The secondary was the primary reason the Dolphins defeated the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday, in particular its ability to create turnovers.
The Dolphins came up with three interceptions at Lucas Oil Stadium, matching their total from the first eight games of the season. One pick set up a touchdown, another set up a field goal, and another took a touchdown away from the Colts.
Safety Steven Parker had the first and most impressive of the three picks.
Interestingly, Parker did not play a snap on defense against the New York Jets last Sunday, but there he was in the secondary when the Colts had a second-and-goal from the 9-yard line the first time they had the ball.
Parker was matched up against tight end Eric Ebron, who appeared to have a touchdown when he got his hands on Brian Hoyer’s pass in the end zone. But Parker also had a hand on the ball and he was able to take the ball away from Ebron as both players fell in the end zone.
“Just not giving up on the play,” Parker said. “Big players gotta make big plays. For me, that’s something I feel like I’ll make again. I’ve just gotta keep on reiterating just how important it is just to practice in order to translate it into the game.”
There was some discussion among the CBS television crew as to whether it should have been a touchdown or touchback, but the officials ruled it was an interception. The ruling was confirmed after review.
It was McCain’s second interception of the season, the first coming in Week 3 at Dallas.
McCain returned this pick 32 yards to the Colts 12-yard line, and three plays later Ryan Fitzpatrick scrambled 11 yards to give the Dolphins a 10-0 lead.
The third interception, by cornerback Nik Needham, came right after the Dolphins had taken a 13-12 lead in the fourth quarter.
On his pick, Needham cut in front of intended receiver Zach Pascal to pick off Hoyer at the Colts 40-yard line. The pick set up Jason Sanders’ second of two 48-yard field goals.
It was the first NFL interceptions for both Parker and Needham.
“It just felt good to contribute to the guys and help the team,” Needham said. “That’s all I’m worried about. First interception, I threw the ball on the ground and the other guys were telling me I gotta keep it. I was just so excited I made a play in a big-time situation.”
The last time the Dolphins had three interceptions in a game was more than a year ago, Nov. 4, 2018 when they had four in a 13-6 victory against the Jets.
Beyond the interceptions, the defense held the Colts to 300 total yards, the lowest total they’ve allowed all season.
Finally, and most importantly, the defense stopped the Colts on downs to clinch the victory, with Needham tackling Ebron — him again — to limit him to an 8-yard gain on a fourth-and-10 from the Dolphins 15-yard line.
“We want the pressure and the team can count on us,” Needham said. “To go out there and execute us, that was real fun.”
Said Parker: “That was really good right here. It’s one of those games that you dream of that. This is the exact moment that you want to be in, especially as a defensive player. For us to go ahead and get off the field right there, that was great. That was tremendous.”
Actually, it was a tremendous day all around for that young Dolphins secondary.