Four minutes left. Four point game. This was supposed to be Andrew Luck’s time. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t be the case today. Too many times in the fourth quarter, offensive linemen watched in confusion as Luck struggled to avoid the rush, to break tackles, to execute impossible scrambles.
Interestingly, this wasn’t a bad game for the Colts pass rush, which generated five sacks and a fumble, or the once-maligned running game that kept Miami honest all day with 133 yards and 5.1 YPC (4.3 for the running backs – still decent). And, although Luck only finished with a 79.7 quarterback rating, he moved the offense up and down the field, going 25/43 for 321 yards, a touchdown, and an interception (and 4 rushes for 38 yards and 9.5 YPC).
However, the defensive backfield, despite some near heroic pass breakups by Antoine Bethea and Greg Toler, and a downright improbable one by Darius Butler, could not slow Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill enough (I didn’t expect to type that).
Stopping the run is important and shouldn’t be overlooked. The same is true for running the ball, but none of that will matter if the opposing QB hits on 68% of his passes. Tannehill was too much today – 23/34 for 319 yards and a touchdown. That’s good for 9.4 yards per pass and a 107.4 quarterback rating. It’s going to happen sometimes. The hope is that it won’t become a trend, especially with the upgraded secondary.
Indy started things off with a pair of decent drives on offense, the second netting an Adam Vinatieri field goal (he missed from 52 yards out on the first drive). The defense, on the other hand, had a rough start. Miami raced downfield for touchdowns on their first two drives.
The first came on an 18-yard catch and run by Mike Wallace to cap a six play, 58-yard drive. The second happened so quickly, you might have missed it if you took a restroom break. Tannehill hit fullback Charles Clay deep over the middle for 67 yards. LaRon Landry was able to make a touchdown-saving tackle at the 10-yard line, but the Dolphins would finish up with a run around the left side into the end zone by Lamar Miller for a 14-3 lead.
The Colts offense answered with a touchdown drive that featured a 40-yard bomb to tight end Coby Fleener, a drive-saving fumble recovery by Donald Brown, and a 9-yard escape act by Luck on 3rd down. Luck finished things off with a 3-yard touchdown to Coby Fleener to make it a four-point game.
Both teams’ defenses came to life as the next five straight drives ended in punts, highlighted by Pat Angerer’s third down sack of Tannehill.
Indianapolis finally dialed up some offense again late in the 2nd quarter, when two huge passes from Luck to T.Y. Hilton (18 and 47 yards) helped set up Ahmad Bradshaw’s first touchdown as a Colt, a one-yard plunge to give the Colts a brief 17-14 lead at the 1:26 mark.
Miami quickly tied the game on a 54-yard field goal by rookie kicker Caleb Sturgis, who drilled the field goal a second time after Chuck Pagano called one of those last-split-second time outs that have become so popular in recent years.
Things got somewhat odd in the second half. The Colts took the lead right back early in the third quarter. Luck threw a beautiful touchdown to Coby Fleener from 15-yards out, but it was nullified by an illegal shift penalty on Reggie Wayne.
Note: Wayne was in motion and wasn’t required to be set before the ball was snapped. However, there may be a rule that says if he went into motion a second time, he had to set his feet after the first. I didn’t have time to look it up. I will find out later, though only for curiosity’s sake.
Indy wound up settling for another field goal and a 20-17 lead. It seemed as though it would be enough for the time being with so much time left. However, Miami, after one drive ended on a Robert Mathis sack (great game from Mathis, by the way), came back and took a 24-20 lead on a 1-yard run by (who else?) Clay. This game had so much fullback action…
It seemed far from over at the time with 2:27 left in the third quarter. However, despite three 4th quarter possessions apiece, neither team would score again. With the game on the line, and Luck stepping onto the field for another 4th quarter comeback, things fell apart. Two of Miami’s three sacks came on the final drive, as Indy struggled to protect Luck, and the Colts’ hopes ended when former Colt Phillip Wheeler brought Luck down on fourth down.
There were some positives:
-Coby Fleener actually looked like Coby Fleener.
-Bradshaw and Brown ran well, and for the second straight week, the running game wasn’t a thorn in the side of the offense.
-Five sacks by the defense. That was beautiful.
-Pat Anger is back. He finished with 11 total tackles, a half a sack, and a QB hit.
-Jerrell Freeman is no one-hit wonder. Freeman already has 18 tackles, 2 sacks, and a QB hit in two games.
-The Colts held the big, bad Cameron Wake to one tackle and zero everything else.
But there certainly were some negatives:
-The score, of course.
-Tannehill carved up the defense. Yuck.
-The offensive line had some good moments but struggled mightily in the second half, especially on the second drive.
-Darrius Heyward-Bey left the game with, what may have been a rib injury.
-Donald Thomas's injury is concerning as well. Neither Player returned.
-Oh, and I nearly forgot: No penalties called against the Dolphins? Was that real?
Overall, this looked like a better performance than last week, but things went wrong at the worst possible times. You can’t win EVERY close game, I suppose. Next up, a trip to San Francisco to play the 49ers. They’re pretty good, I’ve heard. The young Colts will have to play one of their best games to avoid dropping to 1-2 next week, but if the game is on the line in the fourth quarter once again, don’t bet against Luck.