The 2012 (or is it considered 2013?) Playoffs have given us a unique situation that lets us compare a rookie QB against two of the greatest to ever play the game, all against the same Defense. With the Ravens beating the Colts, Broncos, and Patriots on their way to Super Bowl XLVII, we as Colts fans get to see how Andrew Luck fared against the same defense that went up against Peyton Manning and Tom Brady.
And boy were the results interesting...
First, a little disclaimer: While this will be a fun exercise in comparing a single game between the three Offenses (I can't get player specific, but we know how important the QB is on all 3 teams), no one should read more into this than it being a single game. Looking at just Playoff games in general is bad practice, so looking at a single Playoff game is not going to win many arguments as to the merits of these three players. It does, however, give us a gauge as to where Luck is in comparison to these other two guys.
Now that my disclaimer is out of the way, here's the quick summary: the Colts and Andrew Luck played better than both Manning & the Broncos, as well as Brady and the Patriots against the Ravens. Let me show you how and why. First, the table of data and what it all means:
|Orange Zone Eff||24.5%||3||74.1%||1||25.6%||2||52.0%||9|
|Avg Start Pos||21.2||2||20.7||3||28.1||1||29.6||13|
|3 and Outs||0.11||1||1.15||2.5||1.15||2.5||4.64||4|
|Penalty Yds / Play||0.337||1||1.104||3||0.592||2||0.831||14|
Because all three teams played the same team, it eliminates the need to "adjust for opponent". However, there was one variable between the three teams, and that's the location where they each played the Ravens. Think teams play better at home than on the road? The Ravens certainly did this season, so these numbers are home/away adjusted, to put them on a level playing field. The percentage is based on a "perfect game" based on my weights (best game of year was 49ers over Packers in Divisional Round, 91.5%). The Ravens column is their average for the season, both home and away, including Playoffs, and their league rank.
As you can see, the Colts slightly outplayed the Broncos, and were a good distance ahead of the Patriots. I want to look at a couple stats specifically, to see where Luck and the Colts shined, as well as where they struggled:
- The Colts Drive Success Rate wasn't at the same level as either the Broncos or Patriots, but still better than what the Ravens gave up this season by over 5%.
- Field Position played a huge role in the Colts and Broncos games, as it always seemed that they were starting deep in their own territory, while the Patriots easily won that battle, especially in the first half. The Colts got bumped up slightly with the adjustment, but in terms of real yards, the Colts lost between 110 and 120 yards of field position to what the Patriots had. It was an average of 10 yards per drive. Think that caused any problems for the Colts?
- Luck was between Manning and Brady in terms of Adjusted Net Passing Yards per Attempt, which is nice to see as Luck struggled in this stat all year. None of the three guys were above what the Ravens gave up on average in 2012, so nobody really threw the ball well.
- Colts had the best Yards per Drive, going ten yards more per drive than the Ravens allowed this season. In order to hang around they had to do that with the awful field position.
- The Colts dominated both the Broncos and Patriots in terms of Time of Possession per Drive, holding the ball for nearly a minute longer per drive than either of the other two teams. A lot has been made of the large number of plays the Ravens Defense has gone up against this postseason, but only one team actually kept them on the field for significant portions of time.
- The Broncos scored TDs each time they got close, but didn't get close very often. Both the Colts and Patriots got close to the end zone several more times, but couldn't score points.
- The Ravens at home this season were nearly a full Three and Out per game better than an average team, which is why the Colts only having one against them was excellent. The Broncos and Patriots were also good, having just 2.
- Yes the Colts were helped by the best running game of the three, but their weights combined are less than half of the Penalty Yards per Play, so it really didn't mean much to this.
Again, as I said in my disclaimer above, this does not mean that Luck has "arrived", or he'll definitely be at the level of Manning and Brady some day, or that he's there already. He's not. However, this is a very good sign that he can become that player, if he can already say he played a Playoff game at the level of two of the greatest ever to play.
And he's only going to get better.