Dolphins 24 – Colts 20
Through 19 career NFL starts, Andrew Luck has led eight game-winning drives in the fourth quarter or overtime. With those kind of numbers, Luck has earned the reputation of being a clutch player, and that has led to there being somewhat unreasonable expectations placed on the sophomore quarterback. Luck is expected to bail his team out week in and week out in spite of poor play from his teammates. Down 24-20 late in the fourth quarter, Luck could not pull off a comeback win Sunday, and the Colts lost at home to the Miami Dolphins, falling to 1-1 for the season.
Luck had a good game, but not a great game, completing 58 percent of his passes for gains of 321 yards and a touchdown. Luck also made several smartly-played runs for gains of 38 total yards. However, Luck at times forced passes when he should have held on to the ball, causing him to make poor decisions and throw behind his receivers. In the fourth quarter, Luck threw a bad interception in the end zone and then took a sack on what would be the Colts’ final play of the game with 1:35 remaining.
This Colts team lives and dies by Luck, and that is a risky way to operate. I seem to remember another quarterback that the Colts relied on a little too much, and one would think that the team would have learned from such an experience. While Luck is extraordinarily talented, he is also human; he can’t be perfect every week and he can’t win games by himself.
So what went wrong, and what needs to be fixed?
Most of the Colts’ problems fall on the defense. While the Colts recorded five sacks on Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill, the pass rush was actually pretty nonexistent for much of the game. The secondary played even worse, allowing Tannehill to complete almost 70 percent of his passes and enabling Mike Wallace and Charles Clay to each rack up over 100 yards receiving. Running back Lamar Miller did more damage on the ground, averaging almost five years per carry.
Injuries noticeably hurt the Colts on offense. The team clearly missed the blocking contributions of running back Vick Ballard, who was placed on Injured Reserve this week after injuring his knee on a non-contact drill in practice. Wideout Darrius Heyward-Bey injured himself during Sunday’s game, as did offensive lineman Donald Thomas, and neither returned after the first half. The team is also missing tight end Dwayne Allen, who is out with a hip injury.
There were some bright spots, though. Running back Ahmad Bradshaw recorded his first touchdown as a Colt and rushed for 65 yards on 15 carries. If Bradshaw can stay healthy, I see him improving with each week. Tight end Coby Fleener showed some of the brilliance we had been waiting for all preseason and racked up 69 yards and a touchdown on just four receptions. After being pretty absent in Week 1, T.Y. Hilton also returned to form and led the team in both receptions (6) and receiving yards (124). Pat Angerer returned from injury and made some nice plays, as did LaRon Landry, who once again led the team in tackles with 11. Landry is proving to be the Colts’ most valuable offseason acquisition.
The Colts were simply outplayed Sunday; they lost to the better team. Now all the players can do is use what they learned to improve in Week 3. There are still 15 weeks of football left. It’s not time to panic.