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Manning gets help, breaks Dolphin hex

11/3/2003

MIAMI (AP) -- Peyton Manning had clutch completions, Edgerrin
James found running room, and Mike Vanderjagt remained perfect.

Question on the Colts: How impressed were you with the defense today?
The Colts played well in spurts and are starting to resemble the unit that coach Dungy wants them eventually to become. The Colts should be happy they played better than one of the better defenses in the league. Hopefully for Dungy, they'll be able to use this game as a starting point for how they play the rest of the season.

Question on the Dolphins: So should we expect to see Fiedler back in the lineup?
I don't expect Fiedler to get his job back despite today's loss. Brian Griese played well and was very successful throwing the football. He may have been a little loose with the ball at times, but the team looked excited to see him playing. Also, offensive coordinator Norv Turner seemed to take the handcuffs off the offense with Griese in there.

Eric Allen played cornerback for 14 NFL seasons with the Eagles, Saints and Raiders.

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
disastrous 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 Indy 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. We couldn't handle
him."

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," Colts coach Tony Dungy. "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. "We're sitting in the middle of the pack,
or maybe the back of the pack. That's not the situation you want to
be in."

The Dolphins had beaten Indianapolis four times in a row, and
Manning is just 3-8 against them. But the ball literally bounced
the Colts' way for a change, with a fluke completion helping them
take the lead for good.

"Anytime you get a win on the road against Miami, you have to
feel great," Manning said.

Vanderjagt kicked field goals of 50, 44 and 25 yards. He's
21-for-21 this season and has made his past 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 went
23-for-37, including a 3-yard scoring pass to Troy Walters, and the
Indy defense totaled five sacks.

Miami almost won anyway. With the help of two Colts turnovers,
the Dolphins tried to rally from a 23-14 deficit in the final 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 Colts 15 with 2:45 left.

Freeney and the Colts' 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 Indy ran out
the clock.

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

The Colts had a bit of luck on a pivotal play in the second
quarter. A pass by Manning slipped through the hands of Marvin
Harrison to teammate Marcus Pollard for a 51-yard gain, setting up
the field goal at the end of the first half that put Indy ahead to
stay.

"I can't exactly tell you it was a called play, but we'll take
it," Manning said.

Harrison also dropped a pass that would have given the Colts a
first down in the third period, and he lost a fumble in the final
quarter.

But he was sure-handed on a flea-flicker, curling back to catch
an underthrown pass by Manning for a 30-yard gain. That led to a
1-yard touchdown run by James to put the Colts ahead 16-7.

Griese, making his second start in a row with Jay Fiedler
sidelined by a sprained knee, went 18-for-29 for 231 yards,
including a 28-yard touchdown to Chris Chambers.

Game notes
Fiedler was designated the No. 3 quarterback for the second
week in a row. ... Dontrelle Willis and Juan Pierre of the World
Series champion Florida Marlins took part in the pregame coin toss.
... James surpassed Marshall Faulk as the Colts' second-leading
career rusher and has 5,369 yards. Lydell Mitchell holds the record
with 5,487.