Peyton Manning's Heroics Save Colts Yet Again

Nick SouthCorrespondent ISeptember 22, 2009

MIAMI - SEPTEMBER 21:  Quarterback Peyton Manning #18 of the Indianapolis Colts points out where he wants his running backs while taking on the Miami Dolphins at Land Shark Stadium on September 21, 2009 in Miami, Florida. The Colts defeated the Dolphins 27-23.  (Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images)

There are a lot of topics that could be discussed the day after Indianapolis' thrilling 27-23 win over the Miami Dolphins on Monday Night Football.

I could talk about the Colts' defense or lack there of.

I could talk about Miami's fifty-seven minutes of domination, only to end the game with a series of perplexing decisions.

I could talk about how surreal it was to see Tiger Woods slap Manning on the back after the opening touchdown throw.

But, all I really want to talk about is Peyton Manning.

Last night was a career milestone for Manning. He tied Johnny Unitas for fifth all-time in career TD's. He also passed Johnny U. in franchise lore, having the most wins in Colt history with his 119th victory (Unitas had 118 victories with the Colts and one with the Chargers).

What's impressive is how Manning earned that record. His stat line is pretty good at first glance, 303 yards on only 23 pass attempts and two touchdowns.

However, dig deeper and you get a sense of how great those numbers really are. Manning earned them while spending less than fifteen minutes on the field.

The Colts were manhandled in time of possession. The Dolphins owned a three-to-one advantage in that category. The Colts' defense just simply couldn't get off the field. The Dolphins controlled the clock with an offense that ran for over 200 yards.

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Bill Polian has been quoted in the past as saying that time of possession is one of the most overrated stats in football. It certainly was last night. With less than fifteen minutes of possession, the Colts generated 27 points. The accomplishment was how in sync they were despite spending most of the game as spectators.

For anyone who has ever played sports before, you know there's a certain element of rhythm in athletics. The more you play, the more you find your groove. It's very difficult to sit cold and come out and perform.

But that's exactly what Peyton Manning did. Time and time again, the Dolphins churned clock and often produced a score.

Now, check the box score. From the second quarter on, every time the Dolphins scored, the Colts answered back. Back-and-forth. The Dolphins would seemingly drive down the field at will, the defense looked spent, and the Colts' chances in the game looked bleak. Yet, Manning was always there with an answer.

I'm sure this will be one of a million Manning articles written today. A thrilling Monday Night Football win coupled with breaking the franchise record of an iconic quarterback will give the media lots to talk about.

And it's with good reason. Manning proved last night why is name gets mentioned with the greats of all time.

For many teams, there's a certain golden age you can look at and say "those teams were special." The 49ers have the '80s and early '90s with Montana and Young. The Packers have the great teams of the '60s. The Browns have there powerful teams of the '50s.

For the Colts, they've always had the Unitas era and the team that won "The Greatest Game Ever" in 1958. Unitas, Raymond Berry, Art Donovan, etc. The roll call from those teams is an impressive who's who of football history.

But make no mistake about it, this is the Colts' second golden age.

Seven straight playoff appearances. Six years of 12+ wins. A Super Bowl victory.

The list of Colts' players during this run does not come close to the Colts' teams of Unitas. Sure, Marvin Harrison is Hall of Fame bound. Jeff Saturday, Reggie Wayne, and Dwight Freeney are great players. But this golden age of Colts football is here because they have No. 18 behind center.

By all accounts, Miami should have won last nights game. They ran the ball down the Colts' throats. They made the Colts all but abandon the running game. Manning got to throw only 23 passes.

Yet, Manning made the most of his meager opportunities. Miami played an amazing game, but at the end, they didn't have anyone that was going to will their team to win.

Manning did.

The last drive was classic Manning. Manning hit three of his four passes, all for 15 yards or more. The last play, Manning quickly read the all-out blitz and hit Garcon, who made some great moves in route to a score. Manning was in command in that final drive.

It's something a lot of fans have come to expect from Manning, maybe even take for granted. But it's definitely something we need to savor.

Manning won't be around forever, but while he's here, he's sure given the Colts one helluva ride.