Thursday, October 01, 2009

Colts offense gets to points

Manning, Clark ruin ball-hogging plan of Dolphins

By Skip Wood

MIAMI — Dallas Clark stood in front of his locker wearing nothing but his uniform pants and a wide grin.

Why shouldn't he be happy?

After all, it was a short night's work for the Indianapolis Colts tight end in this 27-23 win Monday against he Miami Dolphins at Landshark Stadium.

But he made the most of his relatively brief stage time. Consider that the Colts had the ball for a shade under 15 minutes and their offense barely was seen in the third quarter.

Yet Clark kept busy enough to catch seven passes for 183 yards, including an 80-yard touchdown reception on Indianapolis' first offensive play of the game.

"Credit their defense and them making plays," he said, "but fortunately, we were able to make the plays when we had to."

He grinned again.

"Just enough."

And Colts quarterback Peyton Manning had just enough time to break the hearts of a Dolphins team that fell to 0-2 after last season's surprising 11-5 run to claim the AFC East title.

Manning's 48-yard touchdown pass to Pierre Garcon was the difference, and it came with 3:18 remaining.

That gave the Dolphins another shot, but after they moved past midfield, their heaves into the end zone couldn't connect.

Manning, who threw for 303 yards, shook his head in wonder when asked about the disparity in time of possession.

"We've had some games before when we sat on the sideline," he said, "but I've never seen a third quarter like that. You feel like you really didn't (earn your) letter out there in the second half.

"You can kind of get away with it in the first and second quarter, but then it's time to get something going in the fourth quarter."

That the Colts did, much to the chagrin of Dolphins coach Tony Sparano.

"It is really disheartening," he said. "I would like to ask you guys how many times you have seen games like that where your team has the ball for 45 minutes and they run (35) plays and you have 229 yards rushing and you're 13 (of) 18 on third down. It is exactly the formula to beat that team. It is exactly the formula."

Indeed, the Dolphins outgained the Colts on the ground 239-61 and had 27 first downs to Indianapolis' 14.

And if anything, such numbers only added to the pain for Dolphins quarterback Chad Pennington. "We try to point out this statistic and that statistic and try to put our finger on it," he said. "It is not about statistics. It is about scoring points and winning football games.

"When you play against a team like the Colts, when you get into the red zone, you need to score touchdowns. You can't kick field goals. So I am lost for words, I really am. I don't know what to say."

But Pennington knew what he was feeling when watching Manning take the field before the game-winning score.

"You are hoping for the best and preparing for the worst," he said. "You are hoping you can stop them, but at the same time you get your two-minute thoughts together, analyze the situation whether you are going to (be) tied or down. You are running those thoughts through your head."

First-year Colts coach Jim Caldwell beamed when talking about his veteran quarterback.

"It's because he can do things like he did tonight," he said of Manning. "He can lead you on drives with just enough time left; he's very smart and handles things extremely well."

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