Manning threw touchdown passes of 80 yards to Dallas Clark(notes) and 48 yards to Pierre Garcon(notes). The first came score on the first play from scrimmage, the latter 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.”
While the Miami Dolphins’ celebrities were making a Hollywood-style grand entrance, Manning slipped in a side door and stole the show.
The Dolphins rolled out an orange carpet for the pregame arrival of new owner Stephen Ross’ celebrity partners. The crowd included Serena and Venus Williams, Gloria and Emilio Estefan, 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.
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.
“Pierre was patient,” Manning said. “He was more talkative than he had been all game, saying, ‘I can beat him. I can beat him.’ Of course we didn’t get many possessions, but he came up big when we really needed him.”
After completions of 15 and 17 yards, Manning hit Garcon with a short pass on the right side. Garcon cut to the middle, then broke back toward to the corner of the end zone to score.
“Give credit to our defense,” Clark said. “They were out there for probably 100 plays, and for that last drive I know they were tired. For them to come up with those plays and keep them from scoring was just tremendous effort.”
Bethea’s interception was the Dolphins’ lone turnover. They were 15 for 21 on third-down conversions, punted once and controlled the ball for a team-record 45 minutes. They had to wonder how they lost.
The answer: Manning. He earned his 119th victory with the Colts, breaking the team record for a quarterback he shared with Johnny 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.”
Against Manning, it wasn’t enough.
“To have as few plays as he did and to do what he did, you just don’t see that,” Pennington said.
Manning took only three snaps in the third quarter, and the Colts had just three possessions after halftime.
“You just feel like you didn’t really letter in the second half,” Manning said.
The Dolphins controlled the ball for nearly nine minutes on an 80-yard touchdown drive that put them ahead 20-13 early in the final quarter.
Miami drove 51 yards and broke a 20-all tie with Dan Carpenter’s(notes) 45-yard field goal with 3:50 left. He made two other field goals but also missed from 49, which kept the Dolphins from trying a game-winning kick in the final seconds.
“That’s one of the strangest losses I’ve ever been part of,” Wilson said. “For us to come up short was very heartbreaking.”
^Notes: Manning’s first pass was his longest completion since 2005. … The highest previous time of possession in the Dolphins’ record book was 43:39 against the Jets on Dec. 7, 1987.