Three games into Andrew Luck's career as an Indianapolis Colt, and he finally gets a rest. With the Colts' bye week coming early this year (week 4), Luck gets a chance to collect himself and get ready for a long thirteen game run. Let's take a moment now to look back at the start of his season... all three games of it.
WEEK 1 - Loss 21-41 at Chicago
Stats: 23/45 (51.1%), 309 yards (6.87 YPA), 1 TD, 3 INT, 2 rush, 9 rush yards (4.5 YPA), 1 fumble, 52.9 passer rating
The Andrew Luck era got off to a rough start, mainly because of the talent surrounding the first overall draft pick. The running game struggled, there were some drops (ahem, Donald Brown...), and the offensive line was like a turnstile, particularly left guard Seth Olsen. But Luck wasn't without fault, either. He turned the ball over four times and struggled throwing the ball deep. Not to be forgotten, however, is that it was against a good Bears team. In this game, Luck threw his first touchdown pass (a four yard slant to Donnie Averyearly in the fourth quarter) and also topped 300 yards passing in his first game (309 - the final 26 of which came on Luck's final completion, a 4th and 15 conversion which was promptly followed up by an interception to end his day).
Also of note is that Luck led a great one minute drill before halftime, but Adam Vinatieri missed a 37 yard field goal right before halftime. We had seen in the preseason that Luck was good at the two minute drill, and in the first game we saw it as well. It would be highlighted the next week.
It seemed like all day Luck was under duress and facing a third down and long. He forced some throws, but showed promise as well. For his first ever regular season game in the NFL, it wasn't bad. And considering that, I'd give him a C+ for the game.
WEEK 2 - Win 23-20 Against Minnesota
Stats: 20/31 (64.5%), 224 yards (7.23 YPA), 2 TD, 0 INT, 4 rush, 21 rush yards (5.3 YPA), 107.5 passer rating
In Andrew Luck's best performance of the young season, the rookie played turnover free football, threw two first half scoring tosses and set up the game winning field goal. All in a day's work for the 23-year old playing in his second regular season game.
Luck's first touchdown pass was three yards to tight end Dwayne Allen in a tight window at the goal line with three Vikings' defenders closing in. His second came with seven seconds left in the first half, when Reggie Waynebroke open and hauled in a thirty yard scoring pass from Luck before halftime.
In the second half the Colts'got conservative and their 17-6 halftime lead crumbled. With 31 seconds left in the game, Vikings' tight end Kyle Rudolph tied up the game with a six yard touchdown reception from Christian Ponder.
With only 31 seconds left, two timeouts, and at his own 20 yard line, the rookie Luck faced his biggest challenge in the NFL yet - win a game that shouldn't have been that close, and do it in the fashion of his predecessor (some guy named Peyton Manning, who was pretty good at leading game winning drives).
A 20 yard completion to Donnie Avery. Timeout. A 20 yard completion to Reggie Wayne. Timeout. A 7 yard completion to Avery. 5-yard offsides penalty on the defense while Luck was trying to spike the ball. All of the sudden, the Colts were at the Minnesota 35 yard line with 0:13 left. And out jogged the greatest clutch kicker in the history of ever. There was no doubt. Adam Vinatieri drilled the game winning 53-yard kick, and Andrew Luck got both his first win and his first game winning drive. How about that for your second game? In fact, how rare was what Luck did? Check out this tweet from Phil Richards the day after the game:
Per Elias Sports Bureau, #Colts Andrew Luck is first rookie QB to engineer game-winning 4th qtr drive in Sept. since Archie Manning, 1971.— Phil Richards (@PhilRichards6) September 17, 2012
Luck was spectacular in his second game. Once again he was running for his life (this even worse than week one) and his team and coaching staff didn't help much. But all Luck needed was the help of his old reliable kicker, and the Colts were 1-1.
WEEK 3 - Loss 17-22 against Jacksonville
Stats: 22/46 (47.8%), 313 yards (6.8 YPA), 2 TD, 1 INT, 4 rush, 50 yards (12.5 YPA), 75.7 passer rating
Another week, another second half collapse, this time to great for even Andrew Luck to pull the Colts through. That pretty much summarizes the game. Luck again threw two first half touchdown passes - a perfect 40 yard throw to fellow rookie T.Y. Hilton and then a 4 yard slant to running back Mewelde Moore with under a minute to play in the first half.
In the second half, however, the Colts once again fell apart. Even Luck got in on it this time, making the worst throw of any of the three games and tossing the ball right into the arms of a wide open Paul Posluszny... the Jaguars' linebacker. Luck struggled at times in the second half (compared to the rest of the team, however, he was great), but when it mattered, he was at his best. Once again he set up Vinatieri with a go-ahead field goal in the final minute of the game, and once again Vinatieri made it. With 0:56 left, the Colts led 17-16 and it looked as if the Colts had dodged another bullet, thanks to Luck.
Not so fast, as Lee Corso would say. Blaine Gabbert hit Cecil Shorts III, the Colts were caught out of position (Antoine Bethea, anyone?) and Shorts went 80 yards for the score. Luck took over at the Colts' 38 yard line with 0:45 left, needing a touchdown. On 3rd and 10 following two incompletions, Luck hit T.Y. Hilton for 36 yards. A spike and an incompletion later and Luck was down to his final chance, from the Jacksonville 26 yard line. Incomplete in the end zone. Colts lose.
Despite his team's poor performance, Andrew Luck played well once again. Welcome to the story of the 2012 Indianapolis Colts.
OVERALL - 1-2 Entering Bye Week
Stats: 65/122 (53.3%), 846 yards (6.93 YPA), 5 TD, 4 INT, 10 rush, 80 rush yards (8.0 YPA), 1 fumble, 75.4 passer rating
Andrew Luck has been very good so far this year. He's had a real weak rushing attack, a porous offensive line, some drops (I'm talking about you, Donald Brown and Coby Fleener), a defense that has given up 27.7 points per game and much too conservative coaching. His kicker is only making 66.7% of his kicks this year (Vinatieri is 4/6). Bottom line is that Luck has gotten virtually no help from his team. He hasn't been close to perfect this year, but he has been very good (and don't let the 5 turnovers fool you - in his past two games he has thrown four TDs and only turned it over once). And for a rookie who has only played three games, he has exceeded my expectations (especially in clutch situations). He's going to be one of the best in the NFL. We all knew that already. It just may come a little sooner than we thought.
Overall Grade through three games: B+