When the Colts lost to Jacksonville in Week 3, the team looked to have quite a way to go to get back to prominence in the AFC. But flash forward to Week 10 and these two teams could not have moved in further directions.
Jacksonville (1-8) has not won another game, while the Colts continue their four-game winning streak to get to 6-3. The Colts even doubled their takeaway total for the season.
Andrew Luck received glowing praise for his debut in prime time, graded well on some advanced metrics, but find out why it was no better than his fifth best game of the season.
Drive No. 1
Drive Stats: 14:07 left (1st quarter), tied 0-0. 5 plays, 23 yards (punt).
Vick Ballard started the game with an 11-yard run. Luck then targeted Reggie Wayne on four straight pass plays. He caught the first two, including a bubble screen for no gain. On 2nd and 10 Luck stepped up and found Wayne open, but he dropped the pass (his fifth drop of the season) before even being contacted. On third down, Wayne again had a shot at one, but the pass was a bit wide after being tipped at the line. Colts had to punt.
Drive No. 2
Drive Stats: 10:58 left, tied 0-0. 7 plays, 44 yards (Adam Vinatieri 31-yard field goal).
Luck’s fifth pass of the game also went to Wayne, and off play action it was an 18-yard gain. T.Y. Hilton had a 19-yard gain on a successful end around. Robert Hughes saw his first target of the season, catching a 3-yard pass to set up a 3rd and 5 at the JAX 7.
In an empty backfield against four pass rushers, Luck could not find a receiver, and was sacked for the first time in a goal-to-go situation this season. It was the second sack he’s had in the red zone. Adam Vinatieri kicked the 31-yard field goal for the game’s initial points.
Drive No. 3
Drive Stats: 3:14 left, leading 3-0. 8 plays, 66 yards (Andrew Luck 5-yard TD run).
The drive started with a near disaster as Luck, under pressure, threw a terrible pass that was easily intercepted. But Jacksonville was penalized for roughing the passer (helmet-to-helmet hit), so wipe out the pick.
On the last play of the first quarter, Luck threw a pass to a diving Wayne, who was not touched down by the Jaguars. He was able to crawl forward to pick up the first down. Off play action, it was Wayne again with a 21-yard catch. Wayne was the target on eight of Luck’s first nine throws.
After a 3-yard run by Donald Brown, Luck ran right on a bootleg on what might have been a designed run, did two pump fakes, and hopped in for the 5-yard touchdown run (and a career-first spike in celebration). Colts led 10-0.
Drive No. 4
Drive Stats: 11:22 left (2nd quarter), leading 10-0. 7 plays, 61 yards (Andrew Luck 1-yard TD run).
Luck started the drive with a 7-yard check down to Ballard after a play-action pass. Two plays later he went deep to Donnie Avery, and Jacksonville misplayed the ball, leading to a big 44-yard gain on a great catch.
After two unproductive runs from Ballard, Luck threw the quick slant to Ballard, which is a little similar to the play the Colts scored a touchdown on to Mewelde Moore against the Jaguars in Week 3.
This time it was stopped at the 1-yard line, but Bruce Arians made the right move to go for it. He also chose the right play, as Luck went ahead on the quarterback sneak and did enough to break the plane for the touchdown.
The call was disputed, but there was clear evidence Luck broke the plane. The fifth rushing touchdown of the season sets a franchise record for a quarterback. Maybe Luck decided he wants to chase Cam Newton’s rushing touchdown record too?
Drive No. 5
Drive Stats: 6:12 left, leading 17-0. 8 plays, 43 yards (interception).
Playing with the biggest lead of his NFL career, Luck threw a quick slant to LaVon Brazill, who turned it into a 21-yard gain. This was the second straight week the Colts produced a big play on a quick slant after it was missing the first seven games.
The next first down was picked up after Wayne drew a pass interference penalty on 3rd and 5. Luck had Wayne set up for a touchdown on a double move, but he threw a bad pass. It was his first miss after making nine straight completions. Two plays later Luck made another bad throw, and this time the interception counted. At least he made a nice attempt at a diving tackle.
Jacksonville went on to score a field goal, and Luck took a knee to end the half. We don’t cover kneel-down drives here though.
Drive No. 6
Drive Stats: 14:55 left (3rd quarter), leading 17-3. 6 plays, 39 yards (punt).
Getting the ball first to start the second half, Luck had Wayne open over the middle for 16 yards. Off play action, Avery was open for 15 yards near the sideline. Avery’s bubble screen only gained a yard.
It took 19 passes, but Dwayne Allen saw the first tight end target of the game, catching a screen pass for four yards. On 3rd and 5 at the JAX 40, Brazill dropped a short pass that may have given the Colts a chance to kick a field goal or go for it. Instead they punted.
Drive No. 7
Drive Stats: 8:02 left, leading 24-3. 4 plays, 11 yards (punt).
But with Blaine Gabbert throwing a brutal pick six to Darius Butler, more scoring was not really necessary. Hilton started the drive with another end around for 11 yards. Going deep to Avery, he failed to make the catch for what would have been a huge gain.
Luck threw a bit late to Hilton, and was fortunate to not be intercepted. After his big game last week, Hilton only had this one target and the two runs on the night.
On 3rd and 10, Luck wanted a screen to Brown, but it was low and incomplete. The Colts punted again.
Drive No. 8
Drive Stats: 5:02 left, leading 24-3. 9 plays, 69 yards (Andrew Luck sack/fumble).
Starting to work on the clock, the Colts threw sparingly the rest of the game. They did go play action for a 27-yard gain to Allen over the middle. Four plays later, Avery made five yards on another bubble screen.
With the ball at the JAX 20 on the first play of the fourth quarter, the four-man rush got to Luck from behind, forcing a sack and a fumble. Jacksonville recovered on Luck’s fourth lost fumble of the season.
Drive No. 9
Drive Stats: 9:16 left (4th quarter), leading 24-10. 9 plays, 57 yards (Adam Vinatieri 41-yard field goal).
With Jacksonville trying to make a game of it, down 24-10, the Colts put together a time-consuming field goal drive to close the game. Luck converted a 3rd and 3 with a 16-yard pass to Wayne. Luck’s only other drop back was a 9-yard scramble in which he took a big hit while sliding feet first at the end of the run, drawing 15 more yards on a flag.
Luck got back up with no problem, and Brown carried three more times for eight yards before Vinatieri added the 41-yard field goal with 3:23 left. Colts led 27-10.
Butler picked up one more interception, and Luck was able to come out and simply take three knees to end the game for the Colts’ fourth straight win.
Andrew Luck finished 18 of 26 for 227 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT, and an 80.1 passer rating. Excluding kneel downs, he ran three times for 15 yards and two touchdowns. That gives him a season-low 31 drop backs, but the game was well in hand for a change, hence no need for more.
The game was not as overwhelmingly great for Luck as some have suggested. He had two turnovers in scoring territory. He was bailed out by the roughing call on another interception. He locked on to Wayne quite a bit in the game. He did not throw a touchdown. He did not avoid any sacks. He only converted 1-of-7 on third down after a brilliant 12-of-17 performance last week.
Yet, without the three drops, he could have just as easily had a 21 of 26 for 290-yard day. It’s getting scary (good) that Luck can have such a strong statistical game without even looking great already in his career.
The games against Chicago and Minnesota were removed from the table this week for spacing reasons.
How about the pretty awesome pass protection this week? Luck was pressured a season-low 25.0 percent of the time in Week 3 against Jacksonville, and it got even better this time with just 16.7 percent. That does not include the quarterback sneak play, since it’s pretty obvious what the defense will try and do on a designed run like that.
Jacksonville sent more pressure this time, but the Colts picked it up very well, and they had their most dominant play-action game of the season, using it 41.9 percent of the time.
With a lot of the big gains off play action, the shotgun was rarely used, and the YAC was pretty low again (34.4 percent), but that’s fine. Luck tried six screens, and completed five of them for only 15 yards.
How much of these weekly stats we look at in regards to formations and play calls are part of the game plan versus how many are in-game adjustments to the score and situational football? We do not know, but one thing is clear: you cannot say the Colts do the same thing every week.
Which type of offense works best for Luck? As long as he’s making plays to win games, you can pick any of them, as he’s shown he can handle them all.
This week Luck plays his first game against Tom Brady and the Patriots in New England. Safe to say a lot of points will be required to win as the Colts have not had a big answer for the New England offense in several years. But fortunately that Belichick defense is not as stiff as the ones a young Peyton Manning played. The Colts can earn some huge respect with an upset win, but it will require a truly special performance by Luck.