2009 Game Recap – Week 2: Indianapolis Colts at Miami Dolphins

To help pass time this off-season, I’ve reviewed the Colts’ regular season games from 2009. With this second look at how the team played, a few thoughts have occured to me which were not obvious during the initial viewing, and I thought it a good opportunity to rethink some of my previously held opinions of the team I love. So, with your kind indulgence, as I view a game at a time I’ll be sharing my impressions.

Personal Note: This is not, and was never intended to be, an objective, unbiased review of an NFL contest. It is instead a glimpse into the emotional ride experienced by the average Colt fan at game time. My Homerism switch is engaged and turned up to eleven. With that in mind, I invite you to join me as we re-live the highs and lows of the 2009 Indianapolis Colts season.

Today’s Game: Week 2 – Indianapolis Colts at Miami Dolphins

Setting The Stage

  • The Colts come into the game at 1-0. Miami is 0-1 after losing a rather one-sided affair against the Falcons in Week 1. Pat McAfee replaces Shawn Andrus on kickoffs. Jerraud Powers is out with a groin injury, so Tim Jennings starts at CB. Bob Sanders is out, and Ed Johnson starts at DT after serving his one-game suspension.
  • The field: Landshark Stadium, Miami, Florida on a warm, humid Monday night. The field itself is embarrassingly ghetto with the baseball diamond cut into one end.
  • The crowd: Young, flashy, very loud, and not a fat hump in sight. Miami ownership has reached out to the vast Spanish community by bringing in minority celebrities to be part of the ownership group; Jennifer Lopez, Venis and Serena Williams, Mark Antony, and Emilio Estevez. A festive atmosphere on the ‘Orange Carpet’ each week. I swear I hear a vuvuzela… annoying things!

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  • The Network Coverage: Mike Tirico, Ron Jaworski, Jon Gruden of ESPN. I kind of like Gruden. He brings an energy that most announcers leave in the Green Room. He calls Peyton “The Sheriff” because ‘every town he plays in, he lays down the law’. Yeah, that’s why they pay him the big bucks. Maybe I’m just jealous of his hair… I dunno. Suzy Kolber got a bit of air time just after the half. Really, Joe? I don’t get the attraction. It’s kinda funny when the yard markers and yards-to-go graphic float above the players on the field. Epic graphics fail, ESPN. The announcers mention the time of possession disparity during the second quarter and really start focusing on it after halftime. One camera showed the Colts offense sitting on the bench looking frustrated. Knowing the Colts win this game makes this less frustrating for me as a viewer… at the time, not so much. ‘Piere Garcin’? Really?

Key plays

1st Qtr:

  • Touchdown, Dallas Clark on the first offensive play! On first-and-ten, at their own 20, Peyton Manning fakes to Joe Addai, spins, and releases a perfect spiral over the middle. Ryan Lilja totally misses his assignment, and the right DE is in Manning’s face as he throws. Dallas releases clean, he outruns the Miami LB, and pivots his head just as the pass arrives. Clark stretches to catch it, in-stride. The only defender deeper than 44 is the safety who tries to take Clark down, but Dallas is able to keep his footing and outrun everyone else. An 80 yard score, in 1 play, that takes 12 seconds. That ties the MNF record, and sets the tone for the entire game. Colts 7-0 after the Vinatieri extra point.
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  • Dolphins score after a long, sustained drive. Ronnie Brown, in the Wildcat, runs in from the 14. The Colts are caught in a blitz, and Antoine Bethea is the only player to get a hand on Brown. It’s gonna be a long night.
  • Addai for 12 on a nice looking run over LG. Good blocking by Clark and the entire left side of the line. Nice to see Joe exhibit some speed and, better yet, for the O-Line to actually open a hole.

2nd Qtr:

  • Even with several nice running plays for big gains on their second possession, Miami can’t get closer than the Colts’ 28; although they came close. A Chad Pennington pass is inches too long on third-and-nine, and Miami settles for the FG. Miami 10-7.
  • The Miami LBs move in for the blitz, so Peyton audibles to an Addai run up the middle; gain of 16. Perfect call and good blocking by Ryan Lilja and Charlie Johnson to open up the middle.
  • Attack! Attack! Attack! Manning catches Miami with too many men on the field. 5 yard penalty leads to third-and-three at the Phins’ 36.
  • I’ve never seen a receiver who can reach up for the catch and get down as quickly as Reggie Wayne. He just narrowly escapes getting decapitated after a first-down pickup. The two defenders covering him converged just milliseconds after Wayne’s head dropped from between them. Huge helmet to helmet collision leaves a Phins’ player writhing on the turf. Could have been bad for Wayne if he’d been a fraction of a second slower.

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  • A pass to Gijon Robinson, over the middle, is just inches too long on second down, and Clark comes up short on third, so Colts settle for a 43-yard Vinatieri FG. Score is tied at 10-10.
  • Tyjuan Hagler with great penetration to stop Miami RB Ronnie Brown in the backfield. When healthy, Hagler looks really good. I’m gonna miss him. Tim Jennings with a great leaping play to break up a pass. Say what you want about 23, but to my eye, he makes as many good plays as bad. Okay… on second thought, that’s not that impressive. Next, Tyjuan with another nice play; good man-to-man coverage and anticipation to knock down a pass.
  • Dwight Freeney sack (his second of the season)! On third-and-five, near mid-field, Pennington rolls right and looks for an open man to the left. Good coverage by Jennings allows Eric Foster and Raheem Brock to contain the QB until Freeney can run him down. Phins punt. Check this out! Ugoh just hit… wow… just hit somebody on the return… put the guy on his can. Excuse me a minute while I just sit quietly and reflect on the possibilities for 2010. If he could play with a bit of anger like he just did… wow.
  • You don’t see this very often. Peyton runs for 3 yards. His target receiver is covered, so he tucks it and runs. Colts can’t convert third-and-three, and the Colts punt after a three-and-out. Interesting how one of the more time-consuming Colts’ drives earns them no points.
  • Brock with an awesome stop on second-and-three. Raheem stunts to the inside and stops Ricky Williams for a one-yard gain. He definitely earned his money on this play.

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  • Foster with a nice move to put pressure on Pennington and force an early throw. Then, Foster with a stop after disengaging from his man and bouncing sideways to take down the RB. Two nice plays in a row for force a third-and-seven with 56 seconds remaining in the half. Gruden spends several seconds talking about how impressed he is with Eric. Me too, Jon.
  • Dolphins can’t convert on third-and-three and settle for the field goal. Funny! Session shoves a Miami O-Lineman as the whistle sounds. The lineman thinks for a half-second then flops backward trying to draw a flag, and loses his helmet. Players just kinda look at him as if; WTF? Heh… FG is good. Miami leads 13-10.
  • Manning to Brown for 24! Pollak can’t contain his man, and Peyton has to back-pedal to avoid the sack. With three defenders in his face, Peyton lofts one to 31 who is streaking down the left side. Gain of 24 to mid-field with 28 seconds left in the half.
  • INT! Peyton targets Wayne down the left sideline, but the pass is under-thrown. Reggie comes back toward the ball and leaps, but the ball bounces into the air and is caught by the safety. It appears the ball comes loose, and the play is reviewed. The call is reversed, and replay shows that it’s Wayne’s hustle that caused the safety to lose the ball. When he saw that the ball bouncing and that the safety was making a play on it, Reggie tackled the safety and stripped the ball away. Colts’ ball, third-and-ten at their own 45, with 8 seconds remaining.
  • Against the Prevent defense, Peyton hits Clark at the Phins’ 35. Wayne with the clear-out to draw the defense away from Clark who heads out-of-bounds with 2 seconds left. Vinatieri’s 48-yard field goal starts down the center, hooks left, hits the left upright, and banks through as time expires. I think that’s officially a ‘doink’. Colts re-tie the game at 13.

3rd Qtr:

  • Session reads the run well and penetrates to cut down the RB for a loss. Nice reaction to the run by one of my favorite defensive players. Clint ends up as the leading tackler this game.
  • Hagler just showed a bit of attitude in flinging an RB aside after the whistle. Made me smile… just a bit. Is that wrong?
  • Foster with yet another nice play to read the QB’s eyes, leap at the right time, and bat down a pass to force a FG attempt. Eric has played well today. Kick is wide right, and the Colts take over at the Phins’ 40.
  • On the first offensive play after the failed FG attempt, Addai totally misses a blitz pickup and Manning has to take a sack. There seems to be confusion on the coverage as Joe leaves Peyton unprotected to pick up someone coming from the other side. The play results in a loss of eight. Two ugly plays later, the Colts punt. Miami with intense pressure up the middle, and McAfee barely gets the kick off… could have been disastrous.
  • The third quarter ends with the Colts offensive having run 3 plays. I’m amazed Miami wasn’t able to score any points. They’ve moved the ball well, and are threatening as we move to the fourth.

4th Qtr:

  • Dolphins touchdown. Ronnie Brown up the middle (again). Colts’ D just can’t stop them, and Miami goes in front 20-13.
  • The first Colts’ possession of the 4th includes another big completion to Clark. Great protection, good use of the pocket by 18, a perfect pass, and good speed/balance after the catch, by Dallas, takes the Colts from their own 24 to the Phins 26 in one play. There may be other Colts who are better, after the catch, than Clark, but not many.
  • Brown with a run up the middle for 3. No big deal in the stats, but something happened on this play that seems to reflect a change of attitude for the offense. At the end of this play, Collie gets into a brief shoving match with a DB. That surprises me a bit, but I like it. Three plays later, Brown rips off a beautiful 15-yd TD run up the middle to tie the game. The hole was opened by a Pollak trap block, and Brown breaks 4 tackles on his way to the endzone; his first career TD. Another quick strike; six plays, 79 yards, and 3:17 off the clock. Tie game at 20, mid-way through the fourth quarter.

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  • On a critical third-and-six, from the Miami 30, Brackett, Foster, and Freeney with a run stuff to force a FG attempt. Considering the Phins had run the ball really well all night, this one stop was huge. FG is good. Miami takes yet another lead, 23-20 with 3:44 remaining in the contest.
  • TD Colts! Starting at their 20, the Colts string together a 15-yard completion to Wayne down the left sideline, a very similar 17-yarder to Clark, and a 48-yard touchdown completion to Pierre Garcon. The Miami D is pressing the line, and Manning audibles to the bubble screen to Garcon; his first career TD.
  • Collie, Saturday, and Pollak all with great down-field blocks; Pierre simply outruns everyone else. Colts take the lead on the four-play, 80-yard, 32-second drive; amazing.
  • Mathis strip-sack (his 27th career fumble)! Phins on their 40, first-and-ten, with 1:10 remaining. Mathis speed-rushes to the outside, reaches out as Pennington is preparing to throw, and knocks the ball loose. Foster comes THIS close to recovering it and ending the game. Miami ball on their 36 with 56 seconds remaining.

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  • Whew! Pennington with a nice pass to the end zone, and Jacob Lacey with tight coverage on Ted Ginn; incomplete. That was close. Third-and-ten, from the Colts’ 42, with 27 seconds remaining. An incompletion, and then on fourth-down, Pennington with a nicely placed completion for the first. Miami on the Colts’ 30 with 6 seconds to go. This back-and-forth contest is coming down to the wire.
  • INT Bethea! The Colts’ D has great coverage, and Antoine leaps high to seal the game for Indy. Nice! Game over.

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Overall Impressions

  • The offense: The offense was hot and cold. Several big plays earn the Colts enough points to win, but there was just as much bad as good. I had remembered that the offense looked really good in this game. I remembered wrong. With a few notable exceptions, receivers couldn’t get open, and the running game was non-existent (61 yards total). Still, they become the first team (since the NFL began tracking time of possession in 1977) to win a game having held the ball for less than 15 mins (14:53).
  • The defense: As bad as the offense was, the defense was worse. They got man-handled in this game. Whether it was Brown in the Wildcat or Pennington handing off to Brown or Williams, the Phins ran at will. You don’t allow your opponent to convert 15 of 21 third-down attempts and one of one on fourth-down, give up 239 rushing yards, allow possession of over 45 minutes (84 plays) and win very often. They could get very little pressure on Pennington, and committed too many penalties; mostly off-sides. By the third quarter, the Colts D was sucking air; partly due to the number of plays and partly because of the pace the Phins ran; interestingly, until the last drive. Overall, though they played much more up-tempo than last week’s Jags.
  • Special Teams: Several Miami kickoffs were short of the goal line. Still, Simpson returns gain 20, then 21, 14, 19, and finally 14. In 2008, Miami allowed an average kick-off return to the 30 yard line; Seems the Colts’ return game is a bit below average, yes?

Random thoughts

  • Mathis caused his 27th career fumble at a critical point in the Phins’ final drive. Otherwise, both Mathis and Freeney were relatively quiet. Good use of the delayed hand-off by Miami allowed their backs a running lane through the space Freeney/Mathis just vacated. Freeney drew double-coverage most of the game. He makes Jake Long look downright silly early in the game, but the Dolphins adjust, and Dwight doesn’t get much pressure on the QB from then on. Holding much!?

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  • The entire third quarter was awful… just awful. The offense had three total plays; three! Worse, Manning went down on two of them; one of them a sack. The defense was gashed left, right, and center, by runs, screens, sweeps, and the occasional pass. It was truly painful to watch.
  • Ed Johnson makes his 2009 debut. Seems to me, the line looked better last week with Muir. Is this due to a more talented Miami O-Line? Not sure, but we know now that 92 is cut weeks later.
  • This is the first game in which McAfee handles kickoffs (Shane Andrus was cut during the week). I don’t remember seeing anything overwhelmingly good or bad with kickoffs in the Jags game, so I’m wondering if this is injury related (with Gonzo down, did they bring up a WR?)
  • Watching the Phins run their 2-minute offense made me really appreciate how well the Colts do it. Their version was downright comical; bad clock management, bad use of time outs and the 2-minute warning, no urgency… just plain ugly. They’d been dicing the Colts D all night, but when they needed 70 yards in 2:30, they couldn’t pull it off. It took them over 2:00 to move 25 yards, but it did take a great play by Lacey to break up a 42 yard TD pass. But in the end, the Phins final desperation throw ended up in Bethea’s hands.
  • Can someone explain to me how Manning can have 303 yards passing, but the team only has 295 when no one else attempted a single pass?
  • Oh look, the Patriots lost.
  • Manning finishes with a passer rating of 133.9! Still, he forced too many throws into tight or double coverage. Also, we’re used to watching 18 check out of one play into a better play. Today, he guessed wrong several times, and it cost the Colts. There were great plays, of course; the 80-yarder to Clark was a thing of beauty, and he showed good maneuverability by completing for 14 yards to Brown after back-peddling to avoid a sack. After his hobbled 2008 season, it’s nice to see him fully mobile in the pocket. The wins ties Manning with Unitas at 119 (for fifth) in total wins by a starting QB. It was his 37th game-winning drive (upping his own Colts record). In his post-game interview, Peyton is humble and expresses discomfort at being compared to a great like Unitas. Yup… class.

Colts come from behind to win 27-23.

Total Run Yards
Colts: 61
Dolphins: 239

Total Passing Yards
Colts: 295
Dolphins: 164

Manning: 14 of 23, 303 yards, 2 TDs
Clark: 7 receptions, 183 yards, 1 TD
Garcon: 1 receptions, 48 yards, 1 TD
Wayne: 3 receptions, 37 yards
Addai: 6 carries, 32 yards
Brown: 4 carries, 32 yards

Other games in the series: