What We Learned: Colts at Dolphins

How much credit does Peyton Manning deserve for this win? How concerned should Colts fans be about the defense? Will other teams try to attack Indianapolis with the Wildcat formation? Brad Keller takes a look at what we learned in Week 2.

If teams focus on Reggie Wayne, they are going to get burned: Then again, we learned in Week 1 that Wayne can carry more than his fair share of the load if the opponent only puts one man on him.

Dallas Clark had a career night — as Eric Hartz told me, one thing he learned is that you look like a fool if you try to cover Clark with a linebacker — and Pierre Garcon and Austin Collie both made solid contributions.

Peyton Manning once again proved that he is the guy that makes the Colts offense go, but the weapons around him also proved that they can do a lot of damage with the ball in their hands, as most of Manning's long completions didn't travel half their total gain in the air.

Defenses can pick their poison at this point: Let Wayne shred them, or let Clark, Collie, Garcon, and Wayne shred them.  The former option lead to Indianapolis scoring 14 total points and the latter lead to them scoring 27, so opponents may just let Wayne run wild — within reason — for the rest of the season, whether Anthony Gonzalez comes back soon or not.

Miami's backs left the Colts in the dust for most of the night
Doug Benc/Getty Images

Be glad Manning plays for the Colts: The Monday night crew talked about how Chad Pennington must have had difficulty getting into a rhythm given that he needed to take plays off for the Dolphins to run their Wildcat offense.  But, the fact that Manning established a rhythm at all, given the fact that he had long stretches on the bench is remarkable.

The fact that he was able to lead the offense to five scores on eight possessions is simply incredible, especially since two of those eight possessions were three-and-outs.  Most quarterbacks can't "fall out of bed" and lead two touchdown drives in the fourth quarter.  Colts fans should be happy that No. 18 is the exception in that scenario.

Still, this is not the formula for success: Considering that the last time a team lost the time of possession battle this badly and won was 1977, it's safe to say that victories like the one on Monday night will be few and far between for Indianapolis.

They ran only 35 plays, had only 11 rushing plays — although they posted a very respectable 58 yards rushing — and needed a couple of titanic collapses in the secondary (Clark touchdown, Garcon touchdown) to win. 

They can enjoy it while it lasts, but they cannot expect to win many games — or any more games — playing like this.

Wildcat or not, that was a poor defensive showing:nbsp; Miami averaged 4.9 yards per rush, gained 239 yards rushing, ran 84 total plays, held the ball for 45 minutes, and converted an astonishing 15 of 21 third down chances — and they also were one for one on fourth down.

Just looking at those stats, you'd have to assume the Colts lost the game.

It's true that the Dolphins did gain a lot of yards with misdirection out of the Wildcat formation.  It's true that a number of defenders — Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis in particular — were way out of position on a number of plays.  But, it's also true that Miami took the fight to the Colts defense and the Colts defense yielded.

When the Dolphins were able to run their base offense — not the six-minute version of the two-minute drill they ran at the end of each half — they were able to line up across from the Indianapolis defense and do whatever they liked, especially in the running game.

Even when misdirection wasn't involved, the Miami blockers were able to put a hat on a hat and blow the Colts defenders off the ball.

With the return of Ed Johnson, the development of Dan Muir and Antonio Johnson, and the draft selection of Fili Moala, not to mention replacing the conservative Ron Meeks at defensive coordinator with the more aggressive Larry Coyer, the inability of the Colts to stop the run — especially up the middle — was supposed to be a thing of the past.

Well, it's very much a thing of the present and something that they need to work on a great deal in practice this week.

Speaking of practice: Jim Caldwell needs to put a great deal of emphasis on discipline this week.  The Colts were called for six pre-snap penalties — five offsides and one illegal formation — and that's far too many.

Two of the offsides penalties were declined, true, but pre-snap errors such as these lead to third-and-long situations for the offense and third-and-short situations for the defense.  Take another look at third down efficiency and time of possession in this game.

Yes, the Colts won, but I think we've established that their most successful endeavor on Monday night was to showcase how not to win a football game — which makes the fact that they did win all the more remarkable.

Indianapolis has always had a high-flying offense, a defense that bent but didn't break, and was never a team that had a reputation for stopping the run.  But, they have always had a reputation for playing sound, fundamental, disciplined football, which is not what they played on Monday.

Against a more accomplished team, those penalties would have come back to bite them.  And, in a more significant game later in the season, there may have been more roughing and late hit penalties called on the Colts defense, as Eric Foster and Gary Brackett in particular seemed to "pile on" a number of times just after the whistle blew.

If they were a tad bit later, there surely would have been a personal foul called — and, in a couple of instances, I was surprised that there wasn't.

Again, it comes down to playing aggressive and being physical, but still being in control.  It's entirely possible that the Colts were too controlled under Tony Dungy, especially on defense, but it's definitely true that Indianapolis, in general, needs to turn down the volume a little bit in order to conform to the rules in play.

Still...:  A win is a win.

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