Dolphins Watch

September 18, 2009 10:37 PM

Manning vs. Miami Monday night

Needing a win in Week 2, one of the last players the Miami Dolphins want to see is Peyton Manning and his 1-0 Indianapolis Colts. Kickoff is at 8:30 p.m. Monday in Land Shark Stadium.

True, Manning has had his struggles against the Dolphins. In fact, aside from New England, Manning's 4-7 record as a starter against the Dolphins is his worst against any NFL team.

The Dolphins have also had more success historically against No. 18 than any team in the NFL. Manning's passer rating (76.3) and minus-2 TD/INT ratio are his worst numbers vs. one team.

But many of those successes came early in Manning's career, when future Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Marino was still throwing passes for the Fins.

In fact, since the teams were realigned into new divisions in 2002, Indy is 2-0 against Miami, including a 27-22 triumph in Indianapolis in 2006.

Overall, Manning has also shone on the Sunshine State stage, compiling a 9-4 record as a pro. The last time he played in Land Shark (then Dolphin Stadium), he was the Most Valuable Player in the Colts' 29-17 win over the Chicago Bears in Super Bowl XLI.

Last week though, the Colts struggled in a 14-12 win over division rival Jacksonville.

Indianapolis gained 365 yards of total offense, but only punched the ball in twice.

Manning was still Manning, hitting 28-of-38 passes for 301 yards and a TD.

But the Colts couldn't run the ball, gaining just 71 yards against a rebuilt Jacksonville defense.

That was part of the reason for the Colts' demise last year, as starter Joseph Addai was hurt much of the season, and Indianapolis had injuries on the offensive line.

Indy finished next-to-last in the NFL in rushing, and the Dolphins held the mighty Atlanta Falcons to just 68 yards rushing in last week's 19-7 loss.

So, for Indy to win, the onus is again on Manning and his receivers.

Reggie Wayne dominated the Jags last week, catching a game high 10 passes for 162 yards and a TD.

The Dolphins corners were solid last week against the Falcons, as leading receiver Roddy White caught just five passes for 42 yards, and Miami rotated rookies Sean Smith and Vontae Davis at one cornerback position opposite Will Allen at the other.

With Wayne's running mate Anthony Gonzalez out 2-8 weeks with a knee injury, look for the Dolphins to double Wayne, providing more opportunies for young Colts receivers like Pierre Garcon and Austin Collie. Newly acquired Hank Baskett could also see some passes Monday.

But just as last week, it's the tight end position the Dolphins need to fear most.

Future Hall of Famer Tony Gonzalez routinely beat safeties Gibril Wilson and Yeremiah Bell in Atlanta, to the tune of five catches for 73 yards and a TD.

The Colts' Dallas Clark provides a similar threat, only with more speed, and in recent years he has become Manning's security blanket and one of his favorite targets.

Clark only caught four passes for 39 yards last week, but the Colts will line him up in a variety of ways (the slot and wide, maybe even in the backfield) to keep the Dolphins guessing.

Miami only had two sacks last week, but the Dolphins should be able to apply more pressure against the Colts' leaky line.

And that is the key. Can they get to Manning and do a good job on Wayne and Clark?

Offensively, the Dolphins must do more than their putrid showing last week, when they gained 259 yards against an inexperienced Falcons defense.

Most distressing, Miami could not stretch the defense and test the Falcons' young secondary.

The Colts only gave up 228 total yards last week, but Jacksonville did not have the weapons to probe a Colts secondary that was without one of its best players in safety Bob Sanders.

Sanders is still nursing a knee injury that might keep him out of Monday's game, which is good for Miami's running game. But the Dolphins must still find a way to threaten the Colts backline through the air. Ted Ginn (2 catches, 26 yards) must be better utltized for Miami to have a chance.

The other big concern is the Colts pass rush, particularly defensive end Dwight Freeney, one of the fastest at his position in the league.

Freeney had the Colts' only sack last week, and he is a major test for Dolphins left tackle Jake Long, who had his worst game as a pro last week, when he gave up two sacks against Atlanta.

The overall protection for Chad Pennington was poor, and one of the reasons why he could not locate Ginn or go deep.

The stats say the Colts should win. They have the better quarterback, receivers and pass rush.

But the Dolphins are at home on Monday night, they are the more desperate team and they are surely angry over last week's miserable performance.

This will be an exciting game, and Miami will prevail, 21-20.

(Photo: Yahoo images)

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