Crunch the numbers, and there’s one, and only one, realistic way for the Dolphins to beat the Colts on Sunday:
Turn Andrew Luck and Indianapolis’ potent offense over.
Turn them over again.
And for good measure, do it third, fourth and even fifth time.
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Because there’s simply no counting on Miami’s ability to get off the field without an interception or fumble.
We have 10 weeks of evidence backing this up.
The Colts’ offense is in a different class than the Dolphins’ defense.
Here are the facts:
The Colts score 29.8 points per game (No. 5 in the NFL). The Dolphins allow 25.6 (No. 22).
The Colts rank ninth in yards gained (381.5 per game). The Dolphins rank 27th in yards allowed (392.3).
Indy is 10th in passing (269.1). Miami is 19th in pass defense (250.3).
The Colts have the league’s best third-down defense (converting 52.2 percent of the time). The Dolphins have the NFL’s ninth-worst third-down D (42.4).
Even a supposed Dolphins strength is not strong enough. Miami has allowed a touchdown on 57.1 percent of opponents’ red-zone trips. But the Colts get in the end zone 68.3 percent of the time, the fifth-highest rate in football.
It’s bleak, Dolphins fans.
But through those storm clouds cuts a ray of light:
The Dolphins are really good at forcing turnovers!
And the Colts are not great about protecting the football.
Miami has 19 takeaways in 2018 (fifth most in the league). Indianapolis has 14 giveaways (10th most in football).
Those figures best explain why the Colts aren’t better than 5-5 and the Dolphins aren’t worse than 5-5.
And what’s the best way to create turnovers?
Force Andrew Luck to make mistakes with pressure.
Again, there’s no good news here for Dolphins supporters.
Luck has been virtually unsackable this year. He hasn’t been felled in five games. Opposing defenses have dropped Luck just 10 times all season, second fewest among starting quarterbacks.
That was an obvious conversation topic in the team’s Davie headquarters Thanksgiving Week.
And regardless of who was asked, the answer was the same.
▪ Defensive coordinator Matt Burke: “It’s a very efficient offense. Luck is getting rid of the ball but there’s answers, there’s outlets, it’s going. It’s a well-oiled machine.”
▪ Coach Adam Gase: “It’s a group thing that occurs when you have a run like that going on. It can’t just be the quarterback. It can’t just be the line. It takes everybody. … If all of those guys do their job right and the quarterback gets the ball out, that’s when you have a streak like that.”
▪ Cornerback Bobby McCain: “They’re a good team. I know he hasn’t been sacked in a little while, so you try and get some smoke in his face. He’s a good player. He’s a good quarterback.”
▪ Safety Reshad Jones: “We just need to get our hands on guys a little bit faster [so he can’t] get the ball out of his hands as fast as he is. I think we’ve got to just slow down their timing. The offensive line hasn’t given up a sack in I think five weeks, so it’ll definitely be a challenge.”
Particularly for a group that has been historically bad at getting to the quarterback. The Dolphins are on pace for a mere 27 sacks, which would the franchise’s fewest since 1988. It’s hard to fathom how a team with Cameron Wake and Robert Quinn could be so bad at getting pressure, yet here we are.
And when Luck gets time to throw, he usually completes the pass. Finally healthy after a shoulder injury cost him all of 2017, Luck is dialed in.
He has completed 67.3 percent of his passes (11thin the NFL), is on pace to throw for over 4,400 yards, has a better than 3-to-1 touchdown to interception ratio and his passer rating of 101.8 ranks ninth.
“He looks like what I remember,” Gase said. “... He’s tough. He can make every throw. He’s got good anticipation. His accuracy is really good.
“Him being healthy and the more he’s played, you can see the confidence is going up,” Gase added. “Hopefully we just keep him in the pocket. The last thing I want to do is have him get his confidence back and start running around. That’s when it gets really frustrating.”