Turnovers key to Dol­phins’ path to vic­tory

Miami Herald (Sunday) - - Nfl - BY ADAM H. BEASLEY [email protected]­ami­her­ald.com

Crunch the numbers, and there’s one, and only one, re­al­is­tic way for the Dol­phins to beat the Colts on Sun­day:

Turn quar­ter­back An­drew Luck and In­di­anapo­lis’ po­tent of­fense over. Turn them over again. And for good mea­sure, do it a third, fourth and even a fifth time.

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

A points per game (No. 5 in the NFL). The Dol­phins al­low 25.6 (No. 22).

The Colts rank ninth in A yards gained (381.5 per game). The Dol­phins rank 27th in yards al­lowed (392.3).

Indy is 10th in pass­ing A

(269.1). Mi­ami is 19th in pass de­fense (250.3).

The Colts have the

A league’s best third-down de­fense (con­vert­ing 52.2 per­cent of the time). The Dol­phins have the NFL’s ninth-worst third-down de­fense (42.4).

Even a sup­posed Dol

A phins’ 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 Luck to make mis­takes with pres­sure.

Again, there’s no good news here for Dol­phins sup­port­ers.

Luck has been vir­tu­ally un­sack­able this sea­son. He hasn’t been sacked 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 dur­ing Thanks­giv­ing Week.

And re­gard­less of who was asked, the an­swer was the same.

De­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor

A

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:

A

“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

A

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:

A

“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 (11th in the NFL), is on pace to throw for more than 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.”

AJ MAST AP

An­drew Luck has had rea­son to smile this week: He’s feel­ing bet­ter than he has in years, and the Colts’ of­fense is click­ing. Luck hasn’t been sacked in the past five games.

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