That's about the easiest way to sum up what we saw on Sunday and what we've seen all year. We've seen Andrew Luck struggle for the most part this year, and when he struggles, the whole team struggles. But when he looks good, the whole team looks good. It's not that simple, of course, but it's pretty close. And on Sunday, Luck played what was without a doubt his best game of the season.
Luck completed 21 of 36 passes (58.3%) for 252 yards (7 yards per attempt), and two touchdowns - but perhaps most importantly, he didn't throw a single interception or turn the football over. The numbers might not "wow" you, but keep in mind that Luck did this against the league's best overall defense and the league's best pass defense - as well as the defense best at getting after the quarterback. Luck was under pressure often and hit quite a bit, but he stood in there, made plays, and was smart with the football. His 252 yards were the third most allowed by the Broncos this year, his two touchdowns were tied for the most against the Broncos defense this year, his zero interceptions was only the third time the Broncos didn't pick off the opposing quarterback, and his quarterback rating of 98.4 was the best by an opposing quarterback against Denver this year.
To cap it all off, Luck added 34 yards rushing on six carries, but take away the fact that one of those was a kneeldown to end the game and Luck averaged 7 yards per carry rushing the ball too, picking up a couple of big third down conversions.
This was the Andrew Luck that we hadn't seen this year. He was smart with the football, confident, poised, and willing to stand in there and take hits. It was a gutsy (or, as Chuck Pagano would say, gritty) performance by the quarterback, and he helped lead the offense to 27 points - the most given up by the Broncos' defense all season. Indy started well and ended well, something they hadn't done all year. One can't help but think that the change of offensive coordinators from Pep Hamilton to Rob Chudzinski this week helped Luck, and it looked like receivers were being schemed open. Luck acknowledged that it did feel like there was a difference in the offense today with the playcalling and flow of the game.
This was the Andrew Luck that the Colts have been waiting to see, and he showed up in a huge way when the Colts needed him the most. The Colts were in danger of falling to 3-6 entering their bye week and out of first place in the AFC South, and in order to prevent that they would have to beat the undefeated Broncos and the best defense in the NFL. A few hours later and Luck was smiling after a huge victory. and in the midst of all the celebration, one thing was very clear: it wouldn't have happened without number 12 getting things going and playing like the franchise quarterback the Colts know he is.
Colts wide receiver T.Y. Hilton told media after the game that Luck promised teammates he'd be better. "You're going to see a different Andrew this week," Hilton remembered Luck telling them. "That's what he did," Hilton said. "He went back to being Andrew."
That's the simplest way to recap today's win: Andrew Luck went back to being Andrew Luck. And the result? A huge, potentially season-defining victory.