Recently we took a look at Andrew Luck’s interceptions from last season. We were able to make some reasonable assumptions as to whether Luck, another player, or situation was to blame for each. We don’t enjoy focusing on the negative but it’s necessary to get the full picture of how Luck performed from week to week.
Now we get to look at the good stuff – touchdowns. Luck tossed 31 touchdowns last season, a 5.68 touchdown percentage while maintaining his career best completion rate (63.49 percent), and QBR (ESPN’s formula | 71.2) and a very nice 96.4 quarterback rating, second only to his 96.5 rating in 2014. We pointed out some of this flaws, but as we know, Luck still was as good as he’s ever been last season.
I can’t say that I’ll always be complimentary of how each of these touchdowns come together, but there’s a very good reason Luck is loved by most analysts – because he’s really good most of the time.
Let’s dig in.
Week 1 Vs Detroit Lions | No. 1
Let’s begin with this minor miracle. Luck somehow fits a ball in to Donte Moncrief in a three receiver set while the Lions are dropping six guys into coverage inside the 5 yard line. It’s obvious that Luck has already made his mind up where he wants to go with the ball at the snap. T.Y. Hilton and Moncrief ultimately run a rub combination in order to get Moncrief open immediately.
It doesn’t quite happen that way, but the offensive line holds up, and Luck is patient enough to allow Moncrief time to work himself open. After the initial rub, Glover Quinn cuts off Moncrief’s route to the middle of the field. Moncrief responds by cutting up field and forces Quinn to turn his back to Luck. The moment Luck sees this, he fires a bullet to Moncrief in stride in the back of the end zone.
Excellent throw and catch here.
Week 1 Vs Detroit Lions | No. 2
Again, this is peak Andrew Luck right here. Four receivers out and Dwayne Allen is upright close to the line which puts him in a mismatch situation. Allen’s out-and-up route is pretty nice considering some of the routes he ran last season, and Luck is doing whatever he can to make this play work.
Once the defender covering Allen sucks down reacting to the crossing route it’s all up to the safety to make a play on a ball that he’s already out of position to defend against.
Watch from this view point. Luck expertly moves the safety with his eyes to the left side of the field, timing it just right as he scans back to his right to look for Allen. Even though it was only done for a second or two, Luck moved Quinn just enough to keep his grubby paws off of his pass to Allen.
I really like seeing Luck do this, mainly because when he does he is so good at it. This was a nice route combination and featured well-timed pocket movement and route running, but the eye discipline showed to manipulate the defenders made this play what it was.
Week 1 Vs Detroit Lions | No. 3
Luck’s third touchdown of this Week 1 matchup was really a very simple concept and Luck executed it perfectly. First, you can see that the play action was very effective despite the Lions dropping 7 defenders into coverage. It caused the linebackers to at least honor the possibility that Gore indeed had the ball and by the time they got their drop they were well behind the play.
Phillip Dorsett and Jack Doyle are at the bottom of the screen and run a post-corner combination against three defenders. Dorsett does a nice job running off his immediate coverage and the safety is forced to help over the top, Doyle runs his corner underneath and it opens up – but not because the concept was so elaborate.
Doyle’s route opens up because the corner covering Dorsett initially gets himself out of his backpedal too quick and has to turn and run with Dorsett. As soon as Luck sees the corner turn his shoulders he drops in a perfect ball between defenders, and in-stride to Doyle.
Doyle’s shallow route helped the break in coverage, allowing Luck a nice window and everything came together perfectly.
Week 1 Vs Detroit Lions | No. 4
Here is another amazing throw from Luck, and another notable mismatch between Doyle and a linebacker. From the snap, it appears that Luck hopes to target Doyle, due to this mismatch. Luck initially looks to Hilton on the fade, which we know isn’t a great idea unless it’s a back shoulder throw – certainly not a 50/50 ball.
Doyle is ultimately just running a dig from a tight slot position and his route is designed for him to get beyond the linebacker in order for Luck to go over the top – just like he did. However, at first blush it appears that Moncrief may have ran the wrong route in this play.
My educated guess is that he was intended to curl back right around the goal line in order to help create a void for Doyle to run into.
Two receivers that close in the end zone can end up to be a disaster, and if the linebacker could cover, or was athletic at all it may have been. Great throw and catch here, but there was some sort of miscommunication with Moncrief that nearly ruined the play design.
Week 2 @ Denver Broncos
There’s very little to the execution side of this touchdown that makes it special, yet for what’s in front of him Luck takes what the defense gives him. Additionally, Luck’s reaction to the rush is perfect. Throw to the blitz is a common direction for quarterbacks, and in this case it worked very well.
Anthony Castonzo chose to take the inner-most threat to Luck, and Gore didn’t have the time to chip the rusher before getting into his route.
Most of the work Luck does on this play comes in pre-snap. He sees that the indicators are there for a man-to-man coverage, such as the corner following Hilton in towards the line. With the linebacker inside of the tackle it leaves a huge hole for Gore to make a play in space despite it being to the short side of the field.
The linebacker has a lot of bodies to sift through to get to Gore, the rush is coming from Luck’s left and Hilton can’t be left alone coming across the middle of course. Additionally, because the safety steps up to engage with Allen inside of the first 5 yards, it makes this play open up even more.
Nice, not great design. Quality coverage would have blown this play up pretty quickly, but very good execution and decision-making from Luck and everyone involved.
Week 3 Vs San Diego Chargers
Here we see Luck clear with one main objective – get the ball to Hilton. Hilton sets the defender up nicely and allows him to determine how he runs his route. Allen takes some of the underneath coverage with him, and Luck has to fit the ball into a minimal window between Hilton’s coverage and the safety coming down patrolling the middle of the field.
To be fair, I don’t think Luck saw the safety.
Luck throws the ball perfectly and Hilton’s coverage goes after the ball with his inside arm (a no-no) which ultimately allows this ball to get through. If Luck leads Hilton across the field, he gets lit up by the linebacker, but because he leads him up the field it gave Hilton the opportunity to make a play after the catch and that’s exactly what happens.
Hilton’s body position at the catch point gave the linebacker less of a target to hit and as a result Hilton is able to beat the rest of the defenders to the end zone in a 53-yard sprint. Great throw from Luck, even though he stared his target down, and Hilton’s body positioning and movement towards the ball in the air is again put on display allowing him to create after the catch.
Week 4 @ Jacksonville Jaguars | No. 1
This one’s a little different as the original play breaks down. Well, it actually breaks down because Luck misses the opportunity for it to end quicker, but it eventually works itself out. Initially Luck looks towards the right side of the formation with Chester Rogers and Josh Ferguson working off of each other.
Three defenders and very little room to make a play, and Luck continues through his progression to Hilton who is set to find an area across the goal line and sit down.
Hilton does this perfectly, Luck looks directly at him, but passes on the opportunity. The timing could not have worked out better and the defense couldn’t have helped out any more than they did, but alas Luck holds on to the ball for some unknown reason. This is why all of the talk of Luck holding onto the ball too long is valid.
Here you can see that Luck really wishes he’d have thrown it immediately, but the chemistry between he and Hilton is so good that they both break to extend the play simultaneously. Hilton knows where the open space in the end zone will be, he heads to the corner and Luck ends up hitting him as he runs away from one linebacker, while the other attempts to come up on Luck.
This could have also ended in disaster as you can see that Hilton and Ferguson nearly cross paths and brings the defender very close to making a play on the ball. Luck should have trusted his timing and gotten rid of the ball much earlier, but because he and Hilton play off of each other so seamlessly, the play turned out well.
Week 4 @ Jacksonville Jaguars | No. 2
Initially this looks like a perfectly designed play that was read well by Luck and all that jazz. Well, not exactly. The kicker here is that the Colts ran this exact play a bit earlier in the game and missed on it badly. Imagine that everything looks the same on this play, but Luck doesn’t attempt the deep ball.
I specifically remember holding my head in my hands on the first attempt that didn’t yield a touchdown. But, what’s important here, is that the Colts and Luck learned from the previous play, and the Jaguars secondary did not – more specifically Jalen Ramsey. Instead of remaining with his key, he tries to roll off and make a play because he thinks the ball is going to Hilton.
Ramsey is good, but Dorsett is far too fast to give him a few steps like this vertically. Normally I would open the possibility that the safety that bites on Hilton wasn’t in man coverage and should have been deeper, but the opposite safety rolling his coverage to the middle of the field puts that to rest. This play is executed perfectly: well-run routes, beautiful throw and Luck manipulates the defenders just enough to make them believe he’s going back to Hilton. It just took them until the second time they ran it to get it right.
If Luck’s 8/3 touchdown-to-interception ratio through the first four games wasn’t enough to convince you that the 2016 season was going to be a good one for him, then looking simply at how well he made decisions with the ball should have piqued your interest. His velocity was more than adequate, which makes me wonder if his shoulder was in good shape still at this point in the season, and he did well using his eyes to create holes in the defense.
Luck’s second-guessing himself began to show itself here towards the end of the first quarter of the season, but the end results were still in the Colts’ favor and giving the offense a chance despite starting the season 1-3 as a team. Despite one bad game in Denver, Luck was phenomenal early in the season with a 62 percent completion rate, and throwing for 1,147 yards for over 11 yards per completion.
Luck was sacked 15 times, yet maintained his composure to continue to look down field and make plays. As we continue through the season, we’ll see some additional factors come into the picture that will make it more difficult to analyze what we’re visualizing. For now, though, Luck was really impressive in the first quarter of the season. What if our defense wasn’t giving up 31.25 points per game to this point? Maybe the Colts get to 10 wins just with a different result against Detroit and Jacksonville.
Upsetting to think about.