Parker caught three passes for 70 yards and a touchdown on the drives, including a 42-yarder, the team's longest of the season. He also drew a pass interference call on cornerback Xavier Rhodes that set up Miami at the Colts' 27-yard line. The Dolphins and quarterback Jacoby Brissett have often been unwilling to aggressively push the ball downfield this season, and those three catches and the pass interference call were their reward for finally doing so.
With the Dolphins sitting at 1-3 and riding a three-game losing streak into next week's road game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1 p.m. ET, CBS), those plays should also serve as a reminder that Parker needs to be more involved in the game plan.
Coach Brian Flores said his team wanted to take a "methodical approach" to start the game, but said there were opportunities to take shots downfield early on that were covered by Indianapolis.
He acknowledged that it might help Miami's offense to force the issue even when those downfield opportunities are covered and said Brissett failed to capitalize on some of the plays that were available.
"I know early on, there was definitely some shot plays there that ended up getting checked down," Flores said. "I think as you're trying to call a game, you feel like there's some situations where you're going to get a first down, and then you're going to take a shot -- we had drops and penalties in those instances."
One such checkdown occurred in the first quarter, when Brissett missed Parker and fellow receiver Jaylen Waddle downfield. Parker was open by 9.41 yards and Waddle by 5.27 yards, per NFL Next Gen Stats. Brissett opted instead to throw to running back Salvon Ahmed, who was tackled after a 4-yard gain.
Through the first three quarters Sunday, Parker was targeted three times, resulting in one catch for 7 yards. Those targets traveled an average of 9.8 air yards per attempt. He was targeted six times in the fourth quarter, including the pass interference he drew on Rhodes, for an average of 17.1 air yards per attempt, according to NFL Next Gen Stats.
Brissett, in his second game filling in for the injured Tua Tagovailoa as Miami's starting quarterback, said his chemistry with Parker is developing in the right direction. To his credit, he has tried to get Parker the ball downfield; Parker's 14.4 average air yards per target ranks 20th among receivers with at least five targets.
But his 5.6 actual yards per target ranks 125th, meaning the effort has been there but the execution has not. Brissett said the Dolphins have the players to successfully push the ball downfield and said it's up to him to make it happen.
"Just from learning from last week when we got in those situations," Brissett said. "I overthrew [Parker] a couple times, then this week we hit them because we had that experience. ... We just have to find a way to get these guys the ball more often, I've got to do that."
Parker was not perfect in the game. He dropped an easy pass on the play immediately after Rhodes' pass interference and another in the end zone on third-and-goal before scoring on the next play. He also created an average of only 1.31 yards of separation, which is something he has struggled to do throughout his career (2.1 average yards of separation since 2016, per NFL Next Gen Stats).
But he has won the 50-50 balls more often than any other Dolphins receiver. Flores has stressed his team's desire to take what defenses give it, but that strategy is proving to be ineffective for this offense. The Dolphins have to start taking what they want, even if it means taking chances against defenses that are daring them to do so.
And if this offense becomes more aggressive through the air moving forward, it will be Parker leading the way.