A Tough One To Swallow

It had the makings of a great night for the Dolphins, complete with the star-studded lineup of guests at the game and a much-needed victory over the Indianapolis Colts. Instead, the Monday night game produced a bitter defeat that raised many questions and will invite a tremendous amount of second-guessing.

This was a game the Dolphins probably should have won, even with Indianapolis connecting on pass plays of 80, 49 and 48 yards.

The Dolphins ran the ball almost at will on Monday night and rang up a ridiculous advantage in time of possession of 45:07-14:53. They had 27 first downs to the Colts' 14.

But the Dolphins still find themselves at 0-2 right now, and they have only themselves to blame. And it's not just because of the breakdowns in the secondary — even though that clearly played a part.

No, the biggest culprit on this night was a baffling lack of aggressiveness at key moments compounded by some of the worst clock management you will ever seen in an NFL game.

It actually almost was embarrassing to watch the Dolphins call a running play on first down from their own 18 trailing 27-23 with just over 3 minutes left and then huddle and let the clock continue to run until calling a timeout to avoid a delay of game penalty.

The Dolphins then came up with another running play after the timeout and that brought us to the two-minute warning, with the Dolphins have gained 6 yards in 1:18 with one timeout wasted.

This, of course, came after Peyton Manning drove the Colts 80 yards in 32 seconds.

No, the Dolphins don't have the kind of quick-strike offense the Colts have — boy, was that painfully obvious on this night — but this was ridiculous.

The clock mismanagement continued later in the final drive when the Dolphins faced a third-and-1 from the Colts 46 with no timeouts left. Sure, they needed a first down, but they also couldn't afford to keep wasting time.

So, of course, they ran a quarterback sneak to pick up the first down and then spiked the ball to stop the clock.

What that left the Dolphins with were a couple of desperation shots at the end zone, one that almost was completed to Ted Ginn Jr. and a last-play gasp that was picked off.

But that last drive could have — and should have — been handled better. Much better.

Then again, maybe the Dolphins wouldn't have been in that position had they hadn't gotten so conservative earlier.

Two glaring examples come to mind.

End of the first half, score tied 10-10, the Dolphins have a second-and-9 at the Indy 34 after a 1-yard completion to Greg Camarillo.

There is 1:01 left in the half. One more first down, and the Colts probably don't see the ball the rest of the half, whether the Dolphins score or not.

Instead, the Dolphins run on second-and-9 and they run on third-and-7. As a result, the Colts have 43 seconds left and Manning drives them 44 yards in five plays for a game-tying field goal.

The second example of ill-conceived ultra-conservatism was even worse and more costly.

This time the score was tied 20-20 and the Dolphins drove to the Indy 34 with 5:58 left in the fourth quarter.

Mind you, the two biggest plays in the drive to that point had been two completions to Ginn, for 15 and 21 yards.

So after throwing a short pass to Ginn that gains nothing, the Dolphins hand the ball off to Brown on second-and-10 and again on third-and-6.

Sure, a run on third-and-6 sometimes can get a first down, but it's very, very low percentage and considering how much the Dolphins had run, it wasn't really going to fool the Colts.

So, sure enough, Brown was stopped on third-and-6 and the Dolphins settled for a 45-yard Dan Carpenter field goal.

But that left the Colts needing only a field goal to tie and a touchdown to win. With Peyton Manning at quarterback. With 3:50 left. Uh-oh.

We all know how this sad story unfolded. But it really didn't have to be that way.

That's the greatest shame about this game.

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