Andrew Luck Recap: Game Three vs. 49ers

Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Every week, Stampede Blue's Josh Wilson will take an in-depth look at Andrew Luck's game from the previous weekend. Today we look at his performance in the third game against the San Francisco 49ers.

Last week, I wrote about how the Colts were totally, utterly dependent on Andrew Luck. So, of course, it makes sense that in one of the toughest games of the entire year for the Colts, they weren't. Figures.

But I'm not complaining, and neither is Luck. He didn't throw for even 200 yards, much less 300. He didn't throw a touchdown. But yet still Colts head coach Chuck Pagano said that he has "never seen him smile the way he was smiling after this one.''

Playing less than an hour from Stanford University, where he played collegiately, and playing against his former head coach at Stanford, Jim Harbaugh (also a former Colts quarterback), Luck's Colts rolled to an incredibly impressive 27-7 victory. The most impressive thing about the game wasn't Luck however - it was the run game rolling over the 49ers defense for 179 yards and 3 scores on 39 carries (some of which was by Luck himself). It was the defense suddenly looking like one of the league's best, shutting down the dangerous Colin Kaepernick. It was the special teams, pinning the 49ers inside the 10 yard line on 3 out of 4 punts (hat tip to punter Pat McAfee).

And behind it all, Andrew Luck was glad to stay behind the scenes. He's all about winning. So what if he didn't put up the stats? His team went to the west coast, played a team that is a Super Bowl contender, and totally dominated the game for 60 minutes. Luck played well, but he was overshadowed by other great performances. And that's incredibly good news for the Colts and their fans.

Luck delivered the score of the game, keeping the ball on a bootleg around the left side for a score to put the game pretty much out of reach for the 49ers. He finished it off with an emphatic spike of the football. It was symbolic of the emphatic statement win the Colts notched over the 49ers.

And while their quarterback played a good game, he was overshadowed by others. And that's about as good of a recipe for success as there is.

Statistics:

General: 18/27 (66.7%), 164 yards (6.1 yards per attempt), 0 TD, 0 INT, 82.9 passer rating, 78.5 QBR, 1 sacks, 4 rushes for 24 yards and 1 touchdown (6.0 yards per carry)

Number of Drives: 11 (including a one-play drive that featured a kneel down to end the game)

Number of Plays: 67

Number of Passing Plays: 30 (44.78%)

Shotgun Snaps (pass plays): 17 (56.67%)

Play Action Attempts: 6 (20.0% of pass plays)

Drops: 1 (3.33% 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. Red headings along upper and lefthand side indicate how the areas of the field are broken down.

Screen_shot_2013-09-24_at_11

* 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.

Notable Plays:

  • It's hard not to love the play that Luck scored on. The Colts were at the 49ers' 6 yard line and it looked like just another handoff to Ahmad Bradshaw - which, might I add, was working very well so far that game. But on this play, Luck kept it himself and ran around the left end for an easy score. The play fake froze the linebackers and other defenders (as you can kind of see in the picture below) and allowed Luck to get around the end easily. "That was some call!" Phil Simms remarked on the broadcast. "It was part of the call that Pep put an option on it," Luck said after the game, and Chuck Pagano reemphasized that point on Monday when he said that the word "sucker" in the play call gave him an indication that the bootleg was possible. Anthony Castonzo said Sunday that, "I can promise you that I did not know he was going to keep it." It seems like the classic "nobody-knows-the-quarterback-is-keeping-it-bootleg-for-a-score" play that we've seen a few times before. And on Sunday, it worked about to perfection.

Photo_3_medium

Other Notes:

  • Andrew Luck is faster than you think. Jim Harbaugh earlier in the week before the game called him a "freakishly good athlete," and he showed it on Sunday.
  • While this isn't necessary on Luck, it impacts him in a huge way. The Colts' offensive line on Sunday did a great job in pass protection (especially Anthony Castonzo) and at the same time, Pep Hamilton called a game trying to keep Luck from hitting the ground as much. The offense on Sunday moved Luck around and featured a shorter passing game, trying to prevent as many hits. In fact, the protection wasn't anything abnormal compared to the rest of the NFL in terms of pass protection and that is a huge step forward. Pep Hamilton called the game attempting to keep Luck clean and the line helped in that goal quite a bit. If they can continue to do that going forward, it will be a HUGE boost for this team. Huge.
  • One thing I have been noticing this year is that Andrew Luck seems to be hanging onto the ball longer than he should. I've mentioned how some of the sacks this year are on him, but that isn't even the whole story. There was a great example of this in the second quarter of the game on Sunday. Tight end Coby Fleener ran an out route and was the intended receiver on the play. In the picture below you can clearly tell that Luck sees Fleener and the ball needs to be out right then, preferably even earlier. Instead, he has to avoid the rusher and then gets hit by another guy while throwing incomplete intended for Donald Brown. And this isn't the only time that Luck has held onto the ball too long this year - in fact, it has happened much more this year than last year. Why is that? Some have suggested to me that it's because he's afraid to throw an interception, but I don't think that's it at all. I think much morel likely it's the fact that he wants big plays every play. He has shown at other times this year the tendency to pass up a sure short completion for an uncertain deeper one. Many have attributed this to the "Bruce Arians affect." That may very well be the reason. But regardless, Luck seems to want the big play too much while taking the short plays will actually open up the deeper passing game and will lead to bigger plays over the course of the game. It's not even close to being a reason for concern just yet, but it's certainly something to keep an eye on.

Screen_shot_2013-09-23_at_5

What Others Are Saying (or said during the game):

John Breech, CBSSports.com:

"It's been three years since Jim Harbaugh coached Andrew Luck at Stanford and if for some reason, Harbaugh forgot how good Luck is, he got a nice reminder on Sunday. Luck threw for 164 yards and ran for a touchdown as the Colts rolled over the 49ers 27-7 at Candlestick Park."

Vinnie Iyer, Sporting News:

"Luck didn't just outrush Kaepernick, 24-20, but he was mentally tougher and sharper, more poised in and out of the pocket. He avoided the mistakes San Francisco's defense tends to force. The Colts' additional offensive attitude carried over to their defense, which smacked around the league's best front and Kaepernick in a package deal."

Colts running back Trent Richardson, on Mike and Mike in the Morning on Monday morning:

"First of all, Andrew is the smartest person I have ever met. He's a rocket scientist. This man has about four or five audibles in one play. He is the man. First pick of the draft and the third pick, it's a blessing."

Overall Game Grade: B+

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