The Indianapolis Colts pulled out a huge victory for themselves in a 23-20 win over the Miami Dolphins. The win puts the Colts in prime position for a playoff spot in year one of their rebuilding effort. I said in my keys to the game Friday that the winner of this game will control their own destiny of making the playoffs as they not only hold a one-game lead over the loser, but also the tiebreaker.
Here are the five winners and losers of today's game.
Reggie Wayne had a big day again today. Wayne had 78 yards on seven catches and a touchdown reception in the first quarter to give the Colts an early lead. The touchdown propelled Wayne to third all-time in Colts touchdowns as he passed Edgerrin James to move two spots behind leader Marvin Harrison.
Wayne didn't have a ton of production in the second half, but that was due to him lighting up the Dolphins' secondary in the first half of today's contest. By Wayne drawing extra coverage, that allowed others to get open and keep the offense flowing.
It was a big day for Wayne and this Colts' offense.
The Colts linebacker has been banged up for most of this year. He's pretty much facing his final year as a member of the Colts, but today he made his presence known and had a huge day.
Freeney didn't record a tackle today, but his pass rush was the key to today's win. He hit Dolphins rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill twice and forced a fumble on the first hit and a close incomplete pass on the second.
The rest of the time he was putting pressure on Tannehill and forced him to get rid of the ball quickly. That allowed the Colts' defense to exploit Tannehill's inexperience and force incomplete passes.
Credit Freeney for this victory.
Teams in rebuilding mode shouldn't be this deep. Not many teams could lose their starting center, best defensive player and best corner and still win an NFL game. Not to mention the Colts were already without their other starting corner Vontae Davis and second-round pick tight end Coby Fleener.
Even with all those injuries, the Colts still battled and won a huge game. Their depth showed up big time and didn't miss a beat. Corners Josh Gordy, Cassius Vaughn and Darius Butler came up huge in coverage. Dwight Freeney and Jerry Hughes made up for the Mathis loss, and A.Q. Shipley did a great job in filling in for injured Samson Satele.
If this Colts team can play this good when they're injured, imagine what they could do when they're fully healthy.
It's hard to call one of the best kickers in franchise history Adam Vinatieri a loser, but he didn't kick well today. His late 43-yard field goal was the difference, but his other two misses could have been costly.
Vinatieri missed two first half field goals from 48 and 54 yards and left the Colts six points off the board. Put them back on and the Colts win by two possessions not by three.
Now, credit Vinatieri to come back after those two misses and make two more, but he's now missed more field goals this season at home than he missed in his previous four years combined.
Lets hope he can find his accuracy and deep kicking ability because the Colts have now won all five games by six points or fewer. They're going to need him to make a game-winning field goal again at some point.
What can we say about possibly the next best quarterback in NFL history? Luck is exceeding expectations and doing without getting much credit. The national media wants to talk about RGIII so much, but what they're failing to recognize is that Luck has his team in a playoff race and breaking records.
Today, Luck was 30-for-48 with two touchdowns and an NFL rookie record 433 yards.
Out of nearly 50 years on NFL play, no other rookie could do what Luck did today. He was sharp, accurate and singlehandedly led this Colts team to a victory. He was doing things 10-plus year veterans couldn't do.
It's about time we put Luck into the conversation of rookie of the year. He was better than solid today: He was remarkable.