We love comparing Andrew Luck to Peyton Manning. It's encouraging to think of Luck playing so well, and even more than that it's just so easy to make the comparisons. Numerous different ones have been made throughout Luck's short career so far, and they all are right. But there is one comparison that NOBODY wants to make, but it's time it was.
The Indianapolis Colts are as dependent on Andrew Luck as they ever were on Peyton Manning.
For years, it was all up to Peyton to win football games. And the only time he didn't do so was when he was on the sidelines because of years of hits. Everybody saw the flaws of building a team that way. And everybody wanted to make sure that the new Colts weren't built the same way.
So Ryan Grigson went out and spent upwards of 100 million dollars, all in an effort to do just that - ensure that Andrew Luck wasn't going to have to completely carry the team. But two weeks into the season, I'll tell you that the Colts are just as dependent upon Luck as they were last year, and in fact, perhaps even more so.
In only 18 regular season games, Luck has been put in a situation to make a game winning drive 11 times. And 8 times, he's done just that. But on Sunday, he failed. He quickly led his team down to the Dolphins 23 yard line, but three straight incomplete passes were followed by a sack, and just like that the Colts dropped to 1-1 on the year.
And that's the thing about building around one player, as great as Luck is: you're going to lose some games. He's going to do some incredible things and pull out some incredible comebacks, but he's also going to fail at some attempts along the way. That's ok, and really, if it weren't for Luck, the Colts wouldn't have been close.
All of that said, Andrew Luck wasn't at his best on Sunday. He missed way too many passes that Andrew Luck typically doesn't miss. He held onto the ball too long at times. He made some questionable decisions.
Overall, it wasn't Luck's best day. But it wasn't the Colts' best day either. And once again, we saw just how dependent the Colts are on their quarterback, and we also were reminded that Luck can't keep pulling wins out late every game. Often, yes. But not always.
General: 25/43 (58.1%), 321 yards (7.47 yards per attempt), 1 TD, 1 INT, 79.7 passer rating, 51.5 QBR, 3 sacks, 4 rushes for 38 yards and 0 touchdowns (9.5 yards per carry)
Number of Drives: 11
Number of Plays: 72
Number of Passing Plays: 50 (69.4%)
Shotgun Snaps (pass plays): 30 (60.0%)
Play Action Attempts: 11 (22.0% of pass plays)
Pressured: 11 (22.0% of pass plays) (includes 3 sacks)
Drops: 0 (0% 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.
* 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.
- The play that people will remember from Luck is his interception. On a first down from the Dolphins' 38 yard line midway through the 4th quarter in a game the Colts trailed 24-20, Luck made a definite "no-no" pass. It was just a bad decision. There's no other way to say it. Brent Grimes had great coverage on Reggie Wayne on a seam route and was in front of him all the way. I suppose a perfect throw would have scored, but it really wasn't a chance Luck (or anybody) should really take. Luck had avoided a rusher so he had time, but it looked like he was set on throwing to Reggie (which, granted, usually is smart) and forced the pass. You can talk about Reggie being held/interfered with (I didn't see it); you can talk about the slight possibility for it being complete; you can talk about the fact that he had to evade pressure - I don't care. It was a bad pass and was totally on Luck. Like you'd expect, the quarterback took responsibility for it after the game (as did Reggie, saying he should have fought for it more - but he didn't really have a shot).
- The touchdown pass to Coby Fleener was a beautifully designed play. From the 3 yard line, Reggie Wayne ran a quick out towards the left sideline just in front of the goal line and T.Y. Hilton ran a route right to the goal line. Coby Fleener ran a corner route towards the back left corner of the end zone and Luck hit him effortlessly for the score. The defense got caught up with Reggie and (especially) Hilton and the result was a touchdown.
- With 10:58 left in the game, Luck took the snap from the shotgun on 3rd down and 12, trailing 24-20. Dion Jordan came rushing up the middle and Luck pumped the ball, pulling it back in right before being hit by Jordan. Jordan obviously thought Luck had released the ball and let go of Luck. Still with the ball, however, the quarterback took off running right. He knew exactly where the first down marker was and actually cut back in and dove forward, taking a hit in the process, to get the first down. The play was a textbook example of using the pump fake, and it worked to perfection on this one. Not to be ignored, however, was Luck's awareness to dive for the first down too.
- On the first play of the Colts' final drive, Luck made another tremendous scramble. Taking the snap from the shotgun, first left tackle Anthony Castonzo was pushed into him. Luck moved up in the pocket, only to be hit by Cameron Wake, who didn't wrap up and Luck broke that tackle. Then he broke another "tackle" by lineman Hugh Thornton, who also had gotten pushed into him. Still maintaining his balance, Luck took off scrambling towards the left sideline, picking up 14 yards and the first down before going out of bounds on his own. His ability to evade pressure and even hits is incredible.
- The final play of the game, obviously, deserves dissecting. For whatever reason, Donald Brown was in the game on an OBVIOUS 4th and 10 passing down with the game on the line instead of starting back Ahmad Bradshaw, who also happens to be one of (if not the) best pass blocking backs in the league. But instead, it was Brown (who historically has struggled in pass blocking) and he whiffed badly on a block on former Colt Phillip Wheeler. Hugh Thornton, the rookie filling in for the injured Donald Thomas and who actually did a solid job, also whiffed on his man and Wheeler and Randy Starks combined to hit Luck very early on in the play before he even had a chance. He tried to get off a desperation throw as he was going down, but that was never going to work and Luck never had a chance to get a first down. Luck probably could have evaded one of the rushers, but the fact that there was someone coming from both directions, he was stuck and even the incredibly mobile Luck couldn't evade this one. To make matters worse, Griff Whalen was open across the middle with lots of open field in front of him. Had Luck had just a second longer (just enough time to throw it up to Whalen), it would have been a first down (at least) and a whole new ball game. After the game, referring to taking a sack on fourth down, Luck himself said: "That's almost one of those cardinal sins, if you will, of playing football. You've got to get the ball out of your hands, no matter what."
- Andrew Luck ran 4 times on Sunday, gaining 38 yards. On 3 of his rushes, he got a first down, and on the other he got within one yard of the first. Because the team run designed run plays for Luck (good!), his running is much more effective and incredible. He makes scrambles that no one else could make, and in doing so, he is very effective because a lot of his runs go for first downs. On the season, (minus two kneel downs at the end of the Raiders game), he has rushed 8 times for 76 yards and a score (1 more yard than the entire Steelers' team combined so far this year). 5 of those 8 rushes have gone for first downs (62.5%); and on third down Luck is 4 for 4 in getting first downs on the ground (rushing 4 times for 48 yards and a touchdown). In the fourth quarter, Luck has gotten first downs on 3 of his 4 rush attempts, gaining 48 yards and a score.
- Luck also had a pass batted down at the line by Phillip Wheeler. That hasn't happened often from what I remember, as I can't remember another time that happened to Luck (I'm not saying it hasn't happened, though.)
- Ryan Tannehill versus Andrew Luck has the look of becoming a premier rivalry. Luck won in their rookie year, Tannehill won this year. Both were impressive in last year's game, and both were impressive in this year's game. Both of them are very good young quarterbacks, and both of their teams are battling for a playoff spot this year - and for years to come. This rivalry is one to really keep an eye on - this might only be the beginning.
What Others Are Saying (or said during the game):
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p>Andrew Luck plays so well when the <a href="https://twitter.com/search?q=%23Colts&src=hash">#Colts</a> are trailing. Cool, calm, analytical football from No. 12.</p>— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) <a href="https://twitter.com/nfldraftscout/statuses/379309473698811904">September 15, 2013</a></blockquote>
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"Andrew Luck failed. We're surprised. Now there's a statement on his impact after little over a year as the Indianapolis Colts' quarterback."
"Andrew Luck has been nearly automatic in the fourth quarter of his young career, orchestrating five late comebacks and guiding the Colts to a 10-1 record in games decided by 10 points or fewer.
"A little of the magic ran out on Sunday."
"The reputation was inevitable for Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck.
"Eight fourth-quarter rallies in 12 victories in his young career. He has earned the right to be known for his come-from-behind ability.
"But you knew the magic that Luck provided during fourth quarters would run out at some point. The Colts couldn't continue to rely on him to bail them out. It's a fun story and all, but it's a dangerous way to try to succeed.
"That point was proven on Sunday."