In the interest of full disclosure, I am a die-hard Chicago Bears fan living in Indianapolis, which has bled Colts blue ever since Peyton Manning and his supporting cast resurrected the franchise a decade ago.
This has been the source of much good-natured ribbing over the years, particularly when the Bears lost to the Colts in Super Bowl XLI (Yes, I still remember Rex Grossman, although I’m hoping Jay Cutler will soon put those memories in the Way Back Machine).
Nonetheless I feel an obligation to watch the Colts – at least that’s the excuse I give my wife – because everyone I know does and, well, more often than not they’re offense is pretty entertaining regardless of your rooting interest.
As many times as I’ve seen Manning pull a rabbit out of a hat, he took it to a new level even for himself Monday night in Miami.
It was in the same stadium where Manning won his Super Bowl MVP against the Bears and the pregame hype manufactured for the matchup between the Colts and Dolphins was at least an attempt at rivaling the championship. A new ownership group is trying to glitz up the Dolphins image, South Beach style. The venue has been renamed Land Shark Stadium in homage to new part owner Jimmy Buffett, who performed before the game and in reference to his classic “Fins.” Serena and Venus Williams are also part of the group as is singer Marc Anthony and all were on hand.
The glitz was rewarded for most of the game by the Dolphins’ wildcat offense which has spawned many copycats in the pro and college ranks over the past year. Taking direct snaps from center, tailback Ronnie Brown thoroughly confused the Indianapolis defense and did a masterful job of executing the oldest trick in the book to contain Manning, controlling the clock with a running game.
The clock management was so precise, the Colts had possession for 14:53, less than a full quarter. And in the end, it didn’t make any difference. Manning dissected the Dolphin defense with razor-sharp precision even for him, wasting virtually none of the few opportunities provided.
In the end the 27-23 win accomplished two significant milestones to an already long list with many more to come barring major injuries. Manning tied the legendary Johnny Unitas for the most wins in franchise history. Secondly, the 14:53 was the first time in NFL history a team had so little possession of the football and still won the game.
It should be noted, too, that the Colts have a long history of Christian leadership from owner Jim Irsay to former coach Tony Dungy and current coach Jim Caldwell, much to the delight of the team’s chaplain.
Whether the Colts will end up at Land Shark again for the Super Bowl at season’s end is, of course, impossible to say.
They proved Monday, though, they simply may not have the time on their agenda to lose much.