Colts fans have to feel really good about the offense that Frank Reich has installed in Indianapolis. They also have to feel good about Andrew Luck’s return to the football field. There were concerns that it could take Luck time to round into form after missing all of 2017.
Learning a new system for the fourth time in his career, growing pains were to be expected. There were even a lot of new faces surrounding him. Luck’s entire backfield was new to him, only T.Y. Hilton and Chester Rogers were familiar in the receiver corps. Tight ends Jack Doyle and Erik Swoope were the only other offensive skill players left on the roster from two season ago.
While it is fair to say that it took Luck a few weeks to shake off some rust, he has been putting together one of the most efficient seasons of his career. He has been getting the ball out faster, taken fewer hits and sacks, has consciously avoided contact instead of seeking it out, and has been accurate at all levels of the field.
Through the first 10 weeks of the NFL season, and Indy’s first 9 games, Luck has thrown 9 interceptions. Some of his early season struggles were the result of some questionable blocking by the offensive line and a horrible catch rate by his receivers. A week ago, Luck saw a pass bounce off of the sternum of tight end Mo Alie-Cox and land in linebacker Telvin Smith’s hands. Statistically, that interception counts as much as any other, even though the throw was perfect.
This week we will look back and try to identify the primary reason for Luck’s 9 interceptions.
Week 1, versus the Cincinnati Bengals, Luck was gifted a short field and the opportunity to give the Colts an early advantage. While it is certainly fair for Luck to want to start the season aggressive in the red zone, this is simply a poor decision. If anything, Luck should have seen that Ebron had a small window because the linebacker stayed on Jack Doyle.
He forced the throw to Doyle and gave up the ball in the red zone. This interception played an important role in a close loss.
In many respects, Luck’s first interception against the Redskins was simply a good defensive play. The ball is batted down at the line of scrimmage and it is hard to blame Ryan Kelly here. In hindsight, one could argue that Quenton Nelson is primarily to blame because he left the block to help on a stunt. Nelson had no idea that Jordan Wilkins was in place to stop it and that he could have stayed with his man. Nelson and Wilkins haven’t played together long enough to expect any different result here.
This is a second poor decision by Andrew Luck in two weeks. He was certainly facing pressure off of the edges and in a collapsing pocket but he tried to force the ball to T.Y. Hilton. The ball is thrown into bracketed coverage and was ill-advised.
This is another play where Luck tries to get rid of the ball while he is facing pressure. In this case, he throws where he thinks Nyheim Hines will be and guesses wrong. This is an easy interception for Patrick Chung.
I noticed something new this time around, I wonder if Luck threw the ball where Hines should have been but the rookie broke inside instead. If so, it could explain the throw but it has to be more on Luck than Hines based on it being more of a panicked guess.
This is the first interception where Luck deserves no blame. This is a well thrown ball, down and away so only the receiver can make a play for it at the first down marker. It hits Zach Pascal in the hands and somehow flies directly up in to the air for the trailing defenders. Pascal has to get his hands in a better position to make this catch.
This is one of two entirely avoidable turnovers that had nothing to do with Luck that ultimately led to a loss in Foxborough.
Luck’s nightmare continued against the Jets. On the first offensive drive, Reich drew up a screen to punish the Jets aggressive defense. The ball hit Marlon Mack in the hands and bounced into the air. It was subsequently returned for a touchdown.
While New York’s defense deserves some credit for batting the ball here, Luck makes another poor decision to force a throw into tight coverage. There are four white shirts within five yards of T.Y. Hilton. He shouldn’t have thrown this ball and had time to step up and move to his next read.
This is another interception Luck could have avoided. He doesn’t see the linebacker sitting in his zone and throws an easy interception. This is an example of a time when he locks onto his intended receiver and never looks anywhere else.
Luck’s latest interception is on a well-designed play that works perfectly. The throw is perfect and this could have been a big part of an important scoring drive to make life difficult for Jacksonville. The ball bounces off of Mo Alie-Cox’s chest and into Telvin Smith’s arms for a devastating turnover.
Andrew Luck deserves blame for a lot of the interceptions he has thrown this year. Forced passes and bad decisions have played an important role. To a lesser extent, some early season pressure allowed by the offensive line has played a role as well. There is also blame to be shared by his receivers. Three out of his last 5 interceptions, going back to his second interception against the Patriots in Week 5, have been off of bobbled passes.
In total, four of his interceptions have been the result of really bad decisions or reads, one has been the result of a rushed throw and possible miscommunication, one was a great defensive play to bat the ball at the line of scrimmage followed by a diving interception, and three have fallen squarely on his receivers. It has been a strong season and very clean since Week 6. In fact, only two interceptions out of the last four games have been Luck’s fault at all.