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Drive of the Game

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Colts-Dolphins Drive Of The Game: Earning A Fifth Straight Victory

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INDIANAPOLIS — The boxscore will show a seven-play, 44-yard drive taking 2:38 off the clock that culminated in a 32-yard field goal by Adam Vinatieri.

But let’s take a closer look at the Indianapolis Colts’ Week 12 Drive of the Game, presented by Hays + Sons:

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It started with a kickoff.

With time winding down in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s matchup against the Dolphins at Lucas Oil Stadium, Andrew Luck found his tight end, Eric Ebron, for a 12-yard touchdown pass. After being down by as many as 10 points early in the fourth quarter, the Colts had officially stormed back to tie the game at 24.

But 4:30 still remained on the game clock — plenty of time for Miami to put together a potential game-winning drive.

The first step to ensuring that doesn’t happen? Pin them back as far as possible.

Rigoberto Sanchez did just that, launching the ensuing kickoff to the front edge of the goal line — exactly where he wanted to place it, and where returner Senorise Perry had no choice but to take it out and hope to find a seam for some big yards. Those plans were foiled when Corey Moore quickly brought Perry down at the 16-yard line.

Oh, and that yellow flag on the ground? Holding. On the return team. That’s a 10-yard penalty, so the Dolphins would have to start this crucial drive from their own 6-yard line.

The second step to ensuring Miami doesn’t fly home with a last-second victory: get a big stop on defense — and try to leave enough time for your offense to go win the game:

» 1st and 10 from the Miami 6: Frank Gore carry up the middle — no gain. Defensive tackle Margus Hunt wrapped up his former teammate.

» 2nd and 10 from the Miami 6: Ryan Tannehill connects with DeVante Parker — no gain. Linebacker Matthew Adams was right there to make a play.

» 3rd and 10 from the Miami 6: Surprisingly, the Dolphins elect to hand it off to Kenyan Drake, who gets four yards before he’s stopped by safety Mike Mitchell at the 10.

» 4th and 10 from the Miami 10: Matt Haack launches a 62-yard punt, fielded by Chester Rogers, who gets a big 14-yard return to the Indianapolis 42-yard line.

Total game time elapsed on that Dolphins drive? One minute and 47 seconds. Defense and special teams did their job — now it’s time for the offense to win a ballgame.

And with 2:38 left on the clock, that’s plenty of time for head coach Frank Reich to dial up the plays needed to do just that.

The drive didn’t start off promising, however, as running back Nyheim Hines — in for starter Marlon Mack, who at this point was sidelined with a concussion — was swallowed up for a loss of two on 1st and 10. On second down, Hines got those yards back — but not much more. His three-yard gain set up 3rd and 9 from the Indianapolis 43.

It’s during these moments that you need your special players to find a way to make special plays.

Andrew Luck is that special player for the Colts.

Coming out of the two-minute warning, Luck took the snap in the shotgun formation and began to scan the field, but quickly felt pressure from all sides. With three Dolphins defenders bearing down on him, Luck attempted to climb the pocket, but began to stumble.

Somehow, Luck regained his footing. And just when everyone in the building thought he was going to take off and try to make a heroic effort to get as close to the first-down marker as possible to keep the drive alive, he zigged instead of zagged.

Somehow, Luck knew to regain his vision down the field and see that Rogers was standing wide open along the left side of the field around the Miami 27-yard line. Rogers hauled in the unlikely pass and was brought down at the 23. Gain of 34.

Wow.

The rest was a formality — and, fortunately, the Colts have the greatest kicker of all-time who makes it that way.

Three Hines runs for a combined nine yards allowed Reich to take a timeout with three seconds remaining in the game and send Adam Vinatieri onto the field to attempt a game winner from 32 yards out.

Vinatieri missed badly earlier in the game when he chunked a 48-yard attempt, but there would be no such issues on this one.

His kick found the middle of the net just as the game clock struck 0:00, and the Colts continue their postseason push with their fifth straight win.

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