Dolphin Victory Slips Through Griese Hands

From Associated Press

Peyton Manning had clutch completions, Edgerrin James found running room, and Mike Vanderjagt remained perfect.

With the game on the line, however, it was Dwight Freeney who saved the day for the Indianapolis Colts.

The speedy defensive end forced a fumble by sacking Brian Griese with two minutes left, and Indianapolis stopped a comeback bid by the Miami Dolphins to win, 23-17, Sunday.

Manning threw for 266 yards and survived a potentially damaging interception in the closing moments, thanks to Freeney's game-clinching hit.

"He can be a difference-maker," Manning said. "That was the biggest play of the game."

Working against rookie tackle Wade Smith, Freeney had two other sacks and also forced a Griese fumble that led to a first-half field goal. He helped the Colts limit Ricky Williams to 36 yards rushing, allowing the Indianapolis offense to control the ball for nearly 38 minutes.

"The biggest problem we had was with Freeney," Miami Coach Dave Wannstedt said. "That was probably the most dominant defensive performance we've seen in a long time."

The Colts improved to 7-1, matching their best start since 1977. Only Kansas City (8-0) has a better record.

"It's a great achievement," Colt Coach Tony Dungy said. "One thing I like about this team is that we can win a lot of ways."

The Dolphins fell to 5-3, the same record they had at midseason in 2002, when they missed the playoffs. All of their defeats have been at home.

"Maybe we should cancel the rest of our home games," defensive end Jason Taylor said.

The Dolphins had beaten Indianapolis four times in a row, and Manning is only 3-8 against them. But the ball bounced the Colts' way for a change.

Vanderjagt kicked field goals of 50, 44 and 25 yards. He's 21 for 21 this season and has made his last 25 attempts dating to last season.

James ran 26 times for 89 yards and a touchdown against a Miami defense hurt by uncharacteristically sloppy tackling. Manning completed 23 of 37 passes, including a three-yard scoring pass to Troy Walters, and the Colt defense had five sacks.

Miami almost won anyway. With the help of two Colt turnovers, the Dolphins tried to rally from a 23-14 deficit in the last four minutes.

After Olindo Mare's 23-yard field goal trimmed the margin to six, Terrell Buckley intercepted Manning by stepping in front of a short pass intended for Reggie Wayne, giving the Dolphins the ball at the Colt 15 with 2:45 left.

Freeney and the Colt defense dug in.

"Last year we'd get down, and we'd get crushed by that," Freeney said. "We would fall and fall. Today it seemed like those things were happening again. You have to make a play."

He did. On second down, Griese rolled right, was hit from behind by Freeney and fumbled. Raheem Brock recovered, and the Colts ran out the clock.

"I'd like to have had a chance to see who came open," Griese said.

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World