Ever since the Indianapolis Colts selected Andrew Luck with the first overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, I have been using the saying "the future is now". Everyone was calling Luck the future, but I knew better. I knew that the "future" of the Colts, Luck, was here now.
On Sunday, that was evident. Sunday, in just his fourth game, Luck grew up. Sunday, he proved that he belongs not only in the National Football League, but in the upper class of quarterbacks as well. The beating he took in the first half would have knocked a lot of quarterbacks out of the game. Not Luck. Not a chance. Getting crushed by Clay Matthews, who drove his helmet right into Luck's chest? A normal quarterback shouldn't get up from that, at least not immediately. Luck didn't even hesitate. He just picked himself off the ground as he did so many other times during the game. Yet somehow, he kept the Colts in it. Though the Colts would rather not have seen it, they saw the toughness of their quarterback. They gave up four sacks in the first half, and when Luck wasn't on the ground he was constantly on the run.
One thing he didn't run from, however, was a fight. In fact, he led the Colts right into it. That's what Sunday's game was - a fight. The Colts battled back from a 21-3 halftime deficit and rallied behind their rookie quarterback.
Luck's leadership was on full display. The poise he showed as this team, beaten down and on the verge of letting the game slip hopelessly out of reach, was poise rookies just don't show. Anybody who had any doubts about this kid, go watch yesterday's game. Yeah, his first three games (and especially since the Bears game) he was impressive. On Sunday, he was simply remarkable.
With a trying week behind them and an uphill 18-point deficit to overcome ahead of them, the team turned to their rookie; their quarterback; their leader. And he put his team on his back and carried them.
Yeah, the offensive line was much better in the second half. Yeah, Donald Brown had his best rushing performance of the season. And yeah, Reggie Wayne had the greatest day of his tremendous career. But the most important player for the Colts on Sunday was Andrew Luck, as has been the case all season. To get just a small statistical look at how good he has been, check out the following:
Andrew Luck has scrambled for a 1st down 9 times this season, most in the NFL.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) October 9, 2012
Andrew Luck is 2nd rookie in NFL history with 300+ pass yards in 3 of 1st 4 games (Cam Newton last season was the other).— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) October 7, 2012
#colts andrew luck first rookie in NFL history to pass for 1,200+ yards (1,208) and record at least two wins in his team’s first four games.— Mike Chappell (@mchappell51) October 9, 2012
33.4% of Luck's passing yards have come after the catch, 32nd in the league.— Kyle Rodriguez (@ColtsAuth_Kyle) October 9, 2012
Top 5 Plays:
Below I list Luck's five best plays from Sunday, in my opinion. Toss any others you think should be on it in the comments, but I think that these pretty well represent Luck's performance.
5. 5:07 left in the first quarter - 2 yard completion to Coby Fleener
On a 3rd down and 3 at the Green Bay 46 yard line late in the first quarter (while the score was still 0-0), the Colts went empty backfield with four wide. Luck took the snap, stepped up in the pocket as the pressure came and then rolled to the right, just narrowly avoiding the sack and getting an accurate throw off on the run to his tight end Fleener. The play would have been even better had the Colts not failed to convert the following 4th down and 1.
4. 9:54 left in the fourth quarter - 26 yard completion to T.Y. Hilton
The Colts went with one in the backfield (Donald Brown) at the Packers 37 yard line. After a somewhat awkward fake handoff, Luck was forced to roll to his left due to an unblocked rusher coming in for the sack. While on the run rolling to his left, Luck delivered a perfectly accurate ball to T.Y. Hilton at the 11 yard line, who made a great catch to hang onto it.
3. 0:23 left in the third quarter - 3 yard scramble up the middle for a touchdown
This is the only scoring play I have on the list. With a 3rd and goal from the 3 yard line and trailing by eight, the Colts emptied the backfield and went three wide. Luck kept the ball on the delayed draw, and he was determined to get the score. He ran straight into the middle of the Packers defense - and fought his way into the end zone. An emotional Luck got up from the pile of players in the end zone and spiked the ball as hard as he could. He then ran over to the #ChuckStrong banner hanging in the back of the end zone and patted it, symbolizing the team's determination to fight for Chuck Pagano. If their coach can fight leukemia and the grueling chemotherapy that it entails, the Colts could certainly fight a 21-3 deficit. And fight they did.
2. 0:47 left in the fourth quarter - 7 yard scramble up the middle
The second running play on the list, the Colts were faced with a 3rd down and 7 from the Green Bay 11 yard line, down by five with under one minute remaining. Luck scanned the field quickly and then decided to take off scrambling up the middle. He gained about five yards before two Packers defenders closed on him. Luck lowered his shoulder and drove right in between them, taking the hit but getting the first down, setting up the Colts for the game winning score the next play. This play greatly increased the Colts' chances of winning.
Luck's scramble for a 1st down on 3rd and 7 on the last drive was the most crucial play of the game, went from 37% chance of winning to 75%.— Kyle Rodriguez (@ColtsAuth_Kyle) October 9, 2012
1. 2:00 left in the fourth quarter - 12 yard completion to Reggie Wayne
This play was remarkable. After the two minute warning, the Colts were faced with a 3rd down and 12 from the Packers' 47 yard line, trailing by five. Luck took the snap and faced the blitz. Clay Matthews quickly got past left tackle Anthony Castonzo and hit Luck. With Matthews trying to pull Luck down, the quarterback somehow got off a catchable ball to Reggie Wayne, who had to make a slight adjustment to catch the ball. The play kept the Colts' eventual game winning drive alive and will be one that will be remembered for a long time, just like so many others from this game will be.
[Note: for a more complete breakdown of the play, check out Phil Richards' article here]