Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck celebrates as he leaves the field following an NFL football game against the Miami Dolphins in Indianapolis, Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012. The Colts won 23-20. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)
Few outside the locker rooms of the Colts and Dolphins expected this to be a game between potential playoff contenders. At 4-3, each team coming off short win streaks, it was just that. The Colts managed a respectable 97 rushing yards and 3.7 yards per carry against a very stout Miami run defense with all but 22 of those yards coming in the second half. But the run game, while important, was hardly the whole story of this game.
Whole Lotta Luck: Andrew Luck was incredible. For much of the season, he has been a player some would describe as plucky, always getting back up and defying the odds. He played like a promising rookie, and showed flashes (more so than most rookies) of a bright future to come. Today, however, he looked unstoppable, helping the offense roll up 516 yards and 13 of 19 third down conversions. Luck's stat line: 30/48. 433 yards. 2 touchdowns, no interceptions. 105.6 quarterback rating. 9 yards per completion. That wasn't just a single game rookie record. Those were the statistics of a seasoned veteran, an All-Pro performance from a rookie quarterback.
The defense once again struggled, giving up 365 yards, but again, they came up huge when the game was on the line. The receivers had some drops. The offensive line gave up plenty of pressure and a sack. However, at all the most important junctures in the game – what basketball fans call “winning time” – the team played like super stars.
The first half ended 17-13 in favor of the Dolphins, but with both offenses moving at a blistering pace; 210 yards for Miami and 295 for Indianapolis. Andrew Luck’s excellent half of football, 19/28 for 273 yds, 1/0, and a 111.2 quarterback rating (despite just 11 carries for 22 yards in the running game) was overshadowed by penalties. The Colts never punted in the first half, but they racked up seven penalties for 55 yards, including a late hit by Cassius Vaughn after Reggie Bush’s 18-yard touchdown scamper.
Both defenses came to life to start the 3rd quarter, with the Colts forcing a punt by containing the Dolphins’ run game and some decent coverage on a five play, 15-yard drive. Indianapolis came back out appearing to fire on all cylinders on their first 3rd quarter drive, but they were thwarted by a big sack and fumble recovered by Dwayne Allen for a 14 yard loss. The sack took them out of field goal range, and Luck’s deep pass into double coverage on 3rd and 25 fell incomplete.
The Colts managed to hold up for another strong defensive series, holding Miami to 13 yards and a punt (a 60-yard punt by B. Fields). Then Luck and the offense went back to work. Surprisingly, some balance emerged in the second half, as Ballard and Carter combined for a hard-earned 22 yards on the drive.
However, the story of this drive was Andrew Luck’s 36-yard touchdown pass to T.Y. Hilton. Make no mistake. This was a bad play, a broken play. Luck was under heavy pressure, about to be sacked from his blind side by two players and used his still-surprising athleticism to avoid the pressure. Conventional wisdom here is to throw it short or throw the ball away. Luck instead chose to throw it around 40 yards through the air to a 5’9” double covered receiver. Hilton, who simply wasn’t open, managed to out-jump both defensive backs for a spectacular touchdown catch, and the Colts took their second lead of the game at 20-17.
Miami came back and tied it up at 20 with a field goal after a very promising drive stalled on an incomplete pass on third down. The Dolphins had managed to drive all the way to the Colts’ 13-yard line before Jerry Hughes and the rejuvenated Dwight Freeney managed to get heavy pressure on Tannehill right from the snap.
The Colts continued to tiptoe along the fine line at the brink of disaster. Three times on their ensuing 4th quarter drive, Andrew Luck managed to do the nearly impossible. Buried at their own 5-yard line, on 3rd and 11, Luck completed a short pass that became a 20 yard 1st down to Dwayne Allen. Later on the same drive, Luck upped the ante by completing a 6-yard pass for the first down as he was being sacked and a 2-yarder to Allen as he was once again going down. The good news is Andrew Luck can do the nearly impossible. The bad news is he is being asked to do so time and time again. Nevertheless, the Colts took a 3 point lead, 23-20 on Adam Vinatieri’s 43 yard field goal, that, in keeping with the theme, just barely went through the cross bars.
Then, with great coverage from guys with names like Darius Butler and Josh Gordy (that’s right), the defense stood strong one again. However, with just over two minutes left, things looked like they were falling apart. On 3rd down, Luck threw a bad pass near the Indianapolis 30-yard line, but the interception was just barely dropped.
Miami followed it up by charging down the field before two straight incompletions from Tannehill and a false start set up a 3rd and 15. Gordy came up big again with some tight coverage on the receiver who was overthrown.
4th and 15. Miami was out of field goal range. The only choice was to go for it. But with some great pressure by a relentless Dwight Freeney (despite a holding penalty on Miami OT Jake Long), Tannehill’s impressive, across-his-body pass to Daniel Thomas came up just short of the first down. Fokou and Redding combined for the stop.
All that was needed for the win was a first down. After a couple decent runs by Ballard, came the greatest run on third down I’ve seen since a certain Super Bowl win. Ballard, pushed on by the offensive line, and a leaping Reggie Wayne, sliced through the defense and pushed the pile for a 19-yard exclamation point on a hard-fought victory. 23-20
In summation, well, get used to seeing that post game fist pump from Andrew Luck.
Thank goodness the early game in Seattle ended early and the Colts game dragged late--I got to watch the last two minutes on TV, instead of following the crappy gamecast on espn. Wow, Luck is a beast. It's easy to hyperbolize and throw out cliches, but his pocket presence is like that of just a few, very good veterans. With a little more seasoning, and an improved line (can't get mch worse) I can see him putting up record low sack years like Manning and Marino did--8-10-12 per year? And he's not just avoiding sacks, but making connections. Two of his plays today reminded me of Manning's left handed pass to Edge vs the Vikings in 2004--"Okay, I'm going to get killed, but I have a man there, if...I...can... just...get it to him... BAM!" But there clearly is not time to think that wholse sentence out--it's instantaneous, which is what's really impressive. Is it crazy to compare an 8-game rookie to Manning in 2004, probably the greatest QB season of all time? Okay, his whole game is not there, but there are things that just make your jaw drop.
Aargh. I let this thing get tweeted all over the internet with a pair of misspellings near the bottom. Since no one pointed them out, I won't say what they were ;)
@MarcusDugan The more you tighten your spell check, Marcus, the more misspellings will slip through your fingers.
@rebuild2012 cant be too mad at the oline today. pretty clean pocket. much cleaner than i would have guessed
shipley looks like a player
@omahacolt @rebuild2012 Arians says they don't like letting someone lose their starting position due to an injury, but I won't be broken-hearted if Shipley takes over for Satele. Maybe Satele can correct some of what's wrong with his game. But for now, he has had some rough outings, especially in pass protection. Dude was solid.
I'm stunned that the Colts are 5-3. A lot of penalties today and big time throws by Luck. This team really plays hard.
Build the Monster
Okay, so can you imagine if eventually our defense starts to stand strong, and our running game takes off? Of course, we said the same thing thru 10 years of Peyton Manning's career here. Let's hope we can get to that 2005 team quickly.
Also good to see the receivers slowly getting better, getting open, and showing some clutchiness. But again, too many dropped passes. One for a TD. Crazy.
I can't stand watching these games, until the end, when I love it. Also won $5 from a friendly Dolphin bet.
@buymymonkey what a game. I think Hilton has some potential. He's badly inconsistent, but when he's good, he's very good. If he doesn't develop into a consistent target, it's on him. Bc he has the ability.
@buymymonkey This regime is going to build us big on O and D and will not be cash strapped like the last ones. I won't be surprised if we're not holding the Lombardi in two years. Maybe even next year if we get the right FAs. And from what we're seeing from Grigs, he's always looking to upgrade.
I watched almost all the game, but does anyone know why Brown sat after the first few series? I thought he was active and uninjured. Didn't see anything on rotowire
@Payton I think it was a bum knee (swelling). He was almost pulled as a starter today just before the game. I'm assuming it flared up. But he still ran okay, if I recall.
All hail Andrew the Great! He should be the AFC offensive player of the week hands down. This team takes on two personalities depending which half it is. When the game is on the line in the fourth quarter, ther rise to the occasion. They still need balance with the running game. Luck threw fourty-eight passes, but still this is a passing league. Than you coach, you provided plenty of inspiration!
@horseshoe19 I'd love to see him get that minor award, but sadly Ben R was 9/10 on third downs with a 10 yard average in an upset of the Giants. Hopefully the massive yardage total will carry the day.
Really? I don't see the Steelers beating the Giants as an upset. They're two above average teams who now have virtually the same record. I guess the NYG were a bit overrated by the media, but if not for a blown coverage, they lose 2 weeks ago and never really got their offense going at all against the cowboys (DAL mistakes set them up in ridiculous field position time and again, and they had to settle for FGs) and gave up the huge lead. Rapelisberger was nowhere near as effective as Luck (I watched all of both games) and had the big fumble six and an awful looking pick besides being held to just over 200 yds (about 50 of them on YAC from Wallace's reception), so idk what leads you to believe he'll even be considered over Luck.
The only thing better than Cam Newton losing out on the single game rookie passing yd record is that Luck did it in a win.
Myself and me girlfriend traveled from the UK just to see this game, and all i can say is it was one of the best days of my life. Thankyou city of indy for been fantastic and welcoming, thankyou Andrew Luck for making me forget 18, and thankyou Colts for giving me this day!
@NickWalter Awesome. I hope you enjoyed Indy. It really is a beautiful little city.
@NickWalter Glad you got to witness such a great game live. I must say that I'm extremely jealous, though!
Actually the near-interception didn't glance off the ground BEFORE it was caught... the player dropped it just after he had caught it. Had he stayed on the ground, it would have been called an INT.