Last week, during a guest spot on Clear Channel Houston radio station 790 AM, I was asked what I wanted to see out of Andrew Luck and the Colts when they visited Pittsburgh to take on the Steelers in preseason game No. 2 for 2012. My answer was simple: I wanted to see Luck's resiliency. I wanted to see how he would react to a a big turnover, perhaps even a pick six.
Last night's game gave me exactly what I wanted.
With 3:08 left in the first quarter, three series removed from the Colts defense doing an O-LAY! to Antonio Brown and the Steelers offense (Brown scampered 57 yards for a score after several pathetic attempts by Colts defenders to tackle him), Luck threw a pass near the sideline for Reggie Wayne. The ball looked awkward, and, sure enough, Ike Taylor stepped in front of it and returned it 49 yards for a touchdown. After the extra point, Pittsburgh was up 14-0.
Again, this was what I wanted to see. Defense playing terrible. Offense looking shell shocked. Luck throwing a terrible pick six.
It was on the next series that we found out what our team's new QB is made of.
On the next drive, Luck completed four straight passes to get the Colts into Steelers territory, including converting a 3rd-and-6 from the Indy 24. Donald Brown took a hand-off 21 yards off right guard a few plays later, and the Colts were at 1st-and-goal from the Steelers 3. Three plays later, Brown punched it in from the one yard line for a touchdown.
10 plays. 80 yards. 4:48. Touchdown.
Hot damn! We gotta quarterback!
The touchdown drive following the pick six seemed to invigorate the team. The defense forced Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers offense into a three-and-out the next series. Luck and the Colts started at their own 19, and then marched to the Pittsburgh 43. Luck then hit T.Y. Hilton square in the hands with a brilliant dart over the middle. However, Hilton failed to catch the ball, which bounced up into the air and into the hands of a Steelers defensive back. If Hilton makes that easy grab, he walks into the endzone for a 43-yard score.
Undaunted, the Colts forced Pittsburgh into another three-and-out. Luck got the ball at the Indy 20, and then marched the offense 80 yards in 10 plays. Luck scored the touchdown himself on a bootleg keeper after a series of confusing events involving the replacement officials.
Once again, Indy's defense forced another three-and-out, and Luck got the ball back with 42 seconds left, starting at the Indy 34. Using the no-huddle, he got them within Adam Vinatieri field goal range, with one second before the half. After clocking the ball on 3rd down, Vinatieri came on and nailed a 53-yarder to close the half.
- 17 unanswered points.
- All scored after the Ike Taylor pick 6.
- 14-of-17 for 159 yards and a touchdown.
- Most of the damage done against Pittsburgh's No. 1 defensive unit.
That is EXACTLY what I wanted to see.
There were other positives from this game. It's preseason, and (when all is said and done), the final score is meaningless. What you are looking for is growth, maturity, and resiliency from the football team. How do they respond to pressure?
17 unanswered points. That's how.
Just like last week, the story of this game is Andrew Luck. After starting jittery, he settled down and began to surgically pick apart Pittsburgh's secondary. Again, THIS IS PRESEASON! The Steelers did not game plan, and James Harrison was not playing. Thus, it's important to place this performance in its proper context. That said, all I can say is... wow.
To give you a sense of just how impressive Luck has looked this preseason, I offer up these two excellent tweets from my buddy Evan Silva, senior NFL editor at Rotoworld:
No. 1 overall pick Andrew Luck has quarterbacked ten preseason possessions so far.— Evan Silva (@evansilva) August 20, 2012
#Colts have scored touchdowns on 5 of them.
Rookie Andrew Luck's 11 preseason drives so far have produced 38 points. The— Evan Silva (@evansilva) August 20, 2012
#Jets have had 23 possessions and scored 9 points.
The flip side to Luck's brilliance were the injuries, in particular Austin Collie. In looks like he sustained yet another concussion. He took a legal hit from a Steelers corner after catching a 19-yard pass from Luck, which was overturned on reply. Collie was slow to get up, and I tweeted at the time that something looked wrong. He left the field and went to the locker room. Last report said he was being checked for concussion-like symptoms.
If it is a concussion, it will be Collie's fourth in two years. He can't keep playing football if that's the case. He needs to think about retiring, and if he isn't, then the Colts need to think about releasing him.
Cory Redding injured his knee, but head coach Chuck Pagano said that it did not look serious. An MRI is scheduled for Redding today.
All in all, an impressive game for the "new era" Colts. Here's to hoping this ends the trend of idiots showing up to the next Colts preseason home game wearing Peyton Manning Denver Broncos jerseys.