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How A Meeting And A Practice Set The Stage For Colts' First Win Of 2021 Season

The Colts held a meeting to get on the same page and then had one of their best practices of the Frank Reich era on Wednesday, laying the foundation for their 27-17 win over the Miami Dolphins on Sunday. 

Left with the festering disappointment of an 0-3 start to their season, Colts players called a meeting. 

Defensive end Kemoko Turay felt like there were some things that needed to be cleaned up, starting with his own play among Colts defensive ends. So he took some thoughts to defensive tackle and captain DeForest Buckner, who organized the meeting in which a handful of players talked. 

"Buck spoke, Darius spoke, and Quan (Al-Quadin Muhammad) spoke," tight end Mo Alie-Cox, who had two touchdowns on Sunday, said. "Quan said, if you're hurt, you're hurt and injured, he was talking about just go out there and practice. If you're hurting, everyone's hurting. We're losing. We're 0-3. Go out there and practice and sacrifice for the rest of the team and things like that. 

"Darius talked about doing your job. Nothing else matters but doing your job, and everyone else is going to pick up on the energy. That's pretty much what Buck said also."

Then the Colts went out to practice on Wednesday.  

"The message hit," Alie-Cox said, "and Wednesday was probably our hardest practice in five years."

Ask anyone who was a part of that practice Wednesday and they'll tell you it was physical, spirited, great, the best — it laid the foundation for the Colts' 27-17 dismantling of the Miami Dolphins Sunday at Hard Rock Stadium. 

"We went balls out," Turay said. "Everybody executed their assignment and did their job. At practice, everybody was working, everybody was playing as if we were playing on Sunday. Everybody was going hard.

"It was hot on Wednesday afternoon. And it was just like how it was today. We were just preparing ourselves. We came out of practice dripping with sweat. It just felt good and we had that chemistry after that meeting and then we just balled out and we showed it in practice." 

Sometimes, you see or hear the words "best practices" and roll your eyes — and not just because it's an email from corporate. Football teams that have their best practices in years on Wednesday don't always win on Sunday. 

But this one was different. 

First: the Colts were missing plenty of key players — left guard Quenton Nelson and cornerback T.J. Carrie both were placed on injured reserve last week; defensive end Kwity Paye, right tackle Braden Smith, safety Khari Willis and cornerback Rock Ya-Sin all were out Sunday with injuries. That's five starters and a veteran reserve (Carrie) who plays a position where one of those starters was out. 

Overcoming that required several next men up, not just one next man up.

And second: It was different in how the Colts won. 

The Colts played the kind of complementary football that they'd lacked throughout the first three games of the season. Early in the game, the offense was a little out of sync and Nyheim Hines lost a muffed punt — but the defense steeled itself against Jacoby Brissett and the Dolphins' offense, allowing just 2 1/2 yards per play in the first half. 

Then the Colts' offense took off in the second half, scoring on four of five possessions after halftime before a perfectly-executed four-minute drive took the air out of the ball and finished the game with a kneel down (near the Dolphins' goal line, no less). And while the Colts' defense allowed a couple of late touchdowns, more important was Grover Stewart's strip-sack of Brissett, which gave the offense a short field and ultimately a field goal early in the fourth quarter. 

This all happened, too, while the Colts took advantage of some unforced errors by Miami's special teams — an offside penalty that turned a punt into a first down; a lost muffed punt; a kick out of bounds. The Colts made the Dolphins pay every time they made a mistake. 

"We did some things on offense — we ran the ball a little bit better, made some plays in the pass game, the kind that you need to make to win games," coach Frank Reich said. "Defensively, I thought we played a great game. Then special teams, our specialists were money. I think we're headed in the right direction."

This was a full three-phase win, the kind the Colts not only have been seeking for weeks, but the kind they believe can be a foundation off which to build as the season goes on. 

But that foundation began to be laid early in the week, first with that meeting and then with that practice. 

"We're building," Leonard said. "We're building each week and hopefully we can continue to keep going 1-0. Now we gotta start a winning streak. We ended our losing streak, now hopefully we start a winning streak."

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