Andrew Luck is the key to just about everything the Colts have done this offseason and are going to do this season. It's all about Luck. If he doesn't play well (or - gasp - doesn't play at all for whatever reason), the numerous offseason moves the Colts made won't really matter. The high hopes that the team and their fans have for the season would instantly evaporate. We saw first hand just how important a quarterback can be to a franchise, and while no quarterback in league history has been as important to his team as Peyton Manning was to the Colts, there are several quarterbacks in the NFL currently whose teams would be devastated without their signal caller. And the Colts are one of those teams once again.
As a result of the importance of Andrew Luck to the team, and also because of the fact that he's just really fun to watch and it's really exciting to look at a young rising superstar. So because of that, we will be looking at each of Andrew Luck's games in-depth every Tuesday following the game (except for the Monday night game - we'll have to adjust it a bit with that one). I'll go back and watch each and every snap he took and write about it here.
I wasn't planning on doing preseason game recaps but rather was just going to start after the week one game against the Oakland Raiders. And after he threw just six passes in the first preseason game (a big loss to the Buffalo Bills), my decision was warranted (Luck went 4 of 6 (66.7%) for 51 yards (8.5 YPA), no touchdowns, no picks, and was sacked once (for a loss of 10 yards), ending with a very solid passer rating of 93.1. But that wasn't enough to do a recap on, so instead I looked at Chandler Harnish, who threw 33 passes a week ago.
This week, however, Luck more than doubled his attempts (13) and had a huge impact on the game and an incredibly impressive showing, enough to cause me to write this article. So without any more rambling from me to start out with, let's look at Andrew Luck's performance Sunday on the road against the New York Giants.
It started off with a run, meaning that all the talk of a "run first" offense was absolutely correct. Okay, kidding aside, they did start off with a running play, a loss of one yard on a handoff to Vick Ballard. On the next play, Luck made one of his best throws of the night, though it would fall incomplete.
On 2nd down and 11 backed up at his own 6 yard line, Luck faked the handoff to Ballard and then rolled out left, with Justin Tuck pursuing him. Still on the run to the left (a very difficult situation for a right handed quarterback to throw in), Luck squared his shoulders and showed tremendous strength to fire an absolute perfect pass in to tight end Coby Fleener coming across the field towards the left sideline. Luck's pass traveled just over Mathias Kiwanuka's outstretched arm and then right past Sergio Brown's hands and perfectly into Fleener's. And he dropped it. Still, anything less and that ball might have been picked, but instead it had people raving about Luck's amazing skills despite an incomplete pass - that at very least would have gotten the Colts a first down and out to the 19 yard line and very likely much more yardage as well - Fleener had just one guy to get past right after he caught it and he would likely have scored. A perfect pass from Luck, but it was dropped.
Another run on 3rd and 11 went nowhere and the Colts were forced to punt after a three and out on their first offensive possession of the game.
On the next drive, the Colts took to the air with Luck dropping back on each of the 8 plays on the drive. On first down from the Colts' 19 yard line, Luck faked the handoff to Ballard and threw on a skinny post to Darrius Hewyard-Bey. The pass was just inches too short and DHB couldn't pull it in, as the pass hit the ground before he could get his hands underneath it. It wasn't the best throw by Luck and a nicely placed ball would have been a sure catch (well, as sure of a play could be with DHB as receiver).
On second down the Colts once again ran play action (though it was a very weak play fake by Luck) and a tremendous blitz pickup by Vick Ballard allowed Luck the time to air it out deep to speedster T.Y. Hilton, who had single coverage and had a step, but Luck's pass sailed just over the diving hands of Hilton. That's another one that very well could have gone for a deep score, but on this one it was Luck just overthrowing him. At this point, he was 0 for 3 passing and the Colts hadn't moved the ball at all. On 3rd down and 10 from the 19 yard line, with 6:21 left in the first quarter, however, Luck hit his first completion of the ball game, and from then on he was on fire.
From the shotgun Luck took the snap and Vick Ballard once again provided him with a nice block, allowing Luck to step up in the pocket, roll right, and hit DHB on a comeback route for a first down. On first down and 10 from the Colts' 33 yard line, Luck then threw another pass to DHB, a screen pass that was caught a yard behind the line of scrimmage. DHB turned it into a gain of 9 and then Luck caused Giants' defensive lineman Linval Joseph to commit an encroachment penalty, giving the Colts a first down. Luck actually was very, very good last year at causing defensive penalties pre-snap and he drew another one on Sunday.
On first down offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton dialed up another screen pass, this one to the left side to Reggie Wayne about a yard behind the line of scrimmage. It went for just a gain of 3, though it was perhaps the best gain of 3 that you'll see, as Reggie caught the ball easily with just his right hand in the air (a pass that easily could have been caught with two hands, mind you). It was very impressive, and it's something that Reggie does work on (watching him catch one handed passes of about 8 yards from the jugs machine is one of the most impressive things you'll see).
On 2nd and 7, Luck faked the handoff to Ballard, and - wait for it - Mike McGlynn blew a block of Justin Tuck and Luck was forced to scramble, beginning to roll right before cutting it back and running through an opening in the line, beating a linebacker and then sliding - though it was one of the worst slides I've seen, and it's not the first time that Luck has slid like that. Somebody please teach him how to slide. Please. But on this play, Luck avoided the sack and then picked up the first down with his legs on a gain of 14 - displaying a very good part of his game that is often overlooked.
After that first down pickup, Luck threw his third screen pass in four plays, hitting DHB left at the line of scrimmage on a pass that went for 7 yards. That brought up a 2nd down and 3 with 2:57 left in the first quarter from the Giants' 28 yard line.
Luck faked the handoff to Vick Ballard, Ballard once again had a nice pickup, but Stanley Havili was beat by Keith Rivers. Rivers hit Luck right after he released the pass and was falling backwards and threw an awful pass right to Aaron Ross at the 4 yard line, a few yards away from Reggie Wayne. The pass went right into Ross' hands... and right out of them as well. He dropped the easy pick and the ball went up in the air. Ever alert, Reggie made a great effort to tip the ball again back to himself and made a great sideline catch along the right sideline of the end zone for a touchdown. It was an absolutely incredible play by Wayne, and it was easily Luck's worst throw of the day. When the only true, clear bad throw of Luck's night was a touchdown, then you know he had a very good day.
"I deserve an interception for that one," Luck said after the game. "I was talking to [Matt] Hasselbeck and he says no, no you don't deserve an interception. For all the times you'll get burned in the rest of your career, you always take the ones that bounce your way. But, it's Reggie Wayne. Good things seem to happen when you throw the ball up in his general zip code."
A Greg Toler interception of Eli Manning on the Giants' next possession gave the Colts great starting field position at the Giants' 41 yard line, but after 2 straight runs, the Colts faced a 3rd down and 3 from the 34 yard line with just 5 seconds left in the first quarter. From the shotgun, Luck ran a designed rollout to the right and quick throw, but Justin Tuck made a great jump to bat down the pass at the line of scrimmage, brining out Adam Vinatieri for the 52 yard field goal attempt, which he made, giving the Colts a 10-3 lead.
After a Giants' punt the Colts took over at their own 40 yard line and once again took to the air. On first down they ran a quick slant to Reggie Wayne to the right that went for 6 yards, and then Aaron Ross gave the Colts 15 additional yards with a facemask penalty. After two straight handoffs to Donald Brown (that totaled 4 yards combined), Luck faced a 3rd down and 6. The ensuing play was a completion on a comeback route to T.Y. Hilton on a play that highlighted the timing that Luck and Hilton have - Luck threw the ball to Hilton's backside shoulder before Hilton had even come out of his break and it was in the absolute perfect spot where it needed to be. It was a nice throw, a nice catch, a nice demonstration of Luck and Hilton's timing, and it was good for a first down. Oh, and not to mention that Luck was crushed by Justin Tuck right after he threw it, so credit to Luck that he stood in there and delivered the pass.
The Colts handed the ball off to Donald Brown on first down yet again and it went for no yards. Donald Thomas then committed a false start penalty, pushing the offense back even further and giving Luck a second down and 15. From the shotgun, Luck threw a screen to Donald Brown to the left that went for a gain of 4. That brought up 3rd down and 11 from the Giants 18 yard line with 9:48 left in the second quarter. Luck faked the handoff to Donald Brown and then delivered an absolute perfect pass right over cornerback Jayron Hosley to a leaping T.Y. Hilton along the right sideline of the end zone. Hilton got his feet in bounds and it was another touchdown pass for Luck, and while the first one was Luck's worst pass of the night, this one may have been his best. For sure, though, it was his last, as on the Colts' next possession Matt Hasselbeck took over for Luck.
The second year quarterback finished 9 for 13 (69.2%) for 107 yards (8.2 YPA), 2 touchdowns, no picks, no sacks, a 133.7 passer rating, and one rush for 14 yards (the longest rush of the night for any Colt). And when he exited the game, he had given the Colts a 17-3 lead (they would go on to win 20-12).
On Sunday, Andrew Luck was at his best. He played at about as high of a level as he has played in the NFL, even despite one of his scores being a dropped interception. After starting the game 0 for 3, Luck finished 9 for 10. Pep Hamilton's play calling was great, running screen passes and adjusting to let Luck find his comfort zone. Luck made some absolutely incredible throws as well and showed off his mobility and pocket presence to top it all off.
Overall, it was a very impressive showing from Andrew Luck. Granted, it was just a preseason game and it didn't tell us anything we didn't already know (that Luck is incredible), but it was a great game from the Colts' franchise quarterback and one that saw him make several very good plays.
It will be a lot of fun to watch him play this season, and if Sunday's game was any indication, the Colts should be winning quite a few games, too.
"When Luck is throwing the ball the way he is throwing it, we can't be stopped," T.Y. Hilton said. "You know he's going to put the ball there. You have a quarterback guys dream of having. I think he's going to be much better than last year. From where he left off, he's going to skyrocket."
This is the first of my Andrew Luck recaps. Just like the players and coaches, I need a preseason too. So I'm asking you - what would you like to see every week regarding Luck's performance? I can tell you that it probably won't be a play by play like this one was, but what would you like it to be? What would you really like to read every week regarding Andrew Luck's performance? Let me know in the comments, on twitter, or by sending me an email (colts_fan_wilson @ yahoo . com)