This week, on a short Week 5 window between games for the Indianapolis Colts, we’re going to do Andrew Luck’s film review a bit differently. Under a different lens, if you will. Luck had his poor passes in this game like he undoubtedly will each and every game, one of which was in the most high-pressure situations of the game, no doubt. But, there were so many beautiful throws from the Colts quarterback that I felt maybe we should just bask in the joy of what he showed off this past Sunday.
Obviously, it was in a losing effort, however, it’s hard to just casually write off a performance where Luck was 40-of-62 for 464 yards, and 4 passing scores. There were so many things he did right, such as, his timing on the release in coordination to the route being run, as well as footwork and the general movement inside of the pocket.
Regardless of everything else, Luck is second in the league in pass attempts and completions, sixth in the league in completion percentage (67.2%) among QBs with at least 150 attempts this year, and is sporting a 3/1 touchdown-to-interception ratio to this point in the season.
Thus, today’s review mainly covers some of my favorite throws from his Week 4 performance, regardless of the play’s outcome.
Same route, in the red zone, two different formations
One of the most common routes we’ve seen with the Colts this year — primarily with the running backs ~ Nyheim Hines — is the Texas route out of the backfield. But in Week 4, Frank Reich dialed up a new formation to use it, and with a different recipient.
Zach Pascal initially lines up in the backfield, then goes in motion. Ultimately, this just leaves the backfield split, which the Colts used a little bit of in Week 4 throughout the game. Moving Pascal puts him outside of Ryan Hewitt who ran a shallow crosser designed to clear out some of the coverage across the middle of the field.
Pascal now causes some confusion with his motion and sets up his coverage nicely using his own momentum to pick him up on this route. The route forces his assignment to continue to run while Pascal runs the base of the route, then on the break he’s already behind and can’t change directions quickly enough to recover.
Luck puts this on the money and took care of the linebackers with his eyes. This was a thing of beauty to start the game on a very high note.
Below, we see what the Colts typically do with this route. And, it’s almost exclusively Hines that runs it. Notice Hines to the left of Luck at the snap, the base of the route mimics the beginning of a flat route, then breaks inside in the shape of a V turned on it’s side.
You can sort of tell that Hines and Luck were a bit off on their timing as Luck pumps it just before he releases the ball. My assumption here is that Hines went up field more than what the actual design calls for due to the coverage in the middle of the field. Had he cut sharp he wouldn’t have had the depth to get the ball into the end zone after the catch.
Luck makes the adjustment, and as the pocket tightens in around him, he climbs the pocket just enough to get the ball out cleanly and on target. Low and precise. This is an underrated throw from the game if you ask me.
The deep ball to T.Y. Hilton, peripheral reads
One of the things I’ve really like that Reich has set up with this system, and for Luck, is what I’ll call a peripheral read. There’s another one of these in a clip a little later in the review, but ultimately it allows Luck to read two receivers somewhat simultaneously — with them both in his line of vision — in order to improve decision-making and to keep defenders with their initial assignment.
In other words, Luck will naturally be able to choose the best option without having to worry about telegraphing what he’s doing.
This deep ball to Hilton is a great example of this. Jordan Wilkins comes down in motion in order to chip on J.J. Watt (smart), but Watt takes the inside track towards Luck. Afterwards, Wilkins leaks out in to the flat, and Hilton beats his coverage with a vertical route. This is not only a slap in the face to those questioning Luck’s arm strength, but it’s also a great read with the safeties rotating into a cover-3 look at the snap.
Luck has a care free throw with no worries of help over the top for the cornerback getting roasted off the line by Hilton.
Multiple progressions, and a cross-body bullet
Chester Rogers really had a pretty good game with Hilton on the shelf for a significant amount of this game. Here is one of his best of the day. With the Texans only rushing three in the red zone here, Luck gets a little longer to get through multiple reads within the play.
The offensive line holds up (they better) and Luck starts all the way to his right with Pascal who’s running the post route, but the corner has MOF help from the safety. He then moves to the Texas route from Hines that we’ve seen already two other times in the red zone and passes on that option too.
Luck’s clock goes off right about now and escapes the pocket to his left and keeps his eyes downfield. There are double hooks on the field side of the play with Rogers being the inside receiver and Ryan Grant on the outside. Rogers comes back to the middle of the field to give Luck another angle and Luck goes across his body and momentum and throws a seed to Rogers and only where he can get to it.
The coverage is solid, but Luck squeezes it into a very small window and Rogers makes a fantastic catch in a big spot.
Another tight window throw, after multiple progressions
This is another one of those fantastic throws in which we get reminded that Luck is one of very few QBs in the league who can make this toss. Again, we see two things that are very encouraging. Luck is being protected pretty well, and he’s doing much better with his footwork and getting through his progressions to find a receiver.
Luck looks off the 5-yard square-in to his left, then looks past Eric Ebron on his 10-yard square-in in quick succession. Luck then resets his feet to his right, finds Rogers and hits him on the post in the tightest of windows.
First, Luck has to get the trajectory over the outstretched arm of the linebacker. Then, in between two other defenders which features an amazing combination of touch and velocity. Any other combination of the two factors, and this is a pick in a crucial point in the game. There is so much to love about this throw.
Another peripheral read for big yardage
Remember the third clip? Well, here’s another one of those. There’s a very similar pre-snap setup with Rogers coming down towards the formation in motion to help on Watt. Rogers gets a piece of him which helps Denzelle Good tremendously.
If he doesn’t chip on this, three defenders likely get a piece of Luck before he releases the ball despite having this play designed to speed up the read. After Rogers chips, he releases into the flat holding the cornerback shallow who has now outed himself as being in man-coverage.
You can barely see Ebron occupying the seam here which helps some with the safety, and Hilton runs this corner route to perfection. With how these route combinations are designed, Luck has a large window and his most trusted receiver to deliver a perfect ball with perfect footwork earning big yardage.
Just one more point on the footwork here. Watch Luck. He gets to the top of his drop, hops forward with no wasted steps or movements, and delivers within his natural movement. It’s perfect, and I hope we see more of this Thursday night.
Precision passing/quick processing 101
Here’s one of the throws that Luck makes that will never be on any highlight reel, anywhere... Okay, maybe just here. It almost looks inaccurate, but this couldn’t be further from the truth.
We see Ebron running this hook route that the Colts seem to love so much, with two linebackers waiting to A) make a play on the ball, and B) lay out Ebron if at all possible. Now, Ebron doesn’t pull this one in and it was just one example of what became a real problem for a long stretch in the first half of the game for the Colts.
Luck did Ebron a massive favor here. As he takes his drop Luck again shows pristine footwork by hitting that back foot and ever-so-slightly shifting to his left — remarkably all in one motion — avoiding Jadaveon Clowney’s arm as he comes off the edge, and delivering a perfect ball away from the WILL linebacker (#41) who is reading Luck’s eyes. If Luck throws this to the predetermined spot for the end of the route, it’s possibly picked off or tipped-and-picked or Ebron gets sawed in half from the hit he’d incur.
Luck saw the WILL during his drop and knew he’d be there to break on the pass. This is maximum usage of his vision and precision in such a quick process. Again, not a highlight reel clip, but more than noteworthy I’d say.
Perfect ball placement, timing
Here we see Luck’s touch coming into play in the best way. In the red zone, again, but no it’s not a Texas route this time for Hines. Hines runs a really smooth out-and-up combination here as Pascal smashes that shallow post and taking his man-coverage with him to the middle of the field.
Again notice Luck’s timing with his feet and arm action being perfectly synced here. As Hines moves up the boundary towards the end zone Luck puts the perfect touch on this ball to the 5-foot-9 Hines over Tyrann Mathieu who really could only have missed getting a piece of this ball by centimeters.
Le’Raven Clark and Good do enough to get the pass rush off the edge pushed out in order for Luck to step into this throw on time and with fantastic accuracy. The interior chews up the Texans two defensive tackles and spits them out which plays a major part in this as well. And with that, you see the end result. It really is amazing sometimes how many things need to be in line in order for certain plays to be successful.
Overall, we all know we saw another ‘coming-out party’ from Luck this past Sunday. He was efficient, consistent, precise, smart, strong and patient at his highest of levels for a long stretch in this one and it was glorious. Thursday’s matchup with the Patriots would be a great time for Luck and Reich to be in sync, and on another level as the injury situation isn’t all that promising, and Gillette stadium is not an easy place to pull off an upset.
This could literally be Luck’s biggest regular-season win of his career in terms of what it could do for his confidence and the team’s as well. Maybe that’s hyperbole, but I don’t think so.