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Manning rallies Colts to 27-23 win over Dolphins

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

MIAMI (AP) -- Peyton Manning stood on the sideline, arms folded, glancing occasionally at the scoreboard to see the time ticking off.

But the Miami Dolphins could play keepaway for only so long. When Manning eventually made his way onto the field, the Dolphins couldn't stop him.

Manning had the ball for less than 15 minutes but made the most of his chances, helping the Indianapolis Colts come from behind four times to beat Miami 27-23 Monday night.

Manning broke Johnny Unitas' franchise record for victories by a quarterback, and the latest win ranked with the oddest.

The Dolphins were 15 for 21 on third-down conversions and 1 for 1 on fourth down. Their lone turnover came on the final play, they punted only once and they controlled the ball for a team-record 45 minutes.

They had to wonder how they lost. The answer: Manning.

"To have as few plays as he did and to do what he did, you just don't see that," Miami quarterback Chad Pennington said.

Manning took only three snaps in the third quarter and had just three possessions in the second half. Watching most of the night from the bench, he knew he would need to make the most of his opportunities.

"I hate to say, but we have done it before a few times," he said. "We just kind of stay loose over there."

Manning threw an 80-yard touchdown pass to Dallas Clark on the first play from scrimmage, and hit Pierre Garcon for a 48-yard score with 3:18 left for the game's final points.

"It was about being efficient when it counted, in the fourth quarter," Manning said. "That's really what the game's about."

He took a little sheen off the Dolphins' glitzy home opener. They rolled out an orange carpet for the pregame arrival of new owner Stephen Ross' celebrity partners, and the crowd included Serena and Venus Williams, Marc Anthony and Jennifer Lopez, Jimmy Buffett and Colts rooter Tiger Woods.

But Manning was the big star. He finished 14 for 23 for 303 yards, and the Colts improved to 2-0. The Dolphins fell to 0-2 even though they had 239 yards rushing, including 107 with the wildcat.

"Nobody is world champion after two weeks," Miami linebacker Joey Porter said, "but we're not good enough to give games away."

The Colts had the ball for only 14:53, the lowest time of possession for a winning team in the NFL since 1977. They ran 35 plays to 84 for the Dolphins.

"It's really disheartening," Miami coach Tony Sparano said. "That's exactly the formula to beat that team."

Indy trailed 10-7, 13-10 and 20-13, but each time pulled even. Down 23-20 after Miami scored with 3:50 left, the Colts rallied one more time with a big play by Garcon.

After completions of 15 and 17 yards, Manning burned a blitz by hitting Garcon with a short pass on the right side. Garcon cut to the middle, then broke back toward the corner of the end zone for his first career touchdown.

"It was a call trying to move the chains, but it was the right call on the right occasion," Manning said. "There was some nice blocking downfield, and Pierre has got good speed, and he showed it on that play."

Miami reached the Colts 30-yard line with 6 seconds left, but Pennington's desperation pass was intercepted in the end zone by Antoine Bethea.

Manning earned his 119th victory with the Colts, breaking the team record for a quarterback he shared with Unitas.

"I don't feel comfortable with these comparisons to Unitas," Manning said. "But I'm very proud to wear the same uniform as Johnny Unitas. He was a real winner."

Miami's Ronnie Brown rushed for 136 yards, including 62 in the wildcat, taking a direct snap each time. Teammate Ricky Williams added 69 yards rushing.

Against Manning, it wasn't enough.



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