Indianapolis, IN – Andrew Luck threw for an NFL rookie-record 433 yards and won the battle with fellow first-round draft pick Ryan Tannehill, as the Indianapolis Colts earned a 23-20 victory over the Miami Dolphins in a battle of surprising teams at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Neither team was expected to be over .500 entering Week 9 of the NFL season, especially with rookie quarterbacks at the helm. Only one team left the field with a winning record, however, as the Colts (5-3) won their third straight and the Dolphins (4-4) had a three-game win streak stopped.
Luck, the top pick in April's draft, completed 30-of-48 passes with a pair of touchdowns for the Colts and directed a 13-play, 69-yard drive that ended with a 43-yard field goal from Adam Vinatieri that provided the winning margin with 5:58 remaining.
Tannehill, selected eighth overall, finished 22-of-38 for 290 yards with a touchdown in defeat. He was a question mark entering the contest after missing most of last week's win over the New York Jets with knee and quadriceps injuries.
With the game tied at 20-20 early in the fourth quarter, the Colts were pinned at their own five and faced 3rd-and-11. Luck, though, found Dwayne Allen for 20 yards and hit the rookie tight end again for 20 more to put the Colts near midfield.
On 3rd-and-3 soon after, Luck was being brought down for a sack but managed to get the ball to Reggie Wayne for six yards to pick up yet another first down. Miami's Reshad Jones kept Luck from another third-down conversion a few plays later with a deflection, setting up Vinatieri's kick for the lead.
The Dolphins were unable to convert 3rd-and-6 on their next possession and punted the ball back to the Colts with just under four minutes remaining, but the Miami defense finally stopped Luck on third down -- nearly coming up with an interception that would have put them in field goal range -- and got the ball back with 2:39 left after a punt.
Marcus Thigpen's long return to the Miami 46 was negated by a holding penalty and forced the Dolphins to start from their own 17. They reached midfield before a penalty forced them back and Tannehill's pass on 4th-and-15 came up a yard shy, allowing the Colts to run out the clock.
Indianapolis racked up 516 yards of total offense and dominated a Miami team that entered the contest with the best third-down defense in the NFL. The Colts were 13-of-19 on third down, including Vick Ballard's 19-yard run on a 3rd-and-7 that ended the contest.
"We're used to getting a couple of three-and-outs," Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin said. "It's a different feeling when teams convert (on third down) 68- percent of the time."
It was another emotional win for the Colts, as head coach Chuck Pagano watched the game from the coaches' box. Pagano was back at Lucas Oil Stadium for the first time since being diagnosed with leukemia in late September.
"Chuck was good enough to speak to the team before the game, and obviously we had a great locker room moment with him," Colts interim head coach Bruce Arians said.
The Colts marched to the Miami 25 with the game's first possession and lined up for a field goal, but a delay of game penalty pushed them back five yards and Vinatieri missed wide right from 48 yards away.
Miami went the other way and grabbed a 3-0 lead on a 37-yard Dan Carpenter kick, but the Colts quickly drove for a go-ahead touchdown. Luck converted a trio of third downs on the series, including a 25-yard pass on 3rd-and-14. A 32-yard pass interference penalty then set up Luck's 9-yard TD strike to Wayne for a 7-3 lead in the final minute of the opening quarter.
Tannehill put Miami in Indianapolis territory on the first play after the kickoff with a 35-yard pass to Brian Hartline and four plays later found fullback Charles Clay with a 31-yard TD toss for a 10-7 edge early in the second quarter.
Luck followed Tannehill's lead with a 48-yard pass on the first play after the next kickoff and the Colts reached the Miami five before Vinatieri booted a tying 23-yard field goal.
The Dolphins soon after regained the lead with a 9-play, 80-yard series. After Miami offensive tackle Jake Long recovered a Tannehill fumble on the first play, Reggie Bush caught a 19-yard pass on 3rd-and-8 to keep the drive alive and finished it with an 18-yard TD burst to make it 17-10.
Vinatieri had a 54-yard field goal try blocked by Miami's Olivier Vernon on Indy's next possession and the first punt of the day followed when the Dolphins were unable to pick up a long third down. Luck still had just over a minute on the clock and marched the Colts from his own 13 for a 47-yard field goal from Vinatieri to make it 17-13 at the break. T.Y. Hilton had a sure TD pass go off his fingertips prior to the kick.
Hilton made up for the miss with a 36-yard touchdown catch late in the third quarter. Luck converted a pair of third downs during the scoring march, including a 19-yard connection with LaVon Brazill on 3rd-and-16, then threw the ball up for grabs into the end zone for Hilton, who outleaped two Miami defenders to make the TD catch for a 20-17 advantage.
The Dolphins answered with a 31-yard field goal from Carpenter to tie the game early in the fourth quarter.
Luck reached the 300-yard plateau for the fourth time this season, joining former Colts star Peyton Manning as the only rookies to accomplish the feat ... Carolina's Cam Newton held the previous rookie mark for passing yards with 432, set last Sept. 18 against Green Bay ... Hilton had six catches for 102 yards, Avery hauled in five passes for 108 and Wayne finished with seven receptions for 78 yards ... Hartline was Miami's leading receiver with eight catches for 107 yards ... Bush managed only 41 yards on 10 carries ... Indianapolis improved to 4-1 at home this season ... Each of the Colts' five wins have come by six points or less ... Miami's Cameron Wake picked up a sack in the third quarter and has at least one in five straight games ... Vernon also blocked a field goal last week and was the AFC's top special teams performer.