Sometimes in life, you need to take what’s given to you and make the most of it. I would say Peyton Manning showed the truth in that statement Monday night.
With the emerging and electric Miami Dolphins against the potent Indianapolis Colts in Monday night’s game, there were many storylines: Wildcat offense versus Colts’ prolific passing offense. Colts trying to stay on top of AFC elite with New England and Pittsburgh losing. And Miami trying to emerge in the AFC East.
But many more emerged during 60 minutes of football.
Entering the game, the best way for the Dolphins to hang around with the Colts was to keep Peyton Manning off the field. They did just that. The Dolphins held the ball for 45:07 to the Colts’ 14:53.
The Colts held the ball for less than one quarter of the entire game.
But in that 14:53 when the Colts had the ball, they were able to engineer some quick and successful drives. Despite the little time of possession he was given, Manning still threw for over 300 yards and two touchdowns. One was on the first play of the game, the second with 3:18 remaining in the game—proving to be the final points in the contest.
To combat the Colts’ passing game—and to keep them off the field as much as possible—Miami simply kept running the ball like the Energizer bunny. So much so that they ran the ball 14 more times than Indianapolis ran offensive plays.
Talk about the Colts not getting many opportunities to score the football.
On the one-year anniversary of the origin of the Wildcat offense that Miami instituted in the NFL, there wasn’t a shortage of it on Monday.
Against this Wildcat offense—and one in which the running game is a preeminent force—the Colts’ defense was up to a bitter task against the Dolphins.
Since implementing it into their offense last year with Ronnie Brown, the Dolphins have often gone to the Wildcat formation. Because it’s so fresh to NFL defensive schemes, it can really make a defensive coordinator stay up at night. Especially when the right people are in the right system, like what we have with Miami.
When it was all said and done, the Dolphins utilized the Wildcat formation 12 times Monday night, racking up a total of 107 yards in those 12 plays.
It nearly worked to perfection.
But with the little time the Colts had, Peyton Manning found a way to deliver like a UPS truck.
The Colts’ first scoring drive went all but 12 seconds, as Manning hit Dallas Clark for an 80-yard touchdown. Not bad.
Their final touchdown drive lasted a whole 32 seconds, while they raced 80 yards down for the game-winning score. It was Manning to Pierre Garcon on a bubble screen for 48 yards that ultimately won the game for the Colts. One in which where Manning won his 119th game at starting quarterback—enough for 5th all-time and the most in Indianapolis history.
Said Manning, “We didn’t get many possessions, but [Garcon] came up big when we really needed him.”
I would make a stretch to also say Manning came up big when he needed himself. We have seen this many times before in newspaper headlines: ‘Manning leads comeback victory,’ ‘Manning rallies Colts to win.’ And it no longer surprises anyone when he works his magic.
But this was different.
This was something that he wasn’t used to. Never was he faced with less time to work the clock than he did on Monday night. But he adjusted and orchestrated drive after drive to snag the come-from-behind victory in Miami.
That is efficiency at its finest.
The Colts had the lowest time of possession for a winning team since 1977. That’s even finer. While teams that hold the ball longer than their opponents usually have a good likelihood of winning the contest, that wasn’t the case in Miami on Monday night.
Instead, it may have given Manning and the Colts more reason to play hard on every given down.
For instance, they scored 17 points on three drives that lasted a total of 1:27. That is a quick strike, hurry-up, and passing offense working to near perfection.
Their longest drive lasted 4:07 and took nine plays, and they were only able to relinquish a field goal.
Compare that to five Dolphins drives that each lasted over six minutes and you have yourself two different teams who play with different styles.
For the majority of the game, Miami’s offense seemed to bully Indianapolis’ defense. All night long, their offensive line was pushing and creating holes wide enough for my Suburban to get through. They did extremely well in that aspect.
They managed to rack up 239 yards on the ground alone—with 49 carries. No wonder they held the ball for so long.
But it was Manning and the Colts that took advantage of opportunities each and every time they had the football.
The game ultimately came down to one final play. With the Colts defense on its knees and utterly exhausted from being on the field for the majority of the game, Antoine Bethea intercepted a desperation throw from Chad Pennington to seal the game for the Colts.
As the game came down to the final minutes, Chad Pennington and the Dolphins were not able to match Manning’s poise. He was not able to do more with little.
But, then again, having the ability to do that must be a gift.
And certainly, Peyton Manning inherited that gift.