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Breaking Down Luck’s Sacks Against the Browns

There hasn’t been any All-22 Film released for the Colts’ game yet this week, but one film breakdown that we can do is sacks. 

Luck was sacked three times on Sunday, although his pocket presence and willingness to run was much better than last week against the Jets, leading to two rushing touchdowns this week. The offensive line this week played their best game of the season, yet Luck still took three sacks. 

Who was to blame for these sacks? Luck or the offensive line? 

As usual, the answer likely lies somewhere in the middle. 

3rd Quarter, 4:45 left

1st and 10 on the Jets’ 22

This play would set off a series of negative plays that would stall the Colts’ drive, leading to just a field goal. After a motion out by Fleener, the Colts have two WRs split left (Wayne and Avery), Fleener split left, and TE Allen on the left side of the line, with Ballard in the backfield. 

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The Browns will blitz all three linebackers, while the right and left defensive ends drop into coverage. Vick Ballard is going to help pick up the blitz and Dwayne Allen will go out for a pass, leaving six blockers for five pass rushers. 

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The play starts out well, with each lineman picking up the correct pass rusher. But, how the play is designed by the defense, the left tackle and guard are left with just one defensive lineman between them, leaving one linebacker unblocked as McGlynn and Satele each pick one up. The ROLB (yellow) has shot towards the gap between the center and right guard and will be picked up (or attempted to be) by Vick Ballard. 

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At this point, everyone but that penetrating outside linebacker is blocked well. Luck should do one of two things at this point. A. Throw the ball. Without the All-22 film it’s impossible to see if anyone is open, but if not Luck always has the option of throwing the ball away. B. Move. If Luck doesn’t move in the pocket, he won’t have any room to step up and make a play later. All he has to do at this point is slide ot his left, or even scramble out of the pocket left. The only thing Luck can’t do here is stay put or move up. Which, of course, is exactly what he does. 

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After a brief cocking of the arm, Luck decides against throwing, but by that point, the linebacker had gotten through Ballard and got to Luck, who took a half step forward as he thought about throwing the ball. You can see by comparing the previous two pictures that Luck’s spot in the pocket never changes (right between the 27 and 28), and he’s sacked because of it. Ballard gets credited the sack because it was a poor attempt at a block, but Luck shouldn’t have allowed that one to happen. 

3rd Quarter, 1:25 left

2nd and 7 from the Colts’ 27

This play would set up a third and long, which the Colts failed to convert. The Colts have Dwyane Allen and Coby Fleener (after motion) on the left side of the line, with Wayne and Avery split out right. Delone Carter is the lone back. 

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The Colts’ play action fools the LOLB, who takes a few steps forward, but eventually drops into coverage. The Browns only end up sending the four down linemen, while the Colts keep Allen back to block. 

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As you can see, Luck has a pretty clean pocket after making the turn off of the play-fake. The Colts have put Dwayne Allen one-on-one with the Browns’ right defensive end Frostee Rucker, allowing Anthony Castonzo to drop down and double team Jeff Linkenbach’s man. Satele takes the other DT on the play, and Justice is matched up one-on-one with the Browns’ left defensive end. Mike McGlynn was set to take the blitzing linebacker, but that linebacker ended up dropping into coverage with Delone Carter. So, McGlynn has no body to block, but he chooses to give Satele’s man a little chip, which you can see in this picture, before turning back to check on Justice. 

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At this point, Luck still appears to have a nice clean pocket. Linkenbach, Justice and Allen have done a good job, with Castonzo finishing his turn back to the outside, ready to take on Rucker should he try to slip inside of Allen. But, you can start to see that Satele’s man (blue) has used the momentum gained by McGlynn’s little chip to slip around Satele, and will soon get in Luck’s line of sight.

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Here, Luck has seen the penetrating DT, and stepped to his right with his eyes forward. He has room to run, although the other DT (90) is bearing that way, Luck should be able to cut right with little resistance. As you can see (circled in blue) the linebacker in that area has his head turned, Luck would be by him before he knew what happened. 

After tucking the ball to run, Luck decides he doesn’t have enough room to get through, and slows down to stutter step back to the left. I have two problems with this. First, it seems like he would have had room to get through the hole (and get a first down, there’s no linebackers in sight) had he merely kept going full speed. Second, if he was going to cut, it would have been better to cut right, around the left defensive end, who at this point had rounded around and whose momentum would have taken him right past Luck. Again the linebacker on Ballard (in the background upper left) is still facing the other way. 

Of course, Rucker (#92) takes down Luck as he tries to cut left for the two yard sack. If you want to put blame on this sack you have to give it to Satele, who gave up the penetration that actually caused the sack, but I put more blame on Luck for this one. He can’t dance around behind this offensive line, if he decides to tuck and run then he has to go full speed out of the backfield. Once he gets positive yards, then he can cut, dance, slide, whatever. Just don’t take negative plays like this one. 

I’ll be posting a breakdown of Luck’s third sack later, as soon as the All-22 film is available, so we can clearly point to what happens on that play, the sole turnover of the day. 

Kyle J. Rodriguez

About Kyle J. Rodriguez

A film and numbers guru, Kyle writes about the NFL and the Indianapolis Colts for Bleacher Report, Draft Mecca and The Football Educator, and is a co-founder and associate editor of Colts Authority. Kyle also is a high school sports reporter for the MLive Media Group in Michigan, covering high school sports across the state.

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