Dolphins offense to 10 points in the second half, even though they had to be exhausted. The team will need rest, but will need to recover quickly to be ready for another prime-time game in Arizona on Sunday.
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