Yesterday we took a look at Andrew Luck’s interceptions through the first half of the season. Today we’ll do the same for those he tossed from Week 9 through the end of the season. We know, by only diving into the first 5 interceptions thus far, that neither the offensive line, Luck nor the receivers are solely responsible for all of the interceptions.
We also know that at least in the aforementioned blemishes that Luck has gotten rid of the ball in a reasonable time frame from the snap of the ball. Additionally, this leads us to the conclusion that all aspects of the offense must work together like a well-oiled machine to cut down on the team’s turnovers moving forward.
We believe that Luck is the next great thing to don the horseshoe, he’s proven it to most of us. However, in comparison to someone such as Aaron Rodgers, we are aware that he’s not quite to that status and it will take some time should he ever achieve that level of play. Just the same, Luck has more than enough between his ears and attached to his right shoulder to take the Indianapolis Colts to the promised land.
Let’s dig in to the second half of Luck’s 2016 season and analyze the cause and effect of these interceptions.
WEEK 9 @ Green Bay Packers
Much like a couple in the last grouping, where the fault goes on this one is more than evident. Whether you want to give Jonotthan Harrison a pass for slipping while engaged or not, that was the only breach on the offensive line. Luck clearly makes the right read pre-snap and has Phillip Dorsett for a huge gain if not a score if he hits him with a bullet.
Above, you can see just before Luck is hit that the honey hole is wide open. The safety is rolling his coverage to that side, however, there’s no chance he beats the ball there without Luck getting hit at the release forcing a duck and an easy interception. Maybe Luck could have gotten the ball out a touch quicker, but he does release the ball in 2.14 seconds, and if Harrison could anchor at all Luck doesn’t get touched on this throw.
Can’t lay the blame on Luck here.
WEEK 9 @ Green Bay Packers #2
This interception has a mix of a little bad luck involved (no pun intended), but ultimately this one could likely have been avoided. If we just look on the surface here, we see the ball bounce off Doyle’s hands and into the awaiting defenders along the sidelines. Maybe we even excuse it because Luck had to leave the pocket due to pressure. I don’t.
First of all where is the pressure? There is a very little bit coming from Luck’s right side, but it was quelled by the linemen immediately. If Luck felt he needed to relocate to create some space, and reset his feet to throw to Doyle I’d be fine with it, but it doesn’t appear that Luck has that sixth sense guys like Aaron Rodgers has with feeling pressure.
The point is, Luck didn’t need to continue moving away from the pocket to get this throw off. As a result of him doing it he ultimately ran himself into getting hit and forced a hurried, poor throw downfield. This ball is unquestionably more accurate with Luck resetting his feet and even if it isn’t a completion, he likely throws it more towards the sideline where only Doyle can reach it not high and up for grabs.
Throwing on the run against your body isn’t easy to do, I understand that, and Luck didn’t need to in this case simply because some of the routes took some time to open up.
WEEK 11 Vs Tennessee Titans
While I am absolutely going to lay the blame on Luck for this one, let’s point out a couple of clear observations first. For starters, this play is absolutely hot garbage. Second, the only receiver that has even the slimmest chances of getting open is Donte Moncrief at the top of the screen on the 9-route. But, some of that falls on the fact that this play is indeed hot garbage – just look at the route combinations a couple times through.
But aside from the receivers not being able to create any separation here, Luck has the perfect opportunity to climb the pocket here and make a play. Anthony Castonzo gets pushed back into the pocket, yet he is able to keep the defender primarily to his outside shoulder. Despite pulling to the other side of the play, Jack Mewhort is able to do the same.
This gives Luck a clear lane to step up and either get some yardage with his legs, or reset his feet and take a shot at Moncrief who has only one man to beat deep. Instead, Luck panics and throws to T.Y. Hilton who he’d have to put a perfect ball on in order for him to make a catch. His coverage is trailing him tight, and Luck throws off his back foot falling away. A recipe for disaster, and that’s exactly what occurs. Luck missed 6 on this one.
WEEK 14 Vs Houston Texans
I know what you’re going to say. Dwayne Allen fell down and Luck would have likely had a completion if he remained upright. Right? Wrong. I initially thought the same until I looked a little closer. Below you can see Luck just a split second before beginning his throwing motion. Allen is completely on the ground after stumbling a few steps beforehand and the defender is down as well.
Dorsett is taking his corner deep, Hilton is double covered and the only other options are Doyle on a delayed release in which he’s in a one-on-one situation with a linebacker and Frank Gore is open to the top of the screen. Allen actually takes out the linebacker who has Gore as his key on the play. This should have been an immediate check down from Luck to give Gore the open field opportunity to make a play.
It was first down and backed up inside your own 20 yard line. This is all sorts of bad.
WEEK 14 Vs Houston Texans #2
Same game and just as much of a mess here. Beginning of the third quarter, down 10 and no need to force a throw into a freaking Houston team meeting with only Doyle and Hilton around. First off, Luck had all the protection he could have ever wanted on this play. There was absolutely no need for him to ever leave the pocket.
He did, however, and forced his linemen to work far harder to keep him from getting hit and in the end, defenders are always faster than offensive linemen. This is exactly why people say what they do about Luck and his inability to let a play die and use the kicking game to flip the field – and they’re right. Until he can get this part figured out he’s going to continue to struggle making senseless mistakes.
If Luck was going to make one throw on this, it should have been deep down the middle to Dorsett (which you can’t really see from this angle) who did create some space late in the play. In the end, Luck running around like this when he doesn’t need to causes the receivers to break off their routes needlessly and often times you end up with multiple receivers and defenders in the same area. It’s just a shame he actually threw the ball into that mess.
This one’s got to be on Luck.
WEEK 16 @ Oakland Raiders
This one doesn’t take a ton of explanation to be perfectly honest. There’s multiple parties at fault here though. First, Rob Chudzinski for the less-than-creative play call on first down, then you’ve got Le’Raven Clark showing his slow reaction and heavy feet, Ryan Kelly getting manhandled at the point of attack and allowing pressure to get to Luck before he can get off a solid throw.
Additionally, Doyle fails to take away the biggest threat when pulling to the right side of the line which allows Clark’s assignment through yet again.
Thirdly, I’m really not a fan of these routes that Hilton throws together sometimes. He will round them off and, as a result, he doesn’t get his head turned around to locate the ball with any urgency. With Nate Allen lurking over the top here, it’s likely Hilton wouldn’t have been able to make the catch even if Luck had been able to set his feet. However, maybe he could have at least gotten a hand on the ball to force the incompletion.
There were multiple screw ups on this play, and almost appeared to be doomed before the snap of the ball. Luck deserves some, but certainly not all of the blame with this one.
WEEK 16 @ Oakland Raiders #2
On Luck’s second interception against the Raiders we do see some initial pressure up the middle forcing Luck to move off of his base and this ultimately forces him to work with only half of the field. In the image below you can see that Allen has opened up, but throwing against his body momentum isn’t typically a successful venture.
However, Luck does have a clear opening to Moncrief on the short comeback route which he could have picked up at least 5 yards on this second down play. Instead, we see Luck go for the gold into double coverage against two safeties targeting Hilton. Luck should not be in this mindset with the game still in the Colts’ grasp and has to learn to take the easy yards.
It’s either take what the defense gives you and take on a third-and-five or so, and possibly have to settle for a field goal if you don’t achieve a first down on the next play. Or take a huge risk throwing a 50/50 type ball into the end zone with a high-reward, extremely high-risk approach.
Luck has to be more willing to take the yards and earn another attempt, instead of relying on the shortest receiver in his arsenal to out jump two bigger and more physical safeties.
WEEK 17 @ Vs Jacksonville Jaguars
To finish up Luck’s 2016 interceptions we end with probably the ugliest start to a game the Colts put forth last season. The Colts were already down 10-0 at this point in the game and the Colts are in Jacksonville territory on first down poised to at least cut into the lead with either a touchdown or field goal attempt.
Yes, Dan Skuta gets some quick pressure up the middle after Jonotthan Harrison pulls to the right side of the line. It’s hard to say who was likely responsible for picking him up, though I tend to believe that Kelly should have come off of the double team and helped out. Castonzo was man up with his assignment and really had no way of taking care of two linemen. So, the pressure is there and Luck couldn’t really do anything about it. Even moving laterally wouldn’t have saved him from a sack in this situation.
The problem arises in Luck’s quick decision to throw to Hilton – again – in a situation where he is mostly surrounded by defenders. Telvin Smith easily undercuts the throw and it’s over. But, even if Luck had no real option other than to throw off of his back foot in the face of pressure here, Doyle is taking on Yannick Ngakoue and is almost immediately in better position to make a catch if he’s targeted.
Any way you look at it, Luck had a better option than to throw this up for grabs. Either, throw it short to Doyle and pick up something on first down, or throw the ball much more towards the sideline if he insists on targeting Hilton in these pressure situations. Sure, there’s pressure, but this one is also on Luck in the end.
This has started to become a reoccurring theme in these interceptions thrown in the second half of the season. But, even in the last edition of interceptions, Luck has been way too willy-nilly with his throws when he feels pressure, regardless if he eludes that initial threat and has an opportunity to reset his feet and deliver the ball downfield.
On a large handful of these situations we’ve dug into, there are often multiple reasons, or faults for the end result of the play being an interception. However, I think that it’s fair to allow Luck to assume the large majority of the responsibility for 11 of his 13 picks on the year.
Another year under Brian Schottenheimer should help tremendously as he is forced to reapply his fundamentals from the ground, up, in his approach during the rehab of his right shoulder. 2.4 percent of Luck’s throws last year ended in an interception, so I’m in no way taking the stance that Luck is less of a game-changer for this Colts organization. I’m simply pointing out that in order for him, and this team, to take the next step towards greatness the growth in these specific areas are absolutely critical sooner rather than later.