AFC South All-22 Review: Andrew Luck Sparkles in the Clutch
Brian Spurlock-US PRESSWIRE
Two weeks into his career, and Andrew Luck is already a two-minute master.
That might be overstating it, but throughout the preseason Luck showed himself adept at moving the Colts in the no-huddle before the half, even with sparse time to work with.
Now that the regular season has arrived, Luck has directed three two-minute drives in just two games.
A study of his play on Sunday shows how the Colts' rookie star is making big strides with the clock winding down. Against the Vikings, Luck managed 13 of the Colts' 23 points with less than two minutes to go in the half and game.
The first three points came on a field goal drive that started with six minutes to play in the second quarter, but setting that aside, Luck's touchdown drive to end the half was a thing of beauty.
Indianapolis took over possession of the ball with just 1:11 to play and two timeouts.
Luck clearly has a plan as the drive starts. He picks up 15 yards on two quick throws over the middle to Coby Fleener and Mewelde Moore.
On the play to Moore, we see Luck's ability to throw on the move and to manipulate the pocket to give himself a clean look.
Note how when Luck's sight-line to Moore is disrupted, he doesn't hesitate to roll out give himself a clean view of his target.
After another quick throw to Wayne, the Colts used their last timeout. With the ball at the 40 and 32 seconds to play, a field goal was a strong possibility. The Colts picked up a first down with a handoff to Donald Brown, but that lead to just three yards and a spike to stop the clock.
With the Colts seeking to hit a mid-range pass, left guard Seth Olson blew his block and Luck faced pressure up the gut. He spun out of the pocket to his left this time, and sprinted for the first down marker.
This play accomplished two things. First, Luck avoided a sack that would likely have ended the Indianapolis' scoring hopes. Second, by getting out of bounds at the 30, he put the team in field goal range with the clock stopped.
The Colts faced third down with an awkward 14 seconds left. Whatever play they ran had to either be short, but pick up the first down and allow for a spike, or result in a stopped clock.
Luck stopped the clock by hitting Reggie Wayne for a 30-yard score.
The Vikings clearly don't expect a home-run ball as they bring one of the safeties down. The key to the play is Wayne and Kris Adams on the outside both beat their men. The safety chooses to cover Adams, leaving Wayne with only a linebacker to beat.
Meanwhile, Luck again side steps the rush to buy himself an extra second and fires a laser to Wayne who has broken open.
The Vikings didn't anticipate the rookie going long, but the Colts sent all three receivers deep. Adams and Donnie Avery occupied the safeties, leaving Wayne open up the seam.
Given Luck's proclivity to attack in the two minute drill, it's little wonder Chuck Pagano took the leash off with 31 seconds to play and the game tied near the end of regulation.
With just two passes, Luck maneuvered the Colts into scoring range. Indy is running the same three-wideout sets they did to end the half, only moving Wayne from the slot to the outside. They also let Fleener release out into the pattern.
The first throw was an astounding display of mental and physical skill. After the snap, Luck is looking to his right, and again notices pressure up the middle. This play is a carbon copy of the scramble that set up the Wayne score.
Still, as Luck rolls away from pressure, he keeps his eyes downfield. The situation on this play is vastly different than in the first half. Seven yards on a scramble won't help the Colts win the game here, but in the first half, it meant a field goal at least.
Most quarterbacks would put their head down and sprint for the sidelines, hoping for positive yardage, but Luck runs with his head up and finds his receiver for a 20-yard strike. Physically, the roll-out and throw on the run was an elite play, but to have the wherewithal to understand what needed to be done is truly special.
After a timeout, the Colts come back with virtually the same routes. This time, the pocket is a little stronger. Luck drops back looking straight at Adams running along side Wayne. This keeps the safety occupied.
Hopping ever-so-slightly in the pocket, Luck suddenly pivots and fires toward a wide open Wayne. His man was protecting the deep route and the sidelines. This is a key strategic mistake by the Vikings, as Indianapolis had a timeout left.
The result was a second-consecutive 20-yard completion for Luck, and after a Vikings offsides, the Colts were in range for Adam Vinatieri to bring home a win.
If you want to know why scouts and analysts freak out over the mention of Andrew Luck's name, it's all on display here.
He has both the physical and mental abilities necessary to be one of the best quarterbacks in football, and those present in Indianapolis on September 16 saw the first of what promises to be many memorable game winning drives from Luck.
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