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Defense's inability to make early stops costly


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INDIANAPOLIS

Lucas Oil Stadium’s retractable roof was open Sunday.

What this means is if the sky was in fact falling, Indianapolis Colts fans would have been among the first to know.

It didn’t, and it’s not. If two games an NFL season made, there are teams in far worse condition this morning than the Colts.

Are the Miami Dolphins a team Indianapolis should have defeated? On paper, yes. In its own house, yes. Is it easy to pinpoint the reasons it didn’t? Yes and no.

Playing matador defense the first two times Miami maintained possession of the football is, to me, the primary reason the Colts are sitting on a .500 percentage.

Miami jumping out to a 14-3 advantage meant advancing the football a total of 138 yards in nine plays.

Nine plays!

The Dolphins’ second series covered 80 yards in only three snaps, gobbling up a whopping 73 seconds of clock.

To better clarify, if you turned to the guy next to you to ask what he’s doing about his crab grass, you missed it. If you leaned over to pick up the napkin you dropped, you merely missed one-third of it.

Monday morning critics are likely pointing an accusing finger at the Colts’ offensive line. That’s too easy because it’s too frequently done. The O-line performed adequately.

This one falls on a Colts defense that got carved up by second-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill (23 of 34, 319 yards, 1 TD), who prior to Sunday had never been lumped in the same sentence as Dan Marino.

Miami’s game plan proved noticeably different than the one used in its season-opening 23-10 victory against Cleveland.

In that game, newly acquired receiver Mike Wallace, the former Pittsburgh Steeler and one of the league’s fastest players, finished with one reception for seven yards. Against the Colts he snagged nine Tannehill aerials for 115 yards and produced the game’s first points on an 18-yard TD reception.

Wallace in the open field is a defensive coordinator’s worst nightmare. Nine such opportunities arose Sunday.

Strange as it might sound considering Miami has qualified for the playoffs once in the past 11 seasons, these Dolphins are a good team.

Tannehill might not be Andrew Luck, RG III or any of the other 2012 draft darlings. He simply manages a good game, doesn’t make bone-headed decisions and utilizes the talent placed around him to the best of his abilities.

The Dolphins’ defense sacked Luck three times, hurried him a number of others and flicked away would-be Colts’ receptions mere inches — or less — from the receiver’s gloved hands.

Nothing was handed to Miami. The Dolphins earned it. They were better prepared, came to play and put 14 points on the board by the time some late-arriving fans were just making their way to their seats.

As for the blue canvas above the stadium, it remained where it was throughout.

Fourteen regular-season games remain starting with next Sunday’s at San Francisco. Indianapolis will no doubt take the field as an underdog, which, strangely enough, should be to its advantage.

The Colts for whatever reason seem to flourish in these situations. Backs against the wall. No one thinks we can do it. Us against the world. Let’s shock the world.

Don’t be surprised if Indianapolis wins, putting aside, at least temporarily, any threat of a falling sky.

Mike Beas is a sports writer for the Daily Journal. Send comments to mbeas@dailyjournal.net.

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