Following a Legend: Andrew Luck Week 7 vs. Cleveland Browns

The Colts played a strange game in Week 7, but strange usually still beats bad like the game they played last week.  

Andrew Luck became the first Indianapolis quarterback to rush for two touchdowns in a game since Ricky Turner (who?) in 1988. After scoring 17 points on their first four drives, the Colts were scoreless on their last five possessions. The Browns also failed to score on their last six drives, but literally dropped the game-winning touchdown late in the fourth quarter. 

Indianapolis will take the win, and the good news is the Colts found some running success, meaning Luck only had 35 drop backs this week, putting him on pace for a more believable (but still absurd) 763 drop backs in 2012. 

Here is the review of this week’s 35.

Drive No. 1

Drive Stats: 15:00 left (1st quarter), tied 0-0. 11 plays, 80 yards (Andrew Luck 3-yard TD run.)

For the third time in six games, the Colts started the game with a play-action pass. This one worked the best as Luck found Reggie Wayne open for 30 yards out to the 50.  

Penalties set up a 2nd and 14, on which Luck found Donnie Avery over the middle for 11 yards. Coby Fleener had a nice catch for 7 yards to convert the third down. After four runs, Luck did something we have almost never seen this season: he checked down to the running back, and Vick Ballard picked up 17 of the Colts’ 59 YAC on the day with a run to the CLE 5. 

On second down it looked like a good spot for a quarterback draw, and the Colts were in an empty backfield. But Luck, given fine protection, shown the decisiveness missing last week and found a path to the end zone, scrambling for the 3-yard touchdown.  

Drive No. 2

Drive Stats: 13:55 left (2nd quarter), leading 7-6. 14 plays, 76 yards (Andrew Luck 5-yard TD run).

Already into the second quarter after Cleveland’s epic drive that included third-down conversions on 3rd and 11, 3rd and 13, 3rd and 14, the Colts finally had their second possession. 

Luck went deep to Avery but illegal contact was called. His next play-action pass was another downfield throw to Wayne, but he overthrew him. 

Delone Carter had a bad drop, setting up 3rd and 10. Luck drilled Avery for 16 yards on another one of his classic “hit as soon as he catches the ball” receptions this season to continue the drive. 

Luck was again inaccurate on a deep ball to Wayne, but found Fleener open thanks to some favorable downfield blocking to convert 3rd and 4. Luck had another play-action to Wayne, but it was knocked away on a nice play by T.J. Ward. 

Luck instead went short to Wayne over the middle to convert 3rd and 5. Two plays later, the Colts went play-action, wanting Luck to throw the ball to Ballard after he faked a block, but Luck had the running lane open again and scooted into the end zone for his second touchdown of the half (third of the season). 

Drive No. 3

Drive Stats: 4:09 left, leading 14-6. 8 plays, 36 yards (punt).

On a 2nd and 14, T.Y. Hilton had a really bad drop that would have gained a first down. It was the second and final dropped pass in the game. Luck went back to Wayne for 13, but came up short, setting up 4th and 1 at their own 20. The Colts kept the offense on the field, and Luck drew them offsides with the hard count if you could believe it.  

With new life, Luck went to Hilton for his only two catches of the day. Looking like another big two-minute drill, things stalled at the 50 as Luck threw three straight incompletions. Dwayne Allen was covered tightly on first down, Luck threw wild after being hit as he threw on second down, and Luck’s third-down pass was too wide left and out of bounds deep for LaVon Brazill. The Colts punted. 

Drive No. 4

Drive Stats: 11:53 left (3rd quarter), leading 14-13. 17 plays, 61 yards (Adam Vinatieri 38-yard field goal).

Now into the second half and only leading by a score, it was another long scoring drive for the Colts. Luck threw two consecutive quick slants, which is something we have seen little of this season. Wayne gained five yards, while Avery gained two yards on a pass that Luck got off in 0.983 seconds after the snap; his fastest play yet. 

After three runs by Carter, Luck was again too wide and out of bounds on a pass down the field to Hilton. Luck scrambled on a long play (5.1 STR), but eventually just threw the ball at Wayne’s feet for his fifth intentional throw away of the season. 

On 3rd and 10, Allen made his only catch of the day for a 9-yard gain, setting up Carter’s 2-yard run on 4th and 1. The Colts were more aggressive this week, which is good. 

Luck took his first sack of the game after Cleveland faked pressure and brought it right up the middle, burying him in 2.4 seconds. The quick pass was on, but Luck never threw it. After four pressures on Luck’s first 24 drop backs, he was pressured on six of his last 11 drop backs. 

After a pass to Avery was dangerously tipped, Luck completed a safer pass to him to set up a shorter field goal for the final score of the game as the Colts now led 17-13. 

Drive No. 5

Drive Stats: 1:54 left, leading 17-13. 3 plays, 1 yard (three-and-out punt).

Like we have seen against Minnesota and Jacksonville, the Colts went into a bit of a shell offensively the rest of the game. Luck was sacked again, but this one was all on him for holding the ball for 5.53 seconds. His 3rd-and-9 pass was not even close, and it was three and out. 

Drive No. 6

Drive Stats: 14:47 left (4th quarter), leading 17-13. 3 plays, 6 yards (three-and-out punt).

Now in the fourth quarter, Luck scrambled and went out of bounds on a 4-yard gain. On 3rd and 4 his pass was too short and wide of Avery, forcing another quick three and out. 

Drive No. 7

Drive Stats: 10:38 left, leading 17-13. 6 plays, 31 yards (Andrew Luck lost fumble on sack).

After Ballard found some success with five straight runs, Luck dropped back on 3rd and 3 at the CLE 44 with 7:35 left. He rolled to his right, but was sacked and lost possession of the ball at midfield, which could have been a disastrous turnover. It was his worst play of the day. 

Drive No. 8

Drive Stats: 6:31 left, leading 17-13. 3 plays, 9 yards (three-and-out punt).

But fortunately the Browns are still the Browns, and rookie Josh Gordon dropped a go-ahead touchdown before Cleveland punted on 4th and 1. Luck threw a
6-yard pass to Wayne to bring up a 3rd and 1, but Carter was stuffed for no gain, forcing yet another three and out. 

Drive No. 9

Drive Stats: 1:54 left, leading 17-13. 5 plays, 26 yards (punt).

Looking to only run clock after Cleveland’s failed fourth-down conversion, Ballard broke a 26-yard run on second down but unfortunately went out of bounds. The game would have been over if he stayed in. After three more Ballard runs for a net of three yards, the Colts punted the ball back and Cleveland had one second. 

After stopping the lateral play by the Browns, the Colts clinched the 17-13 win; their third of the season.

Summary

Andrew Luck finished 16 of 29 for 186 yards, 3 sacks, and a 74.8 passer rating. He did not throw a touchdown pass for the second consecutive game, but he did have those two big rushing touchdowns. He also did not throw any interceptions, though did have the lost fumble. 

The Colts finally found a running game to balance the offense, providing Luck with 34 carries for 136 yards. 

While the offense looked so sharp early, this was a rough finish. The Colts ran the ball on first down on their last eight opportunities. There was no mystery to what they were doing. 

This was the first time all season the Colts never called a screen pass, though the empty backfield was used a bit more than usual. The YAC was down to just 31.7 percent again, and it will be interesting to see when changes will be made to lessen the pressure on Luck’s reliance on having to throw for a lot of air yards. 

He only threw three passes on play action this week, though his second touchdown run was off a play-action play.  

Perhaps the most telling part was the use of the shotgun. After a season-high 83.3 percent last week, it was a season-low 54.3 percent this week.  

Luck used the shotgun on 14 of his first 20 drop backs, and gained 145 yards in that stretch (7.25 yards per play). On his last 15 drop backs, Luck only was in shotgun for five plays, and averaged 2.67 yards per play. 

On just shotgun plays, it was 7.86 yards per play on his first 14, and 5.6 on his last five. Clearly, Luck operates best out of the shotgun.

The Colts travel to Tennessee for Week 8. While the team has not played well on the road, the Titans have allowed 72.7 percent completions and a 108.2 passer rating this season. They also allow a league-worst 34.0 points per game, so this is a good opportunity for Luck to put up a big performance. He looked ready to have one against Cleveland, but things really burned out in the second half.

 

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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