COMMENTARY | From 1970 through 2001, the Baltimore and Indianapolis Colts faced the Miami Dolphins twice a year as AFC East rivals. The realignment of the Colts to the AFC South in 2002 ended that division rivalry, and games between the Colts and Dolphins have been relatively hit-or-miss over the past decade. The intensity has fizzled.
The Week 2 game in Indianapolis between these two clubs, though, has a fresh feeling to it.
Perhaps it's Miami's snazzy new uniforms. Perhaps it's two second-year quarterbacks -- Ryan Tannehill and Andrew Luck -- leading a rebirth of their respective teams. Perhaps it's the anticipation of another close battle between the Colts and the Dolphins, as all five games have been since Indianapolis left for its new division.
Whatever it is, there's a buzz about this week's game, and the Colts definitely have some challenges facing them against the 'Phins. Let's take a look.
Tannehill is improving rapidly as an NFL quarterback, likely due in part to his college coach at Texas A&M, Mike Sherman, coming to the Dolphins as their offensive coordinator the same season that Tannehill was drafted No. 8 overall. As a Texas A&M alumnus, I follow Aggie football closely, and Tannehill and Sherman together were capable of engineering quite a powerful offense in College Station.
In Miami, the Dolphins have armed Tannehill with more talent than he had at his disposal last year when he was still able to throw for 290 yards against the Colts in a narrow 23-20 loss. He used those weapons well last week against the Cleveland Browns, throwing for 272 yards , a touchdown and an interception in the Dolphins' 23-10 road win.
While Tannehill isn't as mobile as Terrelle Pryor, keep in mind that he began his college career as a wide receiver, so the guy can move. He ran for 211 yards and two scores last season.
The Colts defense, which coughed up 372 yards of offense to the lowly Raiders last week, will have their work cut out for them trying to handle Tannehill.
No Vick Ballard
The loss of running back Vick Ballard to a season-ending knee injury hurts. Now the Colts have to rely on Ahmad Bradshaw, who is new to the team, recovering from off-season foot surgery, missed all of the preseason, and isn't in game shape yet. The other options at running back are Donald Brown and fresh-off-the-practice-squad rookie Kerwynn Williams.
Miami only allowed Trent Richardson 47 rushing yards last week. The Colts probably shouldn't count on being able to move the ball on the ground very effectively on Sunday.
Keeping Andrew Luck in One Piece
Luck was sacked four times last week by a less-than-impressive Oakland defensive line. The Miami defensive line is much more ferocious, and they planted Brandon Weeden six times in Week 1. Indy's offensive line is not its strong suit to begin with, and if the running game can't get going to take some pressure off of Luck, the Colts quarterback is in for a long afternoon of running for his life.
Held to one reception for 15 yards last week in Cleveland, Wallace has been grousing all week about his role in the Dolphins offense. The problem, however, was that he was smothered by Browns shut-down defensive back Joe Haden, so Tannehill had to go elsewhere with his throws -- primarily Brian Hartline and Brandon Gibson.
The Colts, however, have no one in their defensive backfield with Haden's skills, and when the $60 million receiver whines, you can expect more footballs to come his way the next week. Wallace's speed is likely to present problems for Indy's defense.
The Colts held the ball for over five minutes less than the Raiders last week (32:47 to 27:13). In an interesting coincidence, that was the exact same time split between Miami and Cleveland -- except in the Dolphins' favor.
Hold the ball, keep the other team's offense off the field, and control the tempo of the game. The Colts are going to have to work on this if they expect to get past Miami this week.
The author lives in central Indiana and is a long-time follower of the Indianapolis Colts.
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