Following a Legend: Andrew Luck Week 14 vs. Tennessee Titans

Andrew Luck had a very efficient performance on the road in Tennessee back in Week 8. This time he was…less than efficient, but the result was the same: another comeback, another game-winning drive, and another win.

The Titans also amped up the pressure once again, and to better results, even if some were aided by replay incompetence.

Statistically, this goes down as Luck’s worst game of his career, but while the offense had their struggles, you will see that it took three uncommon plays to craft that ugly stat line.

Fortunately, we go through every play here to better understand this week’s performance, which did result in a rookie record as Luck had his sixth game-winning drive of the season.

He also passed some guy named Peyton Manning for the second most passing yards in NFL history by a rookie (3,792 yards).

Drive No. 1

Drive Stats: 10:10 left (1st quarter), trailing 7-0. 3 plays, 0 yard (three-and-out punt).

Like last week, the Colts started with a three and out. Vick Ballard could not gain a yard on the ground, then Luck had to scramble right and throw one incomplete over the head of a covered Coby Fleener. On 3rd and 10, T.Y. Hilton was wide open – not a common sight this season – down the right sideline, but Luck just missed the throw by inches. Hilton had it on his fingertips and laid out for it, but it was incomplete. A better pass and we are looking at an 80-yard touchdown for sure.

Drive No. 2

Drive Stats: 5:12 left, trailing 7-0. 7 plays, 53 yards (4-yard touchdown pass to Reggie Wayne).

Hilton has been emerging as a big-play threat, and he took a short pass over the middle and turned it into a 36-yard gain to put the Colts in the red zone. On a 3rd and 4, Ballard was open on a little angle route and took the pass to the TEN 1. After Delone Carter was stuffed for a loss of three yards, Luck used a great play-action fake to find Reggie Wayne wide open in the back of the end zone for the touchdown.  

Drive No. 3

Drive Stats: 12:27 left (2nd quarter), trailing 10-7. 5 plays, 9 yards (punt).

The second quarter is when the offensive woes really showed up. Luck came out with a play fake to no running back in particular, and with good protection he overthrew Fleener deep down the middle of the field. Emptying the backfield, Hilton was open again for a 14-yard gain. But Luck once again overthrew Fleener off a play-action pass. On 3rd and 7, Luck was buried on a sack after Winston Justice was just destroyed by Derrick Morgan.

Drive No. 4

Drive Stats: 8:21 left, trailing 10-7. 7 plays, 31 yards (Andrew Luck interception returned 40 yards for touchdown).

This drive started with a 9-yard gain on a bubble screen to Wayne. Two plays later, Wayne got the ball again, but lost five yards on a lateral that was intended to be another pass. Mark it as another career first for Luck, but not a good play.

Luck used the hard count again, which was a theme throughout the game, and he drew the Titans offsides. It did not matter as he found Wayne for a 16-yard pass.

Three plays later disaster struck. Luck was pressured by the four-man rush, scrambled to his left, and as he was going down for a sack, he let go of the ball. It went right to Will Witherspoon, who returned it 40 yards for a touchdown and 17-7 lead.

All scoring plays are reviewed, but this was botched as Luck’s knee was clearly down. It should have been a sack, which would have brought out the punting team. However, the replay booth never got around to showing the definitive proof of the sack, so they blew it.

Obviously it was a huge play in the game, but for statistical purposes, just a rough drive for Luck as he had the lateral to Wayne that was supposed to be a pass, and a pick six that should have just been a sack.

Drive No. 5

Drive Stats: 4:40 left, trailing 17-7. 4 plays, 12 yards (punt).

We know all about Luck bouncing back from mistakes, but the Colts nearly coughed up another turnover. After Luck took a bit long with the ball, he finally got it to Carter, who on his first catch of the season gained 13 yards, but fumbled. Two Titans could have had it, but Wayne dived in to recover for the Colts.

Tennessee’s pressure continued, and Luck was sacked again after trying to throw a deep ball on a play-action pass. Fleener, who would be injured on the tackle, caught a pass for nine yards, setting up 3rd and 7. But the line collapsed all around again, and Luck was sacked for the third time in the quarter.

Drive No. 6

Drive Stats: 0:37 left, trailing 20-7. 6 plays, 27 yards (Andrew Luck Hail Mary interception)

For the second week in a row the Colts allowed 20 points in the first half. Trying to do something with 0:37 and one timeout left, Luck started at his own 20 again. He took another shot to start this drive before passing for 12 yards to Donnie Avery on second down.

Luck had to spin away from pressure and just threw a pass over everybody down the field. Dwayne Allen then nearly tipped a ball into a dangerous pick, but it fell incomplete. On 3rd and 10, Luck threw incomplete to Wayne, but picked up the first down and 15 yards thanks to the pass interference penalty.

The Colts had to use their final timeout as center Samson Satele was injured. Luck then had to do yet another scramble to his left and throw the ball away with just 0:05 left at his own 47.

It was Hail Mary time, and Luck threw one up that was intercepted at the goal line. No harm there, but a stat killer. That was only the third time a quarterback threw a Hail Mary interception before halftime this season.

Teams trailing by exactly 13 points at halftime only win 11.5 percent of the time since 1950, so the Colts had their work cut out for them.

Drive No. 7

Drive Stats: 15:00 left (3rd quarter), trailing 20-7. 14 plays, 80 yards (Delone Carter 1-yard touchdown run).

Desperately needing a scoring drive and starting the second half with the ball, the Colts went to work. Luck used a play-action fake, but without too much pressure around him, he moved to his right and picked up nine yards on the ground.

After three straight runs, the Colts faced a 3rd and 9. Tennessee brought the heat but the Colts had the right play ready with Wayne on the inside move. He gained 12 yards. Ballard then picked up 13 on the ground. Wayne may have been held on his next target in tight coverage. Luck tried to avoid another sack, but was eventually taken down for the fourth time on the day.

But on 3rd and 11, Luck came through. He was moving backwards under the pressure, but still threw an accurate pass to Wayne, who made the catch for 20 yards despite two Titans in coverage.

According to CBS, that was the pass that moved Luck past Peyton Manning on the all-time list for passing yards by a rookie. Quite the play to do it on.

The next throw to Wayne was too wide of the mark. After good runs by Ballard put the ball at the TEN 1, Luck tried to throw a fade to Avery, but it was defended by a defender who was not even playing the ball. Anyways, Carter redeemed himself with the touchdown run on third and goal. Colts were back in it.

Drive No. 8

Drive Stats: 7:34 left, trailing 20-14 3 plays, 6 yards (three-and-out drive).

With a chance to take the lead, the Colts had a disappointing three and out. Ballard gained nothing, Avery gained one yard on a screen, and even though the hard count bought Luck five yards, his 3rd-and-4 pass to Allen was defended. At least Luck avoided the sack.

Drive No. 9

Drive Stats: 10:28 left (4th quarter), trailing 23-21. 10 plays, 45 yards (Adam Vinatieri 53-yard field goal).

A lot happened in the game in between these drives, including the Colts taking the lead on a pick six, then falling behind again after a long Tennessee field goal drive. Keep that in mind when considering how impressive it was for the offense to retake the field after the delay and get things going.

Needing another fourth quarter comeback, Luck started at his own 20 for the sixth time in the game. Wayne picked up three yards on a short throw. On 3rd and 2 Luck once again drew the Titans off with the hard count, but fumbled the ball. The penalty wiped that out and moved the chains.

After a delay of game, Luck saw his pass go off Avery’s hands, and Avery was hit for it too. That’s alright, as he came right back to him for an 18-yard gain over the middle for a first down. Luck was then hit as he threw and the pass came up lame into a harmless section of field turf.

Ballard broke off a 14-yard run, then Luck had another center-exchange problem with A.Q. Shipley replacing Satele. He fell on the fumble for a loss of three yards. LaVon Brazill caught his only target of the day for eight yards, setting up a big 3rd and 5 at the TEN 35.

Luck moved to his right and delivered a perfect pass into the back corner of the end zone for Avery, but it hit him in the facemask and he was unable to make the catch. Tough break, as this was a huge play and potential game-winner.

Instead it just gave Adam Vinatieri a shot at what he does best: making game-winning field goals. Even from 53 yards out, Vinatieri was good for the 30th game-winning field goal of his career. Colts led 24-23 with 6:23 left.

Drive No. 10

Drive Stats: 5:32 left, leading 24-23. 4 plays, 6 yards (Adam Vinatieri 40-yard field goal).

After Jake Locker turned it over again, the Colts had the ball at the TEN 28, which has been so rare for them to start in great field position this season. They did not take advantage though, running twice before Luck overthrew Wayne in the end zone. Vinatieri added the 40-yard field goal.

Drive No. 11

Drive Stats: 2:42 left, leading 27-23. 4 plays, 25 yards (end of game).

With a chance to end the game offensively, the Colts had 2:42 to erase on the clock. Ballard gained 13 yards on second down, and then was stuffed on first down, but the Titans used their final timeout with 2:25 left.

Why not end it right here? The Colts bucked tradition of the four-minute offense once again this season, and they called a pass play. Luck found Allen over the middle for 11 yards, and this one was over. Just three kneel downs to ice another win.

It is a win that guarantees the Colts (9-4) will have a winning season.

 

Summary

Andrew Luck finished 16 of 34 for 196 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT, and a 50.6 passer rating. He was sacked four times and had five runs for seven yards.

This game made it easy to tell which people watched the game, and which read the box score. Luck could play 18 years and I bet you he never has another game in which he has an interception that was a referee mistake, a Hail Mary interception, and a long touchdown pass dropped – not to mention it was on third down and for the go-ahead score – in the same game.

Did Luck play a good game this week? No, his first game against Tennessee was considerably better. But Luck was far better than the stats this time. Maybe more so than any other week this year.

Here is the summary of Luck’s 18 incompletions:

  • 8 overthrows
  • 4 passes defensed
  • 2 passes dropped (both by Avery)
  • 2 passes where Luck was hit as he threw (including the “pick 6”)
  • 1 pass thrown wide
  • 1 intentional throwaway

The usual table summary was hard to compile this week when I only had Game Rewind to analyze it, so there are more incomplete fields this week.

Luck has 41 drop backs based on the 34 passes, four sacks, two runs that were not knees, and also counting that lateral pass that was intended to be a screen. The Colts only called three screens this week, and that was one of them even if it goes down as a loss of five yards on a run by Wayne.

The key is the pressure, and you can see the percentage this week (41.5) is slightly lower than it was when the teams first met (44.4). Luck handled it masterfully that day, while this time he really struggled to move the ball as he was running for his life so much.

There was one stretch (during 2nd-3rd quarters) where Luck was pressured on 10 of 16 drop backs. But that stretch did end with Luck’s highlight-worthy 20-yard pass to Wayne on 3rd and 11 in the third quarter.

The play-action passing game was very “miss” this week. Luck was even sacked twice. However, that touchdown to Wayne was great execution off the fake.

For the second straight week the YAC went over 50.0 percent (99 of 196). You can thank Hilton (40) for that with one really big play. Carter had 11 YAC on his first catch this year, though he had the near-costly fumble.

Avery dropped two passes, with obviously none bigger than the 35-yard touchdown. He only had three catches for 31 yards on nine targets this week. Not a good game.

Wayne had to make his mark again as no other receiver had more than three catches. Even Wayne’s 64 yards represent a season low as the leader in receiving yards for the Colts in any of their 13 games.

It was a weird game with some unusual plays in terms of interceptions and touchdowns, but it was still another improbable comeback win for the Colts.

 

Next game: Thanks, New England. After that stomping on Monday night, expect Houston to come out strong on Sunday. The Colts will have to win a very high-scoring game, and that is going to be a serious problem with this offensive line against J.J. Watt and that pass rush. But if the Colts have taught us anything this season, you have to give them a fighting chance, and you better be ahead by three scores in the fourth quarter if you’re playing them.

If Chad Henne can come off the bench and nearly win in that stadium with Jacksonville, then Andrew Luck can do the same.

 

If you have any suggestions, questions or comments, feel free to e-mail me at smk_42@yahoo.com or find me on Twitter at @CaptainComeback.

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