James, Manning keep Colts in postseason chase
Updated: Monday December 18, 2000 2:15 PM
MIAMI (AP) -- Jimmy Johnson emerged from the Miami Dolphins' locker room wearing a grim expression, because what he had just watched was all too familiar.
The Indianapolis Colts averted elimination from the playoff race Sunday and left Miami on the brink of another late-season collapse. NFL rushing leader Edgerrin James ran for 112 yards, Peyton Manning threw for 206 and Indianapolis took advantage of a rare fast start to beat Miami 20-13.
For the second week in a row, the AFC East-leading Dolphins (10-5) missed a chance to clinch a playoff berth. They've lost back-to-back games for the first time this season, but the late fade is nothing new. In the past five seasons Miami is 39-21 through November and 9-15 from Dec. 1 on.
Johnson, who coached most of those games, was in attendance Sunday for the first time since he retired in January. He declined to speak with reporters, but head coach Dave Wannstedt said history has no bearing on this season.
"We will rally," Wannstedt said. "We will hang together and bounce back."
The Dolphins can still clinch a playoff berth if they win next Sunday at New England.
"Every game in December is a playoff game," defensive end Jason Taylor said. "Guys need to realize that. If not, then they need to stay at home instead of going to New England."
The Colts (9-6), trying to salvage a disappointing season, staved off elimination for the second game in a row.
"Two weeks ago it wasn't looking too good, and a lot of people were counting us out," head coach Jim Mora said. "We don't push the panic button."
Just before the game, an emotional Mora told his players that the New York Jets had lost to Detroit, helping the Colts' playoff chances.
"It was a good old Knute Rockne, Bear Bryant speech," linebacker Cornelius Bennett said.
The Colts will make the playoffs if they beat Minnesota and the Jets lose at Baltimore in season finales. The Colts will win their second consecutive AFC East title if they beat Minnesota while the Jets and Dolphins lose.
"Now at least there's hope," Manning said. "All I know is we've got to beat Minnesota."
"I have to eat those words and tip my hat to them," Gardener said.
Manning benefited from excellent protection and went 21-for-28. He threw mostly short but went deep for a 50-yard touchdown to Marcus Pollard on Indy's first possession. Manning also scored on a 4-yard keeper.
On the final play of the first half, Mike Vanderjagt kicked a 48-yard field goal, his longest of the year, and he added a 31-yarder in the third quarter.
The Dolphins closed to 20-13 on Olindo Mare's 31-yard field goal with 3:25 left, then forced a punt a minute later. But Jay Fiedler's third-down pass was intercepted by Jeff Burris, and when the Dolphins got the ball back in the final seconds, time ran out with the ball at their 40.
Fiedler, playing despite a torn rotator cuff in his left (non-throwing) shoulder, finished 12-for-25 for 150 yards. He said he was unaffected by the injury on most passes but handed off with his right hand, even on plays to the right.
"We knew Fiedler was nicked up," Bennett said. "We wanted to keep pressure on him and force him to make some bad throws."
Miami's defense held on the Colts' first series, but on the punt, Sam Madison was flagged for a rare penalty: trying to induce illegal procedure. The infraction gave the Colts a first down, and on the next play Manning hit Pollard deep for a 7-0 lead.
It was the longest play against Miami this season.
"We made a commitment to get something early," Pollard said. "It's something we've been struggling with."
Now the Colts are on a roll, while the Dolphins again stagger as the postseason approaches.
"It shouldn't have to come down to New England," Gardener said. "But we still have a chance."
Notes: Colts linebacker Dwight Hollier injured his left shoulder in the third quarter and did not return. ... For the Dolphins, fullback Rob Konrad strained his left hip, receiver Bert Emanuel hurt his ribs and linebacker Larry Izzo suffered a stinger. ... Manning became the fifth quarterback in NFL history to record consecutive 4,000-yard passing seasons. ... The Colts have won two in a row in Miami for the first time since 1987-88. ... Mare has made 15 consecutive field goal attempts and is 26-for-27 this year.