No quarterback in NFL history had ever led 10 game winning drives in his first two years in the league. Andrew Luck became the first on Sunday night.
Playing in just his 24th career game (25th if you include playoffs), Luck recorded his 10th game winning drive, an NFL record for a quarterback through his first 2 seasons - and Luck still has 8 games left in his second season. To go along with that, Luck also notched his 7th fourth quarter comeback.
By comparison, in his 24 regular season game Andrew Luck has only lost 7 games. That means he has as many fourth quarter come from behind wins as he does total losses.
Game winning drives and fourth quarter comebacks have become commonplace for Andrew Luck and company, and we have already come to expect them. But in order to even get a chance at his 10th game winning drive Sunday night, Luck had to overcome a big deficit. Down 18 points with just a little over a quarter left to go, Luck and receiver T.Y. Hilton then caught fire. In a span of 11 minutes and 5 seconds, Luck found Hilton for 3 touchdown passes and found Coby Fleener for a 2 point conversion.
Of all the game winning drives, this was the most incredible. The Colts played so poorly in the first half that they had no business winning that game whatsoever. But this is a resilient team led by their unflappable quarterback, and as a result the Colts quickly climbed their way back in.
Andrew Luck misfired on passes. He missed open receivers. He made poor decisions and looked rattled - the first time this year that has been the case. But playing without his top two wide receivers behind a line that was awfully terrible and with a running back who was averaging just 2.5 yards per carry and with bad play calling from his offensive coordinator yet again, it was hard to blame a lot of it on Luck. And then Pep Hamilton went to a no huddle, shotgun passing attack, and the whole game was turned around by a quarterback who suddenly began throwing perfect rockets again and a receiver who proved that he is a matchup nightmare and legitimate threat no matter what the circumstances.
In the first half, Luck was constantly under immediate pressure and his receivers couldn't catch the passes he did throw. His numbers were awful: 3 of 12 (25.0%) for 56 yards (4.67 yards per attempt) without a touchdown and led the offense to only 3 points.
In the second half, however, Luck turned it around. He completed 15 of 28 passes (53.57%) for 215 yards (7.67 yards per attempt), 3 touchdowns, a 2 point conversion pass successful (along with one incomplete) and led the offense to 24 points.
Here is a chart of Luck passing by drive as the night went on. You can clearly see the improvement as the game went on.
Andrew Luck turned the worst performance of the year from the Colts into one of the most incredible comebacks in a long time. He is a special player and has the uncanny ability to ensure that the Colts in fact are never out of it. He maintained that point at halftime, and the Colts followed their leader. They followed him to an 18-point comeback and 27-24 victory over the division rival Texans (whose season was on the line) and took a major step towards the AFC South title.
We have come to expect fourth quarter comebacks out of Luck, but this one was unexpected - which makes it even more incredible.
General: 18/40 (45.0%), 271 yards (6.8 yards per attempt), 3 TD, 0 INT, 92.8 passer rating, 60.8 QBR, 4 sacks, 0 rush attempts
Number of Drives: 11
Number of Plays: 58
Number of Passing Plays: 44 (75.9%)
Shotgun Snaps (pass plays): 31 (70.5% of pass plays)
Play Action Attempts: 4 (9.1% of pass plays)
Drops: 7 (15.9% 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.
Game Winning Drive / Fourth Quarter Comeback Attempts:
As I already mentioned, Andrew Luck led his 10th game winning drive and 7th career fourth quarter comeback on Sunday against the Texans. He has had fourteen career games where he has had a chance at a game winning drive, and he has led the Colts to wins in ten of them. Below is a chart of each attempt, as well as Luck's individual statistics on the respective drives and the outcome of the game.
- This was Andrew Luck's second straight 3 touchdown, 0 interception day. In his previous 23 games (including playoffs), he had zero such games. In his last two games (wins over the Broncos and Texans), Luck has completed 39 of 78 passes (50.0%) for 499 yards (6.4 yards per attempt), 7 total touchdowns (6 passing,1 rushing) and no turnovers for a passer rating of 96.1.
- For the season, Luck has scored 16 touchdowns (13 passing, 3 rushing) and turned the ball over just 4 times (3 interceptions, 1 fumble lost). The only player who has thrown more than 8 touchdown passes on the season and has fewer picks than Luck is the Eagles' Nick Foles, who has thrown 13 scores without a pick this year (but 7 of those touchdowns came in one game). Andrew Luck has thrown 146 more passes than Foles on the season, too.
- Cris Collinsworth got very annoying very quickly Sunday night talking about the loss of Reggie Wayne impacting the Colts. He attributed almost everything - even drops - to not having Reggie Wayne out there. While he was excessive, the truth was that (especially early on) the Colts did indeed miss Reggie Wayne. The offensive line couldn't block and the receivers dropped many passes, yes. But the main thing that the Colts missed from Reggie was his smarts on the field. Widely considered the league's best route runner, Wayne also has the under appreciated skill of making adjustments to help out his quarterback. Reggie has done that often for Andrew Luck and it almost always goes unnoticed, but Sunday night you could tell that it was missing. I think we had no idea how much Reggie Wayne helped to mask the poor offensive line play by his adjustments, too - although I agree that the Colts line likely would have looked just as bad either way. Going forward, Andrew Luck is going to have to compensate for the loss of Reggie Wayne in that way perhaps more than any other. Can he do it? Absolutely. But Sunday night showed that part of Wayne's absence that many didn't even consider coming into the game.
- Griff Whalen had a much bigger role than I (or anyone else) thought he would. He was second among Colts receivers in snaps played (40), second in targets (9) and tied for second in catches (3).
- Like he has all year, Andrew Luck continues to draw penalties. He drew a 46-yard defensive pass interference penalty, which was just as good as a completion. He has been doing that all year. The Texans were also flagged for a 15-yard unnecessary roughness and a 10-yard roughing the passer call on passing plays.
- Drop count: T.Y. Hilton - 1; Griff Whalen - 3; Donald Brown - 1; Darrius Heyward-Bey - 1. Total - 6. Wow. That's called not helping Andrew Luck out at all.
- This is also called not helping Andrew Luck out at all (see picture below). The offensive line had their worst game of the year, and they often let an unblocked (or barely blocked) guy come in easily at Luck. Seriously, I don't know exactly how many times it happened but it was a lot. Hard to blame Luck for a lot of the errant throws because of all the hits. On this particular play, the Colts didn't even block at all the league's best defensive player in J.J. Watt.
- I said a lot of the errant throws, not all of them. Luck had his share of misfires and more surprisingly, he had his share of poor decisions. Take these two plays for example - on both of them Luck had a guy WIDE OPEN (red box) but choose instead to throw to a covered guy (yellow circle).
We just saw why Luck is so special. Average at best most of the night - game on the line, captain cool for a TD/2pt conversion— John Middlekauff (@JohnMiddlekauff) November 4, 2013
Andrew Luck is special. The Colts are going to own this division for a LONG time.— Daniel Jeremiah (@MoveTheSticks) November 4, 2013
Damn, that was a beautiful throw by Luck.— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) November 4, 2013
Want to be impressed by Andrew Luck? Watch his demeanor after every drive motivating teammates regardless of results-oh and he can ball 2— Doug Gottlieb (@GottliebShow) November 4, 2013
Pagano says Andrew Luck was the 1st guy in the locker room telling guys not to panic, stick to the process during halftime last night.— Kevin Bowen (@KBowenColts) November 4, 2013
Luck's 271 passing yards were the most Houston's D (No. 1 in the NFL) has allowed in 2013. Had been allowing 158.1 passing yards per game.— Kevin Bowen (@KBowenColts) November 4, 2013
The Colts had 6 "official" drops on Sunday, bringing their season total to 22. 8.3% of all Luck's passes have been dropped (4th in NFL).— Kyle J. Rodriguez (@ColtsAuth_Kyle) November 4, 2013
"This is Andrew Luck's division, and the Texans are just living in it."
"The night was supposed to be about Case Keenum. Instead, Andrew Luck stole the show.
Peter King, the Monday Morning Quarterback, on the Colts at number two on his "Fine Fifteen," rhetorically asks:
"Any doubt left that the Colts made the right pick in the 2012 first round?"
Mike Florio, Pro Football Talk, on the Colts at number three in his power rankings:
"Andrew Luck is so unfazed by the prospect of engineering a late win that the rest of us are now unfazed when he does it."
Frank Schwab, Yahoo Sports, on the Colts at number one in his power rankings:
"The fact is, they have the best set of quality wins in the league. And Andrew Luck is developing an Elway-esque fourth-quarter reputation. They've shown a consistent ability to beat elite teams, and they deserve a chance in the top spot."
"The amazing part of Andrew Luck's ability to lead his team to comeback wins is the way it is accepted as the norm now.
"Bringing the Colts back from a 21-3 deficit for a 27-24 win last night against the Texans was the 10th time in two seasons he's led a game-winning drive in the fourth quarter or overtime, so it's almost become commonplace to his teammates.
"I would like to say there was a movie speech or something by him at halftime, but there really wasn't," Colts tight end Coby Fleener said, via Mike Wells of ESPN.com. "He doesn't surprise me. That's the complex answer that I can give. Pretty much there's nothing he does that surprises me."
"Remember when comeback wins came as surprises? With Andrew Luck in control of the Indianapolis Colts' offense, such victories have nearly become the expected outcomes."
Chuck Pagano, Colts head coach:
"I don't know if there's a tougher QB in the league and one that can make the plays under the duress that he was under and extend plays."