Ryan Tannehill got off to an inspiring start in his return from a five-game injury absence, leading the Dolphins to a touchdown on an opening possession for the first time in forever and a day. Or so it seemed.
But Tannehill and a defense that intercepted Andrew Luck twice lacked a finishing touch, allowing the Colts to rally from a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter for a 27-24 victory at Indianapolis.
The Dolphins’ fifth consecutive loss on the road dropped them to 5-6 and dealt a serious blow to their flagging playoff hopes.
Adam Vinatieri’s 32-yard field goal as time expired sent the Colts (6-5) to their fifth consecutive win.
Luck avoided a sack and connected on a 34-yard pass to Chester Rogers to set up the winning kick. Akeem Spence and Andre Branch had a shot at Luck but couldn’t get him down.
The Dolphins had a 10-point lead with 13:36 remaining after Kenyan Drake scored on a 14-yard run.
Leading 24-17 with 8:26 remaining, the Dolphins went three-and-out when Tannehill misfired on two passes and Drake lost five yards and was injured in the process (left arm).
It took Luck seven plays to lead the Colts 89 yards, tossing his third touchdown of the game on a 12-pass to Eric Ebron, the tight end’s second of the day.
Miami failed to record a first down on its final two possessions.
The Dolphins were the last NFL team to register points on an initial drive this season.
Drake’s 33-yard dash to the end zone off a short screen from Tannehill was the Dolphins’ first touchdown on an opening possession in 21 games. They hadn’t scored a point on a first possession in the previous 13 games.
The early Miami lead lasted less than three minutes as the Colts needed only five plays to go 75 yards, with Luck making it look easy on a 14-yard TF toss to Ebron.
There was a bizarre sequence in the final minute of the half when the teams traded turnovers on three consecutive plays – two interceptions of Andrew Luck by Xavien Howard sandwiched around Dolphins rookie Mike Gesicki fumbling after catching a pass over the middle.
The back-and-forth gambit followed immediately after Leonte Carroo outleaped Colts cornerback Pierre Desir and continued on for a 74-yard touchdown reception from Tannehill to make it 14-14.
That stopped a run of four consecutive possessions resulting in punts for Miami.
The Colts had taken the lead on a long drive aided by an unnecessary roughness penalty call on Kiko Alonso, who landed on a sliding Luck at the end of a scramble. Instead of forcing the Colts to punt, they continued on to Luck’s second touchdown pass of the day.
The Dolphins had the statistical edge in the first half, including a 3-1 advantage in takeaways. They hurt themselves with four penalties.
But Alonso later blocked a punt and in the fourth quarter made a key tackle for loss that forced the Colts to settle for a field goal.
They got to the red zone after the blocked punt but couldn’t punch it in, though Jason Sanders gave them a 17-14 lead on a 29-yard field goal.
Miami retained the lead after Cameron Wake ended Luck’s streak of five games without a sack, forcing a fumble. The Colts retained possession, but Vinatieri miss-hit a 48-yard field goal attempt.