Following a Legend: Andrew Luck Week 6 at New York Jets

Rather than build off last week’s incredible win, the Colts and Andrew Luck had a letdown in only their second road game of the season. The Jets took the lead early in the second quarter and never looked back on their way to a 35-9 win. 

It happens to teams in this phase. Even Peyton Manning lost to a much better Jets team by a 44-6 score in his second career road game.  

I wrote about Luck and the other four 2012 rookie quarterbacks over at NBC Sports, but I wish it came after a better performance. This was Luck’s least impressive game of the season, so let’s take a look at why that was the case.  

Drive No. 1

Drive Stats: 15:00 left (1st quarter), tied 0-0. 7 plays, 40 yards (punt)

Dwayne Allen opened things up with a solid 12-yard catch, but things went backwards after Nathan Palmer lost four yards on a bad screen and a reverse end-around saw Luck lead block but never touch anyone. Let’s scrap that play too.  

But on 3rd and 15, Luck had perfect protection and gunned it to Donnie Avery, working on Kyle Wilson, for 24 yards. 

The Colts went pass on 3rd and 1, and called a play similar to one that gained 18 yards with Coby Fleener last week. This time Luck hesitated, pumped, and overthrew a wide open Allen.  

It would have been a good spot to go for it, but of course Bruce Arians sent the punt team out immediately. 

Drive No. 2

Drive Stats: 9:15 left, tied 0-0. 7 plays, 57 yards (20-yard FG)

Starting the drive with some play action, Fleener was very interfered with down the right sideline, drawing a 28-yard penalty. Later, Luck had his fourth pass of the season batted down at the line. 

Bart Scott deflected a bad pass by Luck without even looking back at the ball, but roughing the passer put the ball at the 11. Luck passed to Hilton on second down, and he was hit immediately. 

On 3rd and 1 at the NYJ 2, the Colts again went with a play-action pass to a tight end, and this time Fleener was open, but Luck once again overthrew his receiver. This was in the end zone. The Colts settled for a field goal to take the 3-0 lead. 

Drive No. 3

Drive Stats: 14:13 left (2nd quarter), trailing 7-3. 3 plays, 6 yards (interception)

Now trailing, Luck was wide of the mark on 3rd and 4, the ball deflected off one of Reggie Wayne’s hands, and Antonio Cromartie came up with the pick. Cromartie returned it for a touchdown, but that was wiped out by a personal foul. The pick stood, and it was just a poorly thrown ball. 

Drive No. 4

Drive Stats: 9:42 left, trailing 14-3. 11 plays, 53 yards (50-yard FG)

Luck is still responding well to mistakes, and put together another scoring drive after the pick.  

Hilton could not complete a pass after Wilson defended the ball well. Fleener and Avery made back-to-back catches for 11 yards. Luck scrambled to his right and found Allen, who picked up 12 yards after the catch (most of the day on a non-screen). The play was good for 21 yards. 

The official game book has no intended receiver listed on a 2nd-and-3 play at the NYJ 32, though it was clearly Avery failing to complete a catch against Cromartie. On the next play Cromartie had yet another pick six, but this score and the takeaway were wiped out after he was called for pass interference on Wayne

Linkenbach was flagged for illegal use of hands, and that pretty much stunted this drive. Luck was sacked, overthrew Palmer, and Wayne dropped a pass on 3rd and 22 that never would have made the first down anyway. 

Adam Vinatieri kicked a 50-yard field goal to make it 14-6. 

The turning point of the game came when the Jets did a fake punt pass with Tim Tebow on 4th and 11. Instead of Luck having a chance for another two-minute drill to make it 14-13 or 14-9 at halftime, the Jets went on to score a touchdown and led 21-6. The Colts could only take a knee and head to the locker room. 

When you allow three straight touchdown drives to the Jets, you know your defense has a real problem. 

Drive No. 5

Drive Stats: 14:04 left (3rd quarter), trailing 21-6. 6 plays, 21 yards (punt)

Hilton gained 16 yards on the best screen of the day for the Colts (they called five of them). Luck went deep for Wayne, but Cromartie was flagged once again for illegal contact this time. 

On 3rd and 3 at the NYJ 43, Luck was under siege and just threw the ball away. He was flagged for intentional grounding, though it did look like the back was in the area. Either way, another punt.  

Drive No. 6

Drive Stats: 9:10 left, trailing 21-6. 8 plays, 29 yards (punt)

On play action Luck went deep to Avery, but Landry was there and made some early contact. There was no flag this time. It would have been a huge gain. Allen had a ball in his hands, but dropped it after contact. 

On 3rd and 10 Luck found Avery for 16 yards, and he was drilled in the air as soon as he caught it, similar to many catches he made against Minnesota in Week 2. 

Two plays later Luck was sacked but lucked out with a facemask penalty giving the Colts a first down. Facing a 3rd and 3 at the NYJ 48, Luck looked indecisive – he did not scramble once on a rush attempt in this game – on a play that took 5.87 seconds for him to release the ball, but he found Avery wide open down the field. 

Now Avery is credited with zero drops this season, but this one definitely was in both of his hands, but he was unable to maintain control as he went to the ground. That’s a drop in my book.

This was also a huge turning point because it would have given the Colts a first down inside the red zone. Instead they punt, and the Jets go 91 yards, mostly on the ground, for a touchdown. Jets led 28-6 with 16:36 left in the game. You can write “game over” at this point. 

Drive No. 7

Drive Stats: 1:32 left, trailing 28-6. 9 plays, 47 yards (47-yard FG)

Luck hit four of his last five passes to end the third quarter, including two screens and the second catch of the year for LaVon Brazill. 

To start the fourth quarter Luck was swamped again and threw the ball at the ground to avoid the sack. With some protection on second down he missed a wide open Wayne, who beat Cromartie, in the end zone. Luck then overthrew Avery on third down. 

Logic tells you to go for it, but Arians had Vinatieri kick a 47-yard field goal with 14:40 left. Yeah, that really showed them. 28-9. 

Drive No. 8

Drive Stats: 9:20 left (4th quarter), trailing 28-9. 9 plays, 68 yards (interception)

Luck started this drive with his third straight overthrow, then Cromartie picked up yet another penalty (20 yards on DPI) in coverage of Wayne. It was a weak call. 

At this point CBS’ Jim Nantz said how Reggie Wayne does not approve of “targets” as a stat because of passes that are nowhere close to the receiver. Phil Simms agreed with it being  a “bad stat.” 

Literally just as they finished saying this Wayne had an easy one right in his chest and he dropped it. Nothing wrong with that target. 

Avery had an 8-yard catch on the sideline, but a challenge overturned it as he could not get both feet in bounds. Luck completed consecutive passes to Wayne for 13 and 26 yards, putting the ball at the NYJ 12. 

However, Luck did not throw the ball to the back of the end zone and must not have seen Ellis Lankster coming underneath, as it was an easy interception for the Jets with 6:39 left. That just about officially ended this rally. 

Drive No. 9

Drive Stats: 4:23 left, trailing 28-9. 2 plays, 7 yards (fumble)

Looking at some garbage time, Luck avoided one defender but was hit from behind and stripped of the ball. The Jets took over at the IND 14 and added one more touchdown. 

Drive No. 10

Drive Stats: 1:05 left, trailing 35-9. 5 plays, 39 yards (fumble)

Now in the most garbage of garbage times, Luck checked down two passes to Vick Ballard for 17 yards. Luck was then absolutely drilled by Landry on a pass that went incomplete. 

After another sack Luck found Wayne deep, but Reggie fumbled the ball at the NYJ 43 and that put this one out of its misery.  

Summary

Andrew Luck finished 22 of 44 for 280 yards, 0 TD, 2 INT, 4 sacks, and a 51.3 passer rating.  

For as much criticism as the Jets receive, they still have a decent pass defense, and this was a tough task on the road for Luck. He missed some plays early that could have really changed the way the game played out, but when you look at the run defense (44 carries, 252 yards, 3 TD), it was probably inevitable. The defense giving up those three straight touchdowns caused him to start pressing, which is similar to how the Chicago game went. 

By comparison to the Jets, the Colts just had 16 carries for 42 yards, and no rush longer than five yards. Even Luck did not get into the
running act this week, which he probably should have a few times. 

It was the same old story with the receivers: not a lot of separation, not much YAC, and they had five drops. Two of them were of the “defensed” variety, but you still have to make some of those plays for your quarterback when he puts the ball in your hands. 

Trying something different this week, so here is one big table to summarize the season. 

 

The pressure was basically the same as the previous games, except Luck handled it poorly this time. A big reason for that is those lack of any scrambles for first downs that we have started to get used to seeing. 

Play action was rarely used (again). They did call five screens this week.  

The “Blitz%” is more like “Percentage of drop backs the defense rushed at least five at the quarterback on.”

“EB” stands for empty backfield, and that is a percentage of drop backs as well.  

Remember, “STR” is snap-to-release time, and it was the highest yet this week. That was not necessarily a good thing, as you can see Luck wasn’t as decisive on several plays.  

Finally, the shotgun numbers are ones I had been copying from the game book and not checking manually as I look through each play for these other things. I realized this week’s game book, and perhaps some of the first four did not list “(Shotgun)” every time they were supposed to, so I will have to go back and check into these numbers for better accuracy. 

The game book said Luck used the shotgun on 21 of his 48 drop backs, but that simply is not true. We know Luck is more successful when he is under shotgun, so using it 43.8 percent of the time would have been a big mistake. That was not the case though. 

Up next for Luck and the Colts is a home game with Cleveland. A very winnable game (the next four all are winnable), it would be nice to see Luck have a strong, efficient performance. Part of that relies on the defense keeping the score down, but there are also things he could do better. 

Right now Luck is on pace for 803 drop backs, which is absurd. No veteran, let alone rookie, should be given that kind of workload. 

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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