Miami paid big bucks to improve the defense. Now the payoff is rolling in.
The Dolphins picked off Andrew Luck to quash one fourth-quarter drive Sunday, then forced three straight incompletions and sacked Luck on fourth down on Indy's final series to preserve a 24-20 victory.
"We knew coming in and we talked about it all week that he makes plays down the stretch. That's his thing," said cornerback Brent Grimes, who ended Luck's streak of 165 straight passes without an interception. "We just stuck to it, and at the end, we made the plays that we had to."
Miami (2-0) clamped down after allowing 315 total yards in the first half. And after Charles Clay scored on the decisive 1-yard TD run with 4:40 left in the third quarter, the Dolphins' defense stiffened.
Here are five other things we know from Sunday's game.
1. LUCK RUNS OUT: No young quarterback has been more masterful at late-game success than Andrew Luck. However, Indy's luck finally ran out. After winning seven straight home games, going 10-1 in games decided by seven or fewer points and watching their franchise quarterback lead them to eight fourth-quarter comeback wins in 18 games, it all came crashing down. Luck was picked off in the end zone in the fourth quarter because he forced a pass into coverage, and on Indy's final drive, he threw three straight incompletions before taking a sack on fourth down with 87 seconds left.
2. TALKING HEAD: A week after Mike Wallace left the locker room in virtual silence, he had a lot more to say on — and off the field — in Indianapolis. Wallace caught nine of the 11 passes thrown his way, accounting for 115 yards and one TD. He still thought he should have done more. Afterward, Wallace said he was upset he didn't score when he made a 34-yard catch and went down at the 1-yard line. It turned out that it didn't matter. Charles Clay plunged in from 1 yard out on the next play and the touchdown run withstood a replay review to give Miami a 24-20 lead — and eventually the win.
3. TOUGH TIMES: When Ryan Grigson revamped Indianapolis' roster in the offseason, he had three specific goals — improve the offensive line, improve the defense and improve depth. Two of those three are now facing major hurdles. Despite spending millions to protect Luck, the Colts have given up seven sacks in two weeks, a pace that would put them on pace to yield 15 more than they did last season (51). And now they'll have to get by without one of their key free agents, left guard Donald Thomas, who is likely to miss the rest of the season after tearing a quad tendon in his right leg. That injury comes three days after Indy lost starting running back Vick Ballard (ACL in right knee), and during a game they played without starting tight end Dwayne Allen (hip) and lost starting receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey (rib).
4. COMING UP CLUTCH: When Indy moved into scoring position late in the first half, Miami coach Joe Philbin wasted no time. He started calling timeouts in order to give Tannehill one more shot to move the team. It paid off. Tannehill took the Dolphins 44 yards in 1 minute, 26 seconds, setting up Caleb Sturgis for a 54-yard field goal attempt with 2 seconds left in the half. Sturgis made the initial kick, which was wiped out because Colts coach Chuck Pagano tried to ice the kicker. Then Sturgis lined up again and calmly nailed the kick a second time — a scoring play Philbin credited for being a key component in Sunday's win.
5. PERFECT START: Miami couldn't have scripted a better September. The Dolphins are not just 2-0 for the second time since 2004, they've already won two road games — at Cleveland and at Indianapolis, a win that could prove key come playoff time. Now, they head home to face Atlanta before heading to New Orleans. After that, they have five of their next seven at home, which could give them a chance to stay atop the AFC East where they are now tied with New England.
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