Much has changed with the Indianapolis Colts since the release of Peyton Manning, but the pass rush of Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis remains the same. On Sunday, the two do what they do best, which is harass, hit, and hurry the quarterback all day long. For the Miami Dolphins, and left tackle Jack Long in particular, the constant pressure proved to be too much.
Long, who has been selected to the last four Pro Bowls, was consistently beaten throughout the entire game. While he only gave up 1 sack, he was repeatedly pushed back into Ryan Tannehill’s face and the young quarterback was clearly affected by the constant duress. Play after play, Long was either bull-rushed back, beaten on the outside, or slipped on the inside, leading to hurried passes, and a disrupted offense.
On the sack he wasn’t responsible for, Mathis broke free from the right side of the line and got to Tannehill for the sack, but Long had lost his battle with Justin Hickman as well, and the rookie linebacker was just one step away from getting at least half of the credit with Mathis on that play.
On several plays it appeared as though Long was simply being out-muscled, and he often resorted to holding. He was only called for it once, near the end of the fourth quarter, but he was called out by the broadcast announcers for holding throughout the game. He also through in a false start, just to add to his poor performance.
Despite taking only half the reps in this week’s practice, Tannehill still had a great game. The rookie threw for just under 300 yards (290), completed 57.9% of his passes without an interception, and he connected with Charles Clay for a 31 yard touchdown early in the second quarter. Pretty impressive for a rookie being put under so much pressure.
Tannehill only lost the ball once, on a forced fumble by Dwight Freeney. Who got beat on the play? That’s right, it was Jake Long. Thankfully Long recovered the ball, and the Dolphins retained possession. Reggie Bush would end up going Madden at the end of the drive, scoring on an 18 yard run that embarrassed half of the Colts defenders, so recovering the ball was crucial. Still, a recovery would not have been needed had Long put up a little more resistance against Freeney on that play.
This is far from the caliber of play that Jake Long has been known for throughout his career. The former first-round pick has set the standard for his position since he came into the league, but he has been raising eyebrows this season with his inconsistent play.
It is worth pointing out that the Dolphins placed the franchise tag on Long prior to the start of this season. That may not have anything to do with his performance, but it would not be the first time a player has been negatively affected by the tag.
Still, as bad as Long was abused on Sunday, the damage could have been much worse. I would say Jake owes his quarterback a steak dinner after this one. Maybe he should be the one buying Isotoner gloves for Christmas, because on this day, it was the quick decisions and excellent play of the rookie quarterback that protected the Pro Bowl left tackle, instead of the other way around.
Jeff Everette is a Featured Columnist for RantSports.com, covering the NFL and NBA. Follow Jeff on twitter @jeverettesports, like his page on FaceBook, or add his Google + to your circles for all of his latest articles, thoughts, and rants.