It feels like years since I last watched a live NFL game (God, if you want to place me in a coma until mid-August I’d be okay with that). Since it’s early July, or Hell on Earth as it’s known in my household, we still have a ways to go before that particular thirst is quenched. So in lieu of that, I figured we might try something different and relive some of my favorite moments from the previous season (innovative thinking, I know, it’s what they pay me for, or would if I believed in money, if only Chase would respect my religious beliefs).
In what I hope will be a recurring segment (don’t get your hopes up, but anything’s possible), I am going to choose my five favorite plays from various players on the team. Since it’s the first in a series and I want people to actually care, I am going to start at the top. I’ve poured over hours of game film, dissected coaching tape, and watched every NFL game, twice, in preparation for this column (actually I mostly watched highlight videos). So here you go, my five favorite Andrew Luck throws from the 2012 NFL season, in ascending order.
Keep in mind, this is a purely subjective exercise, Andrew Luck completed 339 passes last season (not including playoffs), so there’s a good chance I won’t get the perfect five, but that’s the nature of the beast.
NOTE: These are GIFs that should play when you mouse over them, but you may need to let the browser load a little before they will work (if you’re on a dial-up connection, A) shame on you, this is 2013, but B) you will probably be waiting a really long time). SECOND NOTE: If you're using Firefox they might not load at all (so sorry, apparently Firefox bugs out on hover animations).
The Record Breaker
This is the pass that set the NFL rookie passing yards record. A bit of a copout pick perhaps, the pass itself was about as routine as an Andrew Luck play got last year, but for posterities sake it’s worth including on the list simply based on its historical significance. A lot of people seem to be dismissing this record, instead preferring to talk about Wilson tying Peyton’s rookie TD record or RGIII setting the highest QB rating. While that’s all well and good, it’s worth noting that it’s unprecedented to see a rookie QB with so many yards also managing to win games (Cam Newton and Peyton Manning, the previous holders of this record, went a combined 9-23 in their rookie seasons).
Wilson and RGIII were great to be sure, but their records came on the back of efficient offenses with running help and solid protection, Luck was a one man show behind a line with very little talent (that’s when they weren’t sitting out due to injury of course). Sure, Drew Brees and Matthew Stafford throwing for 5,000 yards every year does diminish the accomplishment in the eyes of many, but 4,400 yards as a rookie (besting the record by over 300 yards) on a team with other rookies at nearly every skill position is an achievement that many fail to adequately appreciate. I refuse to be one of those people.
Pass to Dwayne Allen While Running Left.
This is kind of a simple play in a less than interesting moment in a less than interesting game in the middle of the season (Luck did set the rookie single game passing record in this game, so there’s that), but there’s just something about it that really highlights Luck’s unique skill set.
Under pressure the entire season (this play being no different) Luck had to learn quickly how to adjust to that pressure and make throws that one wouldn’t exactly call routine. In this particular throw we see not only his ability to sense the rush, but also the body control and physical skill to whip a spiral across his body while rolling left, an incredibly challenging throw for a right handed quarterback. Speed to evade the rush, power to throw the ball on a rope, and accuracy to hit his receiver’s hands perfectly in stride for a first down on 3rd and long, just about sums it up.
TD to LaVon Brazill While Being Smashed
Obviously the final game winning pass to Donnie Avery as time expired was the more exciting play, but this isn’t the five most exciting throws, it’s the five “best.” This pass to Brazill showcased many of the things that made Luck so spectacular in his rookie season: poise under pressure, athleticism to escape pursuit, clutch throws in crucial game situations, unconventional release points, and of course perfect ball placement.
This throw was basically all arm, anybody who speculated that Luck lacked arm strength simply need watch this throw to realize their stupendous error in judgment. A little deeper and it’s over his head, a little shorter and it’s broken up by the trailing defender. Down double digits with mere minutes left on the clock, Luck showed once again that he has ice in his veins.
The 3rd and 23 Conversion
This particular throw has a lot of elements to consider. Week 17 against division rival Houston Texans (in Chuck Pagano’s return game no less), a 3rd and 23 conversion (which itself is ridiculous), travels 40 yards in the air, threaded between three defenders, perfect ball placement hitting TY in stride for the 70 yard TD.
Under any circumstances this throw is spectacular, but on 3rd and 23 in the fourth quarter of a one score game they desperately wanted to win? Transcendent. From snap to throw is roughly 3 seconds, just enough time to pump right, freeze the safety, open up the tiniest of windows, and thread the ball in perfectly to a streaking Hilton for the dramatic TD. This throw has it all. Perfect read, great misdirection, pin-point accuracy, beautiful spiral, degree of difficulty, and even a little emotional impact on the Chuck Pagano reaction shot (not included for file size considerations).
The #Chuckstrong Throw
This throw is Andrew Luck quintessence (yeah, I said it). Is there really any other throw to choose as number 1? The best throw in the best game of a great 2012 Colts’ season, arguably the best game of the entire 2012 season period. Down 21-3 at halftime in the first game of the #Chuckstrong movement, the Colts are trying to finish off a story for the ages as they fight back in a game that nobody gave them a chance to win. This game will certainly be most remembered for Chuck Pagano’s battle with leukemia and Reggie Wayne’s heroics, but this throw by Luck perhaps best exemplifies the resilience that defined this team last year.
With less than 2 minutes, trailing by a TD, and facing yet another 3rd and long (notice a pattern with these throws?). Faced with an all-out blitz, Luck sees an opening but is forced to pull the ball in when Clay Matthews breaks free and latches on to his throwing arm. Somehow (don’t ask me how) Luck manages to reset, reload, and throw a perfect strike to a heavily covered Reggie Wayne 20 yards downfield for the first down. The rest, as they say, is history.
So there you have it. That's my list. GIve us yours or tell me what I missed in the comments. As always, follow me on Twitter if you like, I'm a pretty personable guy:@Colt_Following