In his second outing things went much smoother for Andrew Luck in his home debut. He was more accurate, decisive, and it is not certain how much of this can be explained by playing the Minnesota Vikings instead of the Chicago Bears.
Regardless, Luck showed everything that made him the No. 1 pick in the draft. After a near-flawless first half by Luck, the Colts blew their 20-6 lead in the fourth quarter. He took over with just 0:31 left and became the 7th rookie quarterback since 1960 to lead a game-winning drive in his team’s first or second game.
It was no ordinary drive either, as this was just the 33rd time a team had 0:31 left or less on the clock and completed a scoring drive on their way to a win. The one-minute drill compares most favorably to one Peyton Manning led in 1999 at Miami. Go figure.
We have a lot more tables to look at this week now that we can compare Luck to someone. That would be…himself from last week.Drive No. 1
Time: 7:48 left
Score: Down 3-0
Drive: 13 plays, 80 yards for a TD
After Minnesota used nearly half the quarter to kick a field goal, Luck started the game with two scrambles to avoid sacks and gain first downs. He was contacted in the head on the first one with no flag.
Luck avoided a sack for the third time on a 3rd-and-9 play and found Donnie Avery for the first of three straight completions. Off play action, Luck went to his trouble area last week (deep right), but this time he threw a better pass and Avery had a 41-yard gain against Antoine Winfield down to the MIN 3. If the pass was out a little further to the pylon, then this would have been a touchdown, but it was still an improvement over last week.
Coby Fleener dropped a pass that was a little high, but catchable. Luck then went to his other rookie tight end Dwayne Allen for a quick (snap-to-release time: 1.87 seconds) 3-yard touchdown on his first ever target. Allen almost immediately turned for the ball on the play.Drive No. 2
Time: 11:33 left (2nd quarter)
Score: Leading 7-6
Drive: 3 plays, 7 yards (three and out)
After a short pass to Wayne on first down and Donald Brown’s 2-yard run, Luck’s third-down pass was batted down at the line by Jared Allen. Luck has had one pass batted at the line in each of his games.Drive No. 3
Time: 6:02 left
Score: Leading 7-6
Drive: 9 plays, 40 yards for a FG
This drive started with a free play because Minnesota was offsides. Luck went deep to Avery, but he was unable to come back to the ball. Bruce Arians called his first screen of the day, but Luck’s pass was way too high for running back Vick Ballard, who was in the slot. In Pittsburgh I could never understand why Arians used running backs in this manner. Luck was unable to adjust to the short back.
After three runs which included handoffs to Avery, Luck rolled to his right and found Avery for 10 yards to convert another third down. Two plays later Luck found Fleener for 9 yards, but the Colts failed on the 3rd-and-1 run with Allen the tight end getting the carry. They kicked the field goal with 1:49 left to go up 10-6.
It would have been a nice decision to go for it down there at the MIN 8.Drive No. 4
Time: 1:11 left
Score: Leading 10-6
Drive: 8 plays, 64 yards for a TD
With only two timeouts left, Luck was in the two-minute drill. As we have seen often so far, he was able to move the offense quickly with short gains. After a spike, Luck avoided the pressure and scrambled for seven more yards. It was the first time in the last 15 snaps that Luck was pressured.
The clock was down to 0:14 and the Colts were out of timeouts, but Luck made his biggest pass of the day after some subtle movement in the pocket for a nice strike down the middle to Reggie Wane for the 30-yard touchdown with 0:07 left.
Indianapolis led 17-6 at halftime, and Luck was nearly flawless: 11 of 17 for 146 yards, 2 TD. That includes a spike, a drop and the pass batted down at the line. He was also leading the team in rushing with 20 yards. The rest of the Colts had 12 carries for 30 yards.Drive No. 5
Time: 15:00 left (3rd quarter)
Score: Leading 17-6
Drive: 14 plays, 53 yards for a FG
Luck’s first pass of the second half was a bubble screen to T.Y. Hilton (first NFL catch). It was good for 15 yards, and was the biggest YAC-play of the day for the Colts (17 yards). Two plays later Luck went deep to Mewelde Moore, but he dropped it. The catch would not have counted since Anthony Castonzo was flagged for holding, but the Vikings of course declined.
The drive continued and eventually led to a field goal because of two Minnesota errors.
First it was roughing the punter on fourth down. Luck threw another screen, but this one lost a yard. Then Luck threw maybe his worst pass of the day, as it was a dangerous pick six opportunity. However, the bad snap to start the play likely threw off his timing. Minnesota’s next missed opportunity was when Luck scrambled out of bounds for a yard on 3rd and 16, but Jared Allen brought him down late and was flagged 15 yards.
Four plays later guard Seth Olsen was penalized for holding. On third down Luck was sacked for the first time in the game. Minnesota disguised their rush and Moore was unable to pick up Erin Henderson, who earned the sack.
Adam Vinatieri made the 45-yard field goal to put the Colts up 20-6.Drive No. 6
Time: 4:45 left
Score: Leading 20-6
Drive: 3 plays, 3 yards (three and out)
Backed up at their own 1-yard line, the Colts played it safe on first down. But on second down, they went with a play-action pass and Luck did a great job of avoiding the sack from Brian Robison. The pass was way overthrown to Fleener, but all that mattered is the ball was released. The Colts ran it on third down, going three and out again.
Luck avoided six sacks in the game, but no rescue was finer or bigger than this one.Drive No. 7
Time: 14:48 left (4th quarter)
Score: Leading 20-6
Drive: 3 plays, 6 yards (three and out)
The dive started with what I liked to call the “Hines Ward screen” when the Steelers would get Ward an early reception in the game to keep his streak going. It was just a 2-yard gain to Wayne. Two plays later Luck was badly incomplete all because his arm was hit as he threw (Robison again). It made for back-to-back three-and-out drives.Drive No. 8
Time: 12:40 left
Score: Leading 20-6
Drive: 3 plays, -12 yards (three and out)
Getting a bit conservative with the two-touchdown lead, Luck did nothing but hand the ball off three times on a drive plagued by false start and holding penalties. I have seen this too often from Arians in Pittsburgh as well. Right down to former Steelers’ lineman Trai Essex called for the hold and Moore losing two yards on a 3rd-and-20 shotgun draw.Drive No. 9
Time: 5:07 left
Score: Leading 20-13
Drive: 6 plays, -4 yards
After Minnesota got their lucky volleyball touchdown, the Colts needed some offense. On second down Luck avoided another sack (this time from Jared Allen) and found Wayne for a 5-yard gain.
On third down Luck found Avery, who made yet another catch with tight coverage around him. Avery had 9 receptions (10 targets) for 111 yards in the game, and only had 25 YAC because of how close the defenders were when he caught most of these passes.
Luck had seven passes in the game that he threw within two seconds after the snap, and three of those completions went to Avery.
The Colts went empty backfield on third and five, and taking a sack here was not a bad play. However, Luck made the sack a lot more damaging than it had to be by not going down sooner. It was a 22-yard loss, and helped the Vikings with field position. Hopefully he will learn from this one.Drive No. 10
Time: 0:31 left
Score: Tied 20-20
Drive: 4 plays, 45 yards for a game-winning FG
Minnesota tied the game, and here we go. Exactly what Captain Comeback likes to see, and Luck delivered in his first opportunity. With a Ben Roethlisberger-like start to the drive, Luck moved to his left and found Avery for a 20-yard strike.
The Vikings rushed five this time, and Luck found Wayne wide open. Reggie even dove to the ground a little quicker than he needed to with the one timeout left. The Colts used it with 0:18 left at the MIN 40.
Luck would complete a 7-yard pass to Avery, but Minnesota was offsides. The Colts took the penalty, and Luck spiked it on first down. Maybe they thought the clock was running, but it was stopped after the defensive penalty. The end of the drive could have been handled a little better, but hard to complain when Adam Vinatieri comes out and drills the game-winner from 53 yards away.
Out of his 28 career game-winning field goals, this was the longest yet for Vinatieri. It is the first of what will likely be many game-winning drives for Luck, who is already showing himself to be one of the league’s most effective quarterbacks in the two-minute drill.
Chuck Pagano gets his first win, 23-20, and Colts fans can breathe easy after this performance.Summary
It was obviously a much better outcome for Andrew Luck this week. He finished the game with very good stats, which are even better when you remove the two spikes. He led the offense to 23 points on 10 drives (2.3 points per drive) as opposed to 14 points on 12 drives (1.17) last week. He was in full control at the end of each half.
Luck was also much better on third down. In Chicago, he converted just two of 10 attempts while only completing one of seven passes. This week he converted seven of 12 third downs.
Again, how much of this is getting to play the Vikings and not the Bears remains to be seen, but we can make some comparisons anyway for how the games went down. The two spikes have been removed from Luck’s Minnesota stats.
The most obvious differences come in the increased use of the shotgun and Luck making shorter throws. After just one screen last week, he had five against Minnesota. Luck doubled his Week 1 number of passes thrown behind the line of scrimmage, while splitting in half his number of passes thrown 11+ yards. Keep in mind he threw 45 passes last week and only 29 in this game.
He went with more high-percentage plays. The “STR” is the snap-to-release time, which was nearly identical in terms of average from last week. His rate of pressure was higher this week, but Luck handled pressure better by scrambling more.
One of the first downs was a gift from Jared Allen, but Luck still handled it better this time. He will have to keep doing that, as the offensive line has a lot of progress to try and make this season.
Finally, here is a look at how Luck fared with play-action passing the first two games:
With a home game against Jacksonville, this should be a perfect opportunity for Luck to work on his first winning streak and have another strong performance in front of the home crowd. It would also already equal the team’s win total from last season.
TEAMS: Indianapolis Colts, Minnesota Vikings, Chicago Bears, Pittsburgh Steelers
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