Andrew Luck came very close to his first NFL winning streak on Sunday, but the Colts were outdone in the final minute by a stunning 80-yard touchdown. It was only the 20th time since 1981 that a team took over in the final minute of the game and scored a game-winning touchdown.
Last week we saw Luck make his first game-winning drive, and this time he was trying for his first comeback. Adam Vinatieri was unusually shaky on a pair of fourth-quarter field goals, but made the second one for the lead that would not last long.
For the 13th time in their history, the Colts lost a game after leading by at least 11 points at halftime.
Drive No. 1
Time: 7:01 left
Score: Down 3-0
Drive: 6 plays, 74 yards for a TD
Just like last week, the opponent took half the quarter to put a field goal on the board. Luck started the game with the longest drop back of his career, taking 6.31 seconds to release the ball, which was also the first time he ever intentionally threw a pass away.
Two plays later he was intercepted by Rashean Mathis, but pass interference was called to negate it. After a third-down conversion to Reggie Wayne, Luck threw a perfect pass down the seam (34 yards in the air) to T.Y. Hilton for a 40-yard touchdown.
Drive No. 2
Time: 2:05 left
Score: Leading 7-3
Drive: 3 plays, 8 yards (three and out)
For the second straight drive, Luck’s first pass was off play action. He rolled to his right and threw a 5-yard pass to Dwayne Allen. The Colts ran some awful looking delay on 3rd and 2, which lost three yards, forcing a three-and-out punt.
Drive No. 3
Time: 13:25 left (2nd quarter)
Score: Leading 7-3
Drive: 9 plays, 36 yards (punt)
Now into the second quarter, Luck avoided a consecutive three and out by scrambling for 19 yards on a 3rd and 10. That is his longest run yet. After a bad drop over the middle by Wayne, Luck scrambled again to convert a 3rd and 10, but this time he slid after 13 yards instead of taking a big hit.
Setting up the deep attempt, Luck threw a bomb that went over 50 yards down the field to Donnie Avery, but it was still underthrown and nearly intercepted. Two plays later Luck could only find Allen for a 5-yard gain on 3rd and 11, and the Colts punted.
Drive No. 4
Time: 5:30 left
Score: Leading 7-3
Drive: 14 plays, 80 yards for a TD
Wayne made up for the drop with a double-catch, meaning he nearly dropped another pass, but hauled it in while diving to the ground for 13 yards. Avery would also make a nice 13-yard grab, sliding out of bounds.
Now working the two-minute drill, Luck went back to the right sideline to find Wayne for 13 more yards on a nicely timed play. Hilton dropped a pass, and Luck nearly threw an interception in the end zone on a risky pass. Fortunately, Wayne would get wide open again on 3rd and 10, moving the ball to the Jacksonville 4-yard line.
Unfortunately, the Bruce Arians idea of spiking the ball here seems alive and well, as Luck did indeed spike the ball on first-and-goal from the four with 0:43 and a timeout left. It was refreshing to see rookie Russell Wilson call a play and not spike the ball in this situation for Seattle on Monday night. Hopefully Luck can figure out the same thing.
It did not matter, as Luck found Mewelde Moore open for the 4-yard touchdown. It was a simple slant with the slightest bit of a natural pick by Wayne. Moore has one catch in each of the three games, and has picked up exactly one yard after the catch each time.
The Colts led 14-3 at the half, and Luck was 11 of 20 for 137 yards and two scores. That includes two drops, a spike and an intentional throw away. He had two runs for 32 yards, compared to 10 carries for 19 yards by the running backs.
Drive No. 5
Time: 14:55 left (3rd quarter)
Score: Leading 14-3
Drive: 4 plays, 8 yards (punt)
This drive would be stalled by a holding penalty that brought up a 2nd-and-20 situation. Luck threw a 5-yard screen pass (just the second and final screen of the game) to Hilton, and was inaccurate on a 3rd and 15 that went out of bounds due to the pressure. The Colts punted.
Drive No. 6
Time: 12:05 left
Score: Leading 14-10
Drive: 6 plays, 19 yards (punt)
After Maurice Jones-Drew went 59 yards for a touchdown, things tightened up. Luck had a nice 3rd-and-2 conversion after double clutching and lofting the ball to Wayne for five yards.
Setting up another play action, Luck used 5.67 seconds to release the ball, but overthrew Allen by a good margin on a 40+ yard pass. Luck is 0/4 on passes over 41 yards this season.
Austin Collie made his lone reception of the season on the next play, and injured his knee in the process. It was a very depressing sight to see Collie reach for his head, followed by his mouthpiece just falling out in what has to be disgust. He knew immediately, as he grabbed for his knee.
Under pressure Luck was able to throw across his body to Coby Fleener on 3rd and 4, but he dropped it. Not certain if this would have been a first down, but you never have a chance when you drop the ball. Fleener finished with no catches on two targets.
Drive No. 7
Time: 8:20 left
Score: Leading 14-10
Drive: 4 plays, 13 yards (interception)
Starting to get predictable with the runs on first and second down, Luck converted the 3rd and 1 with a play-action pass and 4-yard gain to Allen. However, his next pass would be a poor throw that was easily intercepted by Paul Posluszny. The pass was intended for Wayne, but it never had a chance.
Drive No. 8
Time: 2:49 left
Score: Leading 14-13
Drive: 4 plays, 19 yards (punt)
The defense held Jacksonville to a field goal, but we had a one-point game now. After a great sideline catch by Avery again, Luck’s next two passes went back to him, but both were defended well by the Jaguars. It was another quick punt.
Drive No. 9
Time: 10:55 left (4th quarter)
Score: Trailing 16-14
Drive: 12 plays, 74 yards (missed FG)
Now into the fourth quarter and trailing, it was time for the first fourth quarter comeback opportunity of Luck’s career.
He started with a 17-yard gain to Allen. After another near interception, Luck scrambled for his third first down of the game on third down. His next drop back was also a scramble for 10 yards, and for the second straight week, Luck drew a penalty for a defender hitting him late out of bounds.
But with the ball at the Jacksonville 22, the conservative, bad red zone offense struck again. Two runs were called, and then Luck hit Allen for four yards when they needed five. The decision to kick the field goal was the right one.
Shockingly, Adam Vinatieri missed the 36-yard attempt with 4:40 left. I still felt confident he would get the game-winning kick, but one can only wonder how the game might have played out if he made this first one.
Drive No. 10
Time: 3:02 left
Score: Trailing 16-14
Drive: 4 plays, 12 yards (punt)
After a holding penalty looked to derail this thread from the start, Luck threw maybe his best pass of the day: a frozen rope to Hilton for 32 yards to convert the 1st and 20.
But instead of finishing the drive off with a game-winning score, it stalled. Luck was inaccurate on first down, short-hopped a pass on second down, and the Colts picked up another holding penalty.
On 3rd and 20, Luck just barely overthrew Avery for a big gain. Avery may have been contacted with a bit before the pass arrived, but he laid out for it and it was just a tad too far. The Colts had to punt, and had the good fortune of the punt being whistled dead at 2:01.
Then again, in hindsight the Colts may not have wanted an extra 40 seconds on the clock.
Drive No. 11
Time: 1:33 left
Score: Trailing 16-14
Drive: 5 plays, 48 yards (37-yard field goal)
With 1:33 and no timeouts left at his own 33, Luck was in good position to lead a game-winning drive for the second straight week. If it is even possible, he may have even harmed himself by starting the drive with such a good play.
A simple check down to Donald Brown – his first catch of the season – was good for 39 yards after a big run after the catch. The Colts were already at the JAX 28 and in range for Vinatieri.
At this point they simply sat on the ball. They ran it three times, and the Jaguars used all three of their timeouts. Vinatieri made the field goal this time, barely, and the Colts led 17-16 with 0:56 left.
Drive No. 12
Time: 0:35 left
Score: Trailing 22-17
Drive: 6 plays, 36 yards (time expires)
Hard to believe, but it only took Blaine Gabbert one play to find Cecil Shorts for an 80-yard touchdown to take the lead. Luck had his work cut out for him now, needing to go 62 yards in 0:35 with no timeouts.
Luck’s first pass came out funny after being hit as he threw it. His next pass was overthrown as Kris Adams slowed down. Luck went right back to the same area on the field, but this time to Hilton and it was good for 32 yards to give the Colts a shot.
Luck spiked the ball with 0:07 left and the Colts would get two more shots. Pressure nearly led to a fumble, but Luck got the ball out incomplete. On the last play his Hail Mary attempt was a bit uneven as it was Wayne matched up with five Jaguars in the vicinity.
The pass fell incomplete and Jacksonville had the 22-17 win.
Andrew Luck finished 22 of 46 for 313 yards, 2 TD, INT and a 75.7 passer rating. He was more accurate than those numbers suggest, though some of his incompletions were way off compared to the control he displayed last week.
Reviewing some of our key metrics for the season:
The amount of YAC from the receivers was a little better this week, though most of that is because of Brown’s big play. The STR (snap-to-release time) was higher this week, which could speak to some better protection for Luck. They did set up a few deep shots off play action this time around.
The shotgun was still used a lot, though not quite as much as last week. Luck used the empty backfield on eight plays, threw only two screen passes, and avoided four sacks.
In terms of drop backs under pressure, which exclude spikes, it was the lowest rate of pressure yet this week.
Though Luck did not throw the ball well under pressure, he scrambled for four first downs and finished the game with 50 yards on the ground.
The play-action pass was again infrequently used, but you could see they really wanted to try and get Avery one-on-one deep down the field.
With the Colts on their bye week, that gives me an early-season break as well. So far I am very satisfied with Luck’s performances, but I think the coaches could help him out a bit more than they have so far.
One area is trust, such as when they reached the red zone late in the fourth quarter. Instead of calling so many runs, why not let Luck throw again to try and get the first down or even a touchdown?
The running back screen was a no-no in Pittsburgh, but when Donald Brown actually catches the ball, he has some big-play potential. That should be utilized more, or how about even once? Somehow I am not surprised the screen to start Luck’s preseason career might be the last one we see all year.
The Colts sit at 1-2 and will kick themselves all week for not being 2-1 after coughing up this one. I will leave you with a great nugget.
In his third career game, Andrew Luck experienced his first lost comeback, which is a game where the quarterback did everything to earn the comeback win except for the win part. He also had his kicker miss a potential game-winning kick in a loss.
In Tom Brady’s career, it was not until his 129th game – a little one known as Super Bowl XLII – when he experienced his first lost comeback. He did not have his kicker fail in the clutch in a loss until Week 2 against Arizona this year, which was his 185th game.
There is Luck, and then there is luck.