Andrew Luck: At His Best With The Game On The Line

Jim Brown-US PRESSWIRE

With three game-winning drives through seven games, Colts' rookie quarterback Andrew Luck has elevated his play in the fourth quarter and overtime of close games. The result is a 4-1 record in games decided by less than one score.

In the entire history of the national football league, no number one overall draft pick has gotten off to a better start than Andrew Luck. Don’t believe me? Well, he has the best winning percentage of any first overall pick through week eight of their rookie season, ever.

The Colts, a year removed from a 2-14 record, are in the thick of the playoff race. Perhaps the biggest reason? Andrew Luck.

His statistics are equally as impressive. He is on pace to shatter the rookie passing yardage record, set by Cam Newton last year (Luck is on pace for roughly 4,505 yards, while Newton’s record stands at 4,051). He is also on pace to set the record for completions in a rookie season (set by Sam Bradford in 2010 with 354, Luck is on pace for roughly 365) and shatter the record for attempts (also set by Bradford with 590, Luck is on pace for nearly 658).

Not only that, but Luck has rushed for 3 touchdowns through the Colts’ first seven games and has been incredibly impressive with his feet. Forced on the run quite a bit, the quarterback has avoided countless sacks and has wowed with his mobility and pocket presence unlike any rookie in recent history.

Yet perhaps where Luck has been most impressive has been when the game is on the line. He has three game winning drives this year, tied for the most in the league. In fact, he is already tied for the fifth most game winning drives in a rookie season ever, and he still has nine games remaining.

Scott Kacsmar, the authoritative voice on fourth quarter comebacks and game winning drives and the one to whom I owe the previous stat, wrote of Luck following Sunday’s overtime victory over the Titans that “the fact is he has been great in every fourth quarter when the game was close so far.”

That statement is one hundred percent correct. The Colts have been in a close game (one score or less at some point in the fourth quarter) in five out of seven games this year. In the fourth quarter and overtime of those five game, Luck has completed 32/55 passes for 441 yards, 2 touchdowns, 1 interception, has rushed seven times for 34 yards, has lost one fumble, and has led the Colts to 30 points.

That amounts to a very respectable 88.5 passer rating.

However, if the numbers are adjusted to factor in drops (2), spikes (2), and a desperation drive in the final seconds of the Jacksonville loss (he was 1/6 for 36 yards, including a spike), Luck is actually 31/46 for 405 yards. His completion percentage jumps from 58.18% unadjusted to 67.39% adjusted, while his passer rating jumps from 88.5 to 100.4.

Luck has been very good in the fourth quarters of close games this year, but he has been even better on game winning drive attempts. In four tries, he has completed 13 of his 17 passes for 195 yards and 2 touchdowns without a turnover. Each time he has put the Colts ahead in the final minutes. Adjusted to account for one spike, Luck’s completion percentage on the drives is an outstanding 81.3% and his passer rating is 157.03 out of a perfect 158.3. He has been spectacular. In the win over the Vikings in week 2, Luck led the Colts to a go-ahead field goal in the final minute. The following week, he put his team ahead over the Jaguars before Jacksonville scored on an 80-yard touchdown pass in the final minute. Against Green Bay, the Colts overcame an 18-point halftime deficit to defeat the Packers on a four yard touchdown pass from Luck to Reggie Wayne with 35 seconds left. And then this past weekend, Luck led the Colts to a game-tying drive in the fourth quarter before throwing a game winning 19 yard touchdown pass to Vick Ballard in overtime to beat the Titans.

Andrew Luck Game-Winning Drive Attempts

Opp. Comp Att YDS TD INT Rush Result
MIN 2 2* 40 0 0 N/A Adam Vinatieri 53-yard field goal; WIN 23-20
JAX 1 1 39 0 0 N/A Adam Vinatieri 37-yard field goal; LOSS 17-22
GB 8 11 80 1 0 1-7-0 4 yard TD pass to Reggie Wayne; WIN 30-28
@TEN 2 2 36 1 0 N/A 19 yard TD pass to Vick Ballard; WIN 19-13 (OT)

* Adjusted to account for a spike to stop the clock (actual stat sheet reads 2/3)

Basically, all this to say that Andrew Luck has been extremely clutch this year and at his best when the game is on the line. That is not something that a normal rookie quarterback can do, and it has fans in Indianapolis excited. Excited about their quarterback. Excited about their future. Excited for this season. And they have reason to be – the Colts are exceeding expectations and are looking to make a push for the playoffs.

And if the Colts have any hopes of the postseason, it helps having a guy who is so good with the game on the line. Luck has the Colts at 4-3, and with 3 game winning drives under his belt, the arrow seems to be pointing upwards.

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