INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - The Miami Dolphins came into Lucas Oil Stadium with the NFL's best defense on third down. Against Andrew Luck, they couldn't stop the Indianapolis Colts on any down.
On a day the Colts were motivated by simply having their ailing head coach inside the locker room, Luck threw for a rookie-record 433 yards and two touchdowns in a 23-20 victory that left the Dolphins baffled.
"When you have the No. 1 defense on third down, and you're used to getting a couple three-and-outs, used to getting not real long drives, because teams aren't converting on third down, when a team converts 68 percent of the time, it's a different feeling out there," Miami coach Joe Philbin said Sunday. "Giving up 494 yards of offense isn't a real good performance."
Certainly not for a team that was No. 2 in the red zone, No. 3 against the run and No. 5 in fewest points allowed.
Instead, the Dolphins let Luck make big play after big play. Miami (4-4) had nobody to blame but itself for the end of a three-game winning streak.
"We have to pressure their quarterback," defensive tackle Randy Starks said. "Someone has to do it, and we didn't do it."
Picked by many to be among the NFL's weakest teams, the rebuilding Colts are in the playoff conversation at 5-3, and continue to play for their leader.
Head coach Chuck Pagano, who has been receiving treatment for leukemia since being diagnosed on Sept. 26, delivered pregame and postgame messages that some players said brought out tears.
"I mentioned before the game that you guys were living in a vision, and you weren't living in circumstances," Pagano said, surrounded by his players, interim Bruce Arians standing at his side after the Colts' third straight win.
"You know where they had us in the beginning, every last one of them. But you refused to live in circumstances and you decided consciously as a team and as a family to live in a vision, and that's why you bring things home like what you bring home today. That's why you're already champions and well on your way," he said.
Luck didn't appear overly excited about breaking Cam Newton's year-old record for yards passing in a game by a rookie or even that his team had another victory. He just wanted to live up to the message from his coach
"His presence is felt every day in the facility," Luck said. "But to see him in the flesh, in the locker room, to hear him speak I think gave all the guys a boost."
It seemed to give Pagano a boost, too.
"I've got circumstances. You guys understand it, I understand it," Pagano told them. "It's already beat. It's already beat. My vision that I'm living is to see two more daughters get married, dance at their weddings and then lift the Lombardi Trophy several times. I'm dancing at two more weddings and we're hoisting that trophy together, men. Congratulations, I love all of you."
The Colts have now won more than twice as many games in half a season as they did in 16 games last year. This week's discussion will again focus on Luck's astounding start, Pagano's inspiring message and talk of reaching the playoffs.
Luck topped Newton's mark of 432 yards and tied another by becoming the NFLs' second rookie quarterback to produce four 300-yard games in a season. The other: Peyton Manning, the quarterback he replaced.
Pagano wasn't forgotten on the field, either. Reggie Wayne traded high-fives with fans right above the (hash)Chuckstrong sign in the south end zone after scoring a 9-yard touchdown.
Luck had it all working against the Dolphins. He completed 30 of 48 passes, converted 13 of 19 third-down chances and remained under control even when he started moving around in the pocket.
It was an uncanny performance, with Wayne hauling in a high pass with an incredible toe-tap on the end line. Rookie T.Y. Hilton made a leaping 36-yard TD catch that Luck threw into double coverage, and no matter what the Dolphins did, they couldn't stop Luck or a Colts team that knew Pagano was in the coaches' box.
The matchup between two of this season's rookie quarterbacks and two of this season's biggest surprise teams was every bit as good as advertised.
There was only one first-half punt. The teams combined for 881 total yards without any turnovers. Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill, limited in practice all week and considered questionable, was 22 of 38 for 290 yards with one TD.
The difference: Luck just made more big plays.
With the Colts trailing 17-13, Luck connected with Hilton on the leaping grab to make it 20-17 with 1:49 left in the third quarter.
Miami tied the score on Dan Carpenter's 31-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter, and then Luck immediately led the Colts on a 13-play, 69-yard drive to set up Adam Vinatieri's decisive 43-yard field goal with 5:58 to go.
And Miami couldn't rally the final time.
"We didn't make the plays that needed to be made," Tannehill said. "We had a couple of opportunities, but we didn't make it happen."
NOTES: Colts DE Robert Mathis sacked Tannehill in the first quarter, giving him a sack in his eighth straight game. .... Dolphins DE Cameron Wake recorded a sack in his fifth consecutive game. ... Wayne's TD moved him past former college and pro teammate Edgerrin James into third on the franchise's career list with 76 TDs. ... Indianapolis honored the new WNBA champion Indiana Fever just before halftime. ... The Colts had a long postgame injury list that included cornerback Jerraud Powers (toe), right tackle Winston Justice (knee), running back Donald Brown (knee), receiver Donnie Avery (hip), outside linebacker Robert Mathis (back) and center Samson Satele (back). ... Miami linebacker Kevin Burnett, cornerback Nolan Carroll and defensive tackle Paul Soliai all sustained undisclosed injuries.