Football season is underway, and this Sunday at Lucas Oils Stadium there will be a very early meeting of undefeated teams. The 1-0 Miami Dolphins come to Indianapolis for the second straight year and take on the 1-0 Colts. The game will be broadcast on television by CBS, with Ian Eagle and Dan Fouts announcing, and locally on the radio on WFNI and WHLK with the legendary Bob Lamey and Jim Sorgi doing the game. Here's all you need to know to get ready for the game, including my prediction at the end.
What Happened Last Week?
Last week, the Colts hosted the Oakland Raiders, who gave them all they could handle and more. Led by the dynamic rushing of Terrelle Pryor, who rushed for 112 and threw for 217 in his second career start, the Raiders overcame a 14-point deficit and actually took a 17-14 lead early in the fourth quarter. But Andrew Luck led the Colts right down the field and finished his 8th career game winning drive and 5th career fourth quarter comeback by running it in from 19 yards out himself. Antoine Bethea sealed the victory by intercepting Pryor at the end of the game near the goal line.
The Dolphins traveled to Cleveland to play the Browns, another team that isn't supposed to be very good this year. The two teams were close for much of the game, but in the fourth quarter the Dolphins pulled away and won the game in convincing fashion, 23-10. The Dolphins picked off Brandon Weeden 3 times and sacked him 6 more times, while at the same time holding Trent Richardson to just 3.6 yards per carry. The Dolphins offense, led by Ryan Tannehill, looked good as well, as the second year quarterback threw for 272 yards and a score. The Dolphins struggled to run the ball, but it didn't matter as they won the game by 13 points and began the season 1-0.
A Rematch of Last Year
As I mentioned above, Andrew Luck notched his 8th career game winning drive on Sunday against the Raiders, and one of the other 7 came against the Dolphins last year. Tied at 20 early in the fourth quarter, Luck led the Colts to an Adam Vinatieri field goal to win the game 23-20. The game made up Luck's most prolific passing day of his rookie season, completing 30 of 48 passes for an NFL rookie record 433 yards and 2 touchdowns without a pick. Tannehill was also impressive, throwing for 290 yards and a score, but his performance was greatly overshadowed by his fellow rookie. This year, the two quarterbacks meet again, this time in their second seasons, and Luck and the Colts are hoping for a repeat performance.
The mantra for the Colts this week has been to "Protect 12." In other words, protect Andrew Luck. Chuck Pagano said that the phrase is posted on every door in the building and that their primary emphasis this week is keeping Luck clean. The Colts gave up 4 sacks last week and the Dolphins registered 6 in their season opener, so that goal will certainly be put to the test early and often this upcoming Sunday. Cameron Wake, not only the Dolphins' best pass rusher but one of the league's best as well, notched 2.5 sacks alone on Sunday and Chuck Pagano made a note to mention him. "We're going to know where he's at," Pagano said Wednesday. "It's one thing knowing where he is. It's another thing to block." It is indeed, but at least the Colts are preparing for him. A huge key to the Colts winning this Sunday will be keeping Andrew Luck clean, and the coaching staff is placing an emphasis on just that.
The Colts are aware, just like most of us, that the way to stop the Dolphins' offense is by stopping Ryan Tannehill. They don't have Reggie Bush anymore and so this offense will likely be much more dependent on Tannehill. I think he is a good player and I actually love his potential, and the Colts are aware that they need to stop him on Sunday. Chuck Pagano: "Our guys are fully aware of the quality of quarterback that Ryan Tannehill is and what he can do if given time. He’s got, like we talked about, all the arm talent in the world. He can make all the throws. He goes through his progressions well. He gets the ball into his playmakers’ hands. We got to do a great job up front. We got to do a great job in the back end and make it as hard as we can on him." Antoine Bethea: "(Ryan) Tannehill, he's a good quarterback, has some weapons. We have some good things in plan to get the job done. We just got to go out there and play solid D."
The Colts listed five starters on their injury report Friday, including running back Vick Ballard, who tore his ACL in practice earlier this week and is out for the season. Ballard and WR David Reed (quad) are both OUT on Sunday; TE Dwayne Allen (hip), LB Kavell Conner (ankle), LB Jerrell Freeman (quad), and LB Erik Walden (hamstring) are all QUESTIONABLE; and LB Pat Angerer (concussion) is PROBABLE. I don't know who exactly who will play from the group of players listed as questionable, but the feeling I get is that Allen probably won't play and that Walden probably will. Of course, I could be wrong about those two and the other two I don't really have a feeling either way.
Last week didn't exactly go how the Colts or their fans wanted it to, but a win is a win and the Colts look to advance to 2-0 on the season against a good Dolphins team. While Andrew Luck and the offense won't have a repeat performance of last year's victory over the Dolphins, I think the team repeats in the win column. It won't be easy by any means and, unlike last week, this one is expected to be close, but I think the Colts pull it out. COLTS 24, DOLPHINS 20.