entered the week leading all rookies in passing yards. (Thomas J. Russo-US PRESSWIRE)
Though a lot of the buzz heading into Week 9 focused on the Cam Newton-Robert Griffin III showdown in D.C., a matchup of young QBs about 600 miles east wound up stealing the show.
In a game with a surprising level of playoff implications, Ryan Tannehill and Andrew Luck battled in an enthralling confrontation that ended with the Colts claiming a key 23-20 win and Luck setting the rookie single-game passing record with 433 yards. That total topped Cam Newton's standing record of 432 yards, and was two more than what Tannehill put up in a Week 4 loss to Arizona.
The Colts' win moved them 5-3 on the season and to the front of the line in the AFC wild-card race. Miami, now 4-4, still sits just a game back of New England in the AFC East. Compare that to the Newton-Griffin matchup, which Carolina and Washington entered with a combined 4-11 record.
In fact, the Miami-Indianapolis game was one of just two this week where both teams entered above .500 (Pittsburgh at the Giants being the other).
Tannehill and Luck looked the parts of playoff contenders, too, especially in the first half. Tannehill completed 10 of 14 passes for 158 yards and a touchdown before the break; Luck was 19 of 28 for 273 yards and a TD of his own in the first two quarters.
Both defenses stepped up after halftime, with Indianapolis outscoring Miami 10-3 over the final 30 minutes. The overall performance of both quarterbacks still stood up as impressive.
Neither QB -- Luck was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 draft and Tannehill No. 8 -- has shied away from high expectations this year. And you can see why their respective teams have put so much trust in them.
Each QB hit seven receivers. Tannehill's ability to mix and match his targets while taking care of the football displays huge progression for him from the early parts of this season. Luck, meanwhile, has played like a top-10 quarterback all season and might even get himself into the MVP mix if the Colts can complete their inspiring turnaround with a playoff berth.
Luck struck first Sunday, delivering a bullet on a slant pass to Reggie Wayne -- that came on a 3rd-and-goal from the Miami 9, with the rookie out of Stanford firing a shot over a Dolphins defender into the arms of Wayne. Tannehill answered in the second quarter, standing his ground against the blitz and finding Charles Clay on a deep out route.
In the second half, Luck found T.Y. Hilton for a 36-yard TD that put the Colts up 20-17. Tannehill responded on the next possession by marching Miami into field-goal range.
That Luck put his name into the rookie record book and the Colts won the game ought to do little to detract from another step forward from Tannehill, even if the Dolphins did leave Indianapolis lamenting a host of missed chances.
The Colts knew their future was bright the minute they drafted Luck. Miami felt the same way about Tannehill, and the NFL world saw Sunday why both franchises are on an upswing.