It was the biggest game Andrew Luck has played as a Colt so far, and he played perhaps the best game he has had as a Colt so far.
No matter what Luck says about this being a team effort and just another game and not every worrying about replacing Peyton Manning, the pressure undoubtedly was there. Indianapolis' love affair with Peyton was well documented last week, and it was on display again Sunday night. We also saw that Peyton still loves Indy, too. On this night, the past and the present collided. Manning vs. Luck. Colts vs. Broncos. No matter what Luck said, there was a ton of pressure on him in this game. If he lost it, it would make it even harder than it already was to move on from Peyton Manning. If the Colts lost, the questions of whether or not they made the right decision going with Luck would become even louder. It was unfair, yes, but Andrew Luck needed a big game on Sunday night to prove himself.
He showed up big time.
He threw three first half touchdown passes to give the Colts a 26-14 halftime lead, including leading a two-minute drill at the end of the half. In the second half, he added a rushing touchdown and finished the game out, leading the Colts to a massive 39-33 victory.
Luck's four total touchdowns tied a career high and Luck's win was the best of his career so far. In some ways, the torch was passed on Sunday night. Cris Collinsworth said after Luck's rushing score that the game was "a coming out party for a guy who didn't need it." He said earlier, when Luck threw a touchdown pass to Coby Fleener right before the end of the first half when people wondered if he would spike it and with the defense not yet set: "that's so Peyton Manning, isn't it? ... for a second year player, this guy is amazing."
Andrew Luck never ceases to be amazing. Playing on the biggest stage of his career, he didn't let it phase him one bit. In fact, he elevated his play. In the first six games of the season, Luck was absolutely phenomenal, scoring 9 total times. In this one game, he scored 4 times. He went up against his predecessor and the man who is undoubtedly the league's best quarterback - and he won. He matched Peyton Manning throw-for-throw, and then some. Luck brings a whole new dimension to his game that makes him nearly impossible to defend: he's the league's most efficient running quarterback. Not only can he match Peyton in terms of throwing ability, but added to his ground game he becomes truly special.
At the game Sunday night, one of the many signs at the game read "12 is the new 18." If anybody ever will be, it's Luck. And on Sunday night, in a game that it felt like everybody was watching, Luck put on a show. Luck is Indy's quarterback now and for the future, and Colts fans really got lucky with that one.
"I never viewed it as replacing Peyton," Luck said the week before the game. "I just viewed it as an opportunity to play quarterback in the NFL. It just so happens one of the greats of all-time was here before me." He has said before that he's not trying to replace Peyton, he's just trying to be himself and be as good as he can be.
And it appears that Andrew Luck is even better than anyone thought.
General: 21/38 (55.3%), 228 yards (6.0 yards per attempt), 3 TD, 0 INT, 99.5 passer rating, 65.4 QBR, 2 sacks, 4 rushes for 29 yards and 1 touchdown (7.3 yards per carry)
Number of Drives: 17 (including one at end of game with just one play, a kneel down)
Number of Plays: 71 (including one kneel down)
Number of Passing Plays: 44 (62.0%)
Shotgun Snaps (pass plays): 21 (47.7% of pass plays)
Play Action Attempts: 13 (29.5% of pass plays)
Drops: 4 (9.0% of pass plays)
Passes Charted by Field Position:
Number stands for the number of the player who caught the pass. X stands for an incomplete pass (number in parenthesis was intended receiver). Blue number stands for a touchdown. Red X stands for an interception. Green X stands for a drop. Red headings along upper and lefthand side indicate how the areas of the field are broken down
* IMPORTANT NOTE: All of these statistics are not guaranteed to be 100% accurate whatsoever and some of them (number of plays pressured) are subjective. While I strive to be entirely accurate and correct, these numbers are prone to inerrancies occasionally. Either way, they will give you a very good idea of the point being made.
- Luck's first touchdown pass of the game was a beautiful play design by Pep Hamilton and a great call. Darrius Heyward-Bey went in motion right and that caused Denver cornerback Champ Bailey to head to that side of the field. Luck took the snap and faked the handoff to Trent Richardson. Meanwhile, DHB stopped and pivoted back towards the left side, where he was originally lined up. Luck pulled back the fake, turned around and threw the ball across the field to DHB, who easily took the pass in for a touchdown. It made Denver's defense (and especially Champ Bailey) look silly and it was perfectly executed by the Colts. That was by far my favorite Pep Hamilton play of the year so far, and it worked perfectly.
- Reggie Wayne's injury will taint Andrew Luck's night, at least in his mind. Luck misfired and one bad pass created a terrible situation for the Colts. In the fourth quarter, the Colts faced a third down and 1, trying to hang on to a lead. Everyone expected them to run the ball. Instead (and I LOVE this), Pep Hamilton stayed aggressive. Luck pumped right but then pulled it back in and threw an errant pass to a WIDE OPEN Reggie Wayne (see first picture below). It would have been an easy touchdown that could have put the game away. Instead, it was a failed third down conversion that led to a punt but more significantly, it was a play that Reggie Wayne tore his ACL on. The pass was a bit low, and as a result Reggie had to try to haul it in low. In doing so, his knee went the wrong way and just like that, he's done for the year. You can see Luck's reaction in the second picture below, and you could tell he felt terrible about it. He felt awful. Talking about the injury on Monday, he said the following: "Looking back it again today, there was really no one within 30 yards of him. He probably would have scored if I actually give him a decent ball. I feel somewhat responsible for the whole thing. Didn't complete it and I guess such is football at times. We'll move on.... I think I feel sick to my stomach about it a little bit. But I also realize it's football. I don't think Reggie wants me holding it over my head that it happened. So, after the game though, a big part of me almost felt like it was a loss in a sense because of what happened to Reggie and my involvement in it." The injury severely taints an otherwise brilliant night from Luck.
- In the Colts' three biggest games this year (49ers, Seahawks, Broncos), Andrew Luck has scored 7 total touchdowns and has not turned the ball over once while completing 58.1% of his passes for 616 yards (6.62 yards per attempt) and is averaging 5.17 yards per rush - and most importantly, he's 3-0 with a game winning drive / fourth quarter comeback. That's impressive. Very impressive.
- Many people have noted it before so this is nothing original, but Andrew Luck in the pocket is like the model quarterback for younger people learning the position. The way he climbs the pocket is amazing. It's exactly what you want.
- The Miami Heat have called up Andrew Luck wondering about his availability after his flop in the fourth quarter. But look, it's hard to blame Luck or the officials for that one. Kevin Vickerson had plenty of time to stop (in fact, he basically did) and then hit Luck anyways. And Vickerson certainly didn't deserve any benefit of the doubt - in the game overall, he was flagged twice for unsportsmanlike conduct, once for roughing the passer, and he clearly punched Samson Satele in the knee, injuring him. I don't mean to take away from the Luck recap, but the league seriously needs to consider action.
- Andrew Luck leads all NFL quarterbacks with 3 rushing touchdowns this season. ESPN has him rated as the league's best running quarterback. He has ran 7 times on third down, and every single time he has picked up the first. Here's a table of his rush attempts on third down this season:
|Opponent||Quarter||Yards to Go||Yards Gained|
What Others Are Saying (or said during the game):
Andrew Luck, ladies and gentlemen. Andrew Freaking Luck.— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) October 21, 2013
Andrew Luck.... kiiiiiind of a big deal around here— Jay Glazer (@JayGlazer) October 21, 2013
Andrew Luck is showing #Colts fans what Peyton Manning would look like if he were 13 years younger and could run. Whoa!— Marcellus Wiley (@marcelluswiley) October 21, 2013
Some of my favorite slogans for tonight's game: "Luck is Manning this team now" and "Luck be the QB tonight". I should have made tshirts...— Nick Ragsdale (@USAFootballBlog) October 21, 2013
So Andrew Luck is collapsing under the pressure, huh? Chalk it up to nerves? Or the sophomore slump? #DENvsIND— Mark Kriegel (@MarkKriegel) October 21, 2013
Whoa, look. The Colts offense is performing well by throwing the ball. With Andrew Luck at QB. Imagine that.— Chris Trapasso (@ChrisTrapasso) October 21, 2013
Luck has been nothing short of amazing— mark schlereth (@markschlereth) October 21, 2013
Andrew Luck is very unique. Rare strength/power, poise and playmaking combo.— Daniel Jeremiah (@MoveTheSticks) October 21, 2013
Manning's returned to Indy to see Andrew Luck owning his old stadium..— Steve Wyche (@wyche89) October 21, 2013
Lucks ceiling his higher than any QB in the NFL.. Brady/ Manning can't run. He can do everything they can— John Middlekauff (@JohnMiddlekauff) October 21, 2013
"[The video tribute] ended the Manning portion of the program. The rest of the night belonged largely to Luck, whose preternatural maturity and unpretentiousness calls to mind a younger Manning. Luck, the second-year pro out of Stanford, threw for three touchdowns and ran for another in a 39-33 victory against the Broncos."
"Let's not forget, for all the emotions that Manning had to be feeling returning to his home of 14 years, Andrew Luck was feeling as much or more pressure as the heir apparent. He finished the game with 228 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions and added another 29 yards rushing, including at least one critical third-down conversion and another touchdown."
"Luck finished mistake-free (21 of 38, 228 yards, three touchdowns, no interceptions or turnovers), and didn't appear to be affected either before or during the game by the magnitude of it. "I didn't see anything out of the ordinary from what I always see with Andrew,'' said Fleener. "A lot of quarterbacks, I guess, would feel they have to do something out of the ordinary on a night like this. But Andrew understands it's going to be his play on the field, and nothing else, that will determine his success."
"And that's why Indianapolis should feel like the luckiest city in the NFL this morning."