It was a scenario that Colts fans have gotten used to in just 18 regular season games: Andrew Luck with the ball in crunch time, needing a score.
The Colts had just converted on 3rd-and-6 on a perfect pass from Luck to Reggie Wayne, and were set up on the Dolphins 23-yard line with 1:50 left in the fourth quarter, needing a touchdown. At this point, the Colts actually had a 52% chance of winning, despite being down by four points.
But the Colts wouldn’t gain another yard, and Luck’s attempt at his ninth game-winning drive fell short, prompting fans everywhere to question Luck’s “clutchiness” and “it factor.”
So besides Luck choking, what contributed to the Colts’ sudden halt? To answer that, we look to the film.
On first down, the Colts run a pretty basic “four-verts” play, designed to take advantage of the single-high safety look that Miami had been showing.
The Colts get the matchup they want: Hilton one-on-one with Brent Grimes on the right side, and Luck pulls the trigger.
Unfortunately, Grimes has great position, and Hilton (despite his fantastic catch earlier) simply doesn’t have the height to go up over the top of Grimes to make the catch. Grimes’ position prevents Hilton from reaching full speed, and he can’t quite get to where he needs to be to make this catch.
On second down, the Colts once again are running a play with similar concepts, although Coby Fleener does break to the inside on this one.
Unfortunately, the Dolphins send seven rushers at Luck, and he’s forced to get rid of the ball early as Philip Wheeler gets a free run at the quarterback.
I don’t buy that this is just an incredibly errant pass from Luck. It’s clearly a communiction issue. Luck thinks Fleener is going to continue up field, while Fleener actually breaks inside. No way to know who was in the right on that one.
On third down the Colts ran a play with, you guessed it, four-verts concepts. The difference on this one: the Colts actually give Luck a safety valve as Griff Whalen runs a shallow crossing route.
Luck has time, but nothing is developing downfield (again), so he’s forced to go to Whalen underneath. Unfortunately, CB Nolan Carroll decided to make extremely liberal use of the “five yards” of allowed contact, and hold Whalen’s left arm throughout the entire route.
How this was not a call is beyond me.
Greg Cowan already covered the referees this week, but this was important enough to note again: an awful no-call from this crew.
On fourth down, we all know what happened:
On final play, not only did Brown whiff on a block, but Thornton did too. To make it worse, Griff was open. pic.twitter.com/7PidMYf847
— Josh Wilson (@Coltsfanwilson) September 16, 2013
Luck may have been able to avoid one of the defenders, but not both, and the pressure came far too quickly for him to get a pass off.
Ugly from the Colts. Ugly from the referees. Ugly from Nolan Carroll.
I’m going to stop looking at those pictures now.