What We Learned: Colts-Dolphins
The Dolphins will continue to run the Wildcat as long as it works
The Colts' inability to stop the run could hurt their playoff chances
The Dolphins are in dire need of playmakers in the passing game
What I learned while watching the Colts beat the Dolphins 27-23 on Monday night in Miami....
1. Peyton is still the Manning. Surprisingly, ESPN's ratings probably went down during the last series in which the Colts had the football because most people don't like to watch reruns, which is pretty much what it seems to be every time Manning gets the ball late in games in critical situations. The guy is just that good. But Monday night's edition of the Manning game-winning drive show was classic Peyton, all the way down to his audible to a quick screen to second-year receiver Pierre Garcon once he saw the Dolphins showing a blitz. Garcon's touchdown reception ultimately proved to be the difference, once Chad Pennington's final pass was intercepted.
After all of these years and seemingly against all the odds, Manning is still able to get it done when it matters the most.
2. The "Wildcat" still works. Recent reports of the demise of last year's offensive wrinkle appear to have been vastly overstated. It is not a gimmick or a fad if you are able to do it both repeatedly -- and with great success -- like the Dolphins did against the Colts. Even though the Colts knew exactly what was coming once Pennington went to the sideline and Ronnie Brown took the direct snap, they still couldn't stop it.
The beauty of the Wildcat from the Dolphins' perspective is simplicity. Whether it was Dolphins backup running backs Ricky Williams or Patrick Cobbs taking the handoff and going around end, or Brown simply pounding the ball into the line, the Colts could not stop it. The Wildcat allowed the Dolphins to eat up precious time off the clock and wear down a fatigued defense.
3. Dallas Clark is a lethal weapon. Clark has long looked out of place as a tight end wearing jersey #44, and Monday night's game was yet another indication of why he is not your ordinary tight end. Clark is one of the NFL's best route-running tight ends, and he combines that with rare finishing speed that most of his brethren at his position lack.
Clark got the Colts off to a great start by dusting Akin Ayodele down the middle of the field and then breaking a tackle attempt from Dolphins safety Gibril Wilson, on his way to an 80-yard touchdown scamper on the Colts' first play -- just 12 seconds into the contest. Later, he similarly beat another Dolphins linebacker, this time Channing Crowder, and broke his tackle on his way to setting up the Colts' second touchdown. At a minimum, Clark proved that any team on Indy's schedule thinking about having a linebacker cover him is in for a long day.
4. The recipe for success against the Colts hasn't changed. Manning is still a master with the ball in his hands, which is why the best strategy for any team is to try to play keep away. After all, he can't set many records or light up the scoreboard if he is standing on the sideline. You keep the ball away from him by running the rock and converting on third and manageable situations, like the Dolphins did most of the night.
The Colts made a concerted effort this offseason to improve their run defense under new defensive coordinator Larry Coyer; but so far, it doesn't seem to be making much of a difference. Yes, starting defensive tackles Antonio and Ed Johnson are much bigger than what we have seen from the Colts inside on defense in recent years, but they still aren't able to get the job done. The Dolphins offensive line manhandled the Colts defensive front for most of the night, which doesn't bode well for Indy's future on that side of the ball later on in the season and especially in the postseason.
5. The Dolphins need a playmaker. Miami has to try so hard in order to get points on the board because they don't have the explosive players that would allow them to score quickly. Every one of their drives was of the long, time-consuming variety, which was fine until they needed a touchdown late in the game. Ted Ginn was not able to come up with two potential touchdown grabs that the top receivers in the game would have made. If Ginn can't make those plays for the remainder of the season, the Dolphins offense will continue to struggle.
Peyton Manning earned his 119th career win on Monday, becoming the Colts' all-time leader in victories (passing Johnny Unitas).
Doug Benc/Getty Images
NFL Truth & Rumors