Dolphins vs. Colts: Did Sunday's Loss Expose Holes in Miami's Defense?

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Dolphins vs. Colts: Did Sunday's Loss Expose Holes in Miami's Defense?
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The Miami Dolphins' 23-20 loss to the Indianapolis Colts presented a new challenge for the team. The defense was gashed for their highest yardage total of the season, putting the pressure on the offense to step up.

They couldn't deliver.

The Dolphins defense has looked elite at times this year, but proved that they are far from impenetrable. The Colts hammered that point home with a 19-yard run on 3rd-and-7 to seal the game.

After entering today's game as the league's top third-down defense, allowing conversions 26.4 percent of the time, the Dolphins gave up a whopping 13 conversions on 19 attempts to the Colts. Six of those conversions came on third downs of 10 yards or longer. 

It didn't help that the Dolphins defense wasn't getting much pressure all day; Colts quarterback Andrew Luck picked up a rookie-record 433 passing yards largely because he extended plays with his feet all day long, and the Dolphins got one sack on him all day by defensive end Cameron Wake.

The lack of pressure may have been more noticeable because of a lack of blitzing. According to ESPN, the Dolphins defense sent four or fewer pass-rushers on more than 60 percent of Luck's dropbacks. That may have been by design, in part because of Luck's scrambling abilities, but also because he's been so stellar against the blitz.

Either way, he made them pay for it.

Giving up 516 yards is far from ideal, but it wasn't exactly all new for the Dolphins defense. After all, they have given up yards in bunches all season (382.1 yards per game). Even on the big plays, the Dolphins have been exposed on the back end this season already, having given up 26 passing plays of 20 yards or more leading into Sunday's contest. 

So, in that sense, the Colts didn't expose any "new holes" in the Dolphins defense, so much as they highlighted holes we already knew existed.

Their ability to keep opponents off the scoreboard has been the difference. They've let up an average of 18 points per game prior to Sunday's game. Unfortunately for Miami, this is part of the dichotomy of football: When one side of the ball doesn't deliver, the other side sometimes has to step up. 

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Quarterback Ryan Tannehill and the offense were tasked with putting up points from the get-go. They showed much promise in the first half by scoring 17 points, and Tannehill went 10-for-14 passing for 158 yards and a touchdown. They sputtered out when the game turned to a defensive slugfest in the second, and with the ball on their own 17-yard line with 2:39 to go and a chance to win, the offense couldn't deliver.

Tannehill looked sharp for the most part, but slowed down considerably in the second half, going 12-for-24 for 132 yards. 

If nothing else, this game proved that the Dolphins are still a much better team with their defense functioning at its highest level. As Tannehill grows, and as the offense grows around him, that will become less necessary.

Until that happens, though, the Dolphins know they need to pitch a great game on defense to win. 

 

Erik Frenz is the AFC East lead blogger for Bleacher Report. Be sure to follow Erik on Twitter and "like" the AFC East blog on Facebook to keep up with all the updates. Unless specified otherwise, all quotes are obtained firsthand or via team press releases.

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