Ok, I admit it. I can't take credit for the title of this post. Chris Brown @smartfootball tweeted something to this effect in the 4th quarter of the game. The amazing Colts comeback featured Andrew Luck at his best, directing the show, making pinpoint passes, and never panicking. Yet part of the reason a comeback was necessary were some puzzling decisions from the young Indianapolis QB.
Before the playoffs started, I analyzed some of Luck's recent games and found the Week 14 loss to the Bengals illuminating. This was a game the Colts lost by double digits but I felt Luck outplayed his counterpart, Andy Dalton, considerably. Some of the strengths he exhibited in this game and throughout the season are:
- Brilliant footwork. Unlike other QBs that have struggled with drop-backs (Kaepernick), feet/hips (Newton, Griffin), Andrew Luck consistently exhibited good footwork. His flips moved fluidly left and right and followed his eyes through his reads.
- Pocket presence. Luck showed great confidence in the pocket, stepping into all of his throws, even after sacks or hits. He slid into spaces with small steps and without taking his eyes of the field, something Newton, Kaepernick, Griffin, and Foles all tended to do.
- Looking off safeties. Again and again, Luck would set up defenders with his drop or his eyes. He rarely left his eyes glued to his intended receiver.
- Advanced ability to recognize coverages and get through reads. His ability to understand not only his offense but defensive coverages allowed him time to look defenders off. He was able to quickly identify secondary reads targets on a consistent basis.
- Good accuracy and touch. Numerous throws were only his guy could reach the ball. Consistently released the ball high. I would say his arm is not as strong/accurate as Griffin/Newton/Kaepernick, but because his motion is more consistent, he delivers more balls on target than those guys.
- Athleticism. He is really, really hard to bring down. Reminds me a lot of Ben Roethlisberger.
Some things he needs to work on include:
- Gunslinger. Luck sometimes tries to fit passes into windows that aren't there. He also was very aggressive on some throws where shorter passes for 1st downs were available. He also has a tendency, when the defense drops a lot of guys back, to pump a few times and try to find an open man. He didn't take any sacks this game, but several big hits could have easily turned into sacks.
- Short throws. Luck missed a few of these. In some instances, it seems like his timing/chemistry with the receivers is off and he rushed/gunned some throws. I wasn't watching for their route running; bad routes can easily throw off timing, but something Andrew can work on.
- Overthrows. He missed only a few receivers high, but I've noticed that Luck has a tendency to overthrow guys in the intermediate, 10-20 yard range. He has good touch on deeper throws, but needs to work on improving that touch to all areas of the field.
Nearly all of these strengths and weaknesses showed in his play during yesterday's game. Part of the reason the Colts won this one was the receivers and backs finally showed up. After the Colts realized that Donald Brown is their best remaining running back, that part of the offense has improved. I don't think I need to write about T.Y. Hilton. Before the game, I wrote:
Overall, Luck showed me that he is, at this point, the most advanced quarterback I've analyzed here in QB Corner. Nick Foles has better numbers, but did not show the fluidity in reads, pocket presence, and mobility that Luck did. Foles also has LeSean McCoy, DeSean Jackson, and Chip Kelly. I think if Luck were to trade places with Foles, Andrew would turn into a nightmare for defenses everywhere. Add his skills with his size and ability to avoid injury, and you get the the best young quarterback in the NFL. I know this isn't exactly revelatory, but it's nice to see an overall No. 1 pick live up to expectations. I think as the team around him gets better, Andrew Luck will turn into a truly special player. I look forward to Saturday's playoff game with the Chiefs, a game I think the Colts will win.
The Colts indeed did win, and while KC injuries had a big deal to do with it, so did Andrew Luck. Good luck to him and to Colts fans going forward. To see the full analysis from the Cincy game, complete with tape of every meaningful pass, click here.
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