Sunday's 35-9 loss to the New York Jets provided all the evidence one would need to show why quarterback Andrew Luck is not going to single-handedly transform the Indianapolis Colts back into the annual Super Bowl contenders they were with Peyton Manning in town.
Luck is a very good start to the process. An immediate savior, he is not.
While Luck is a fantastic young player—he's arguably the quarterback with the highest potential amongst a draft class of players at the position that has looked very strong early in 2012—there is much rebuilding left to do around Luck before wins like last Sunday's triumph over Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers become commonplace.
Admittedly, Luck did not play very well Sunday in the Meadowlands. He completed 22-of-44 passes for 280 yards and two interceptions for a passer rating of just 51.3. It was his worst professional performance since an opening-day loss to the Chicago Bears.
The No. 1 overall pick wasn't shy about criticizing his own play Sunday.
From the Associated Press (via ESPN):
It's learning how to be consistent, and that's something I've struggled with. I think I played very poorly this week after a decent half of football last weekend. As a team, we have to learn to come out and consistently be good.
Luck missed college teammate and fellow 2012 pick Coby Fleener on at least three occasions, and his two picks were the result of poor reads and throws in the circumstances. One of the picks would have went for six points had the Jets not been called for a penalty.
But for all the struggles Luck had Sunday, the pieces around him simply aren't good enough right now for the Colts to overcome anything but a perfect day from their quarterback.
Jets running back Shonn Greene, who sported a rushing average below 3.0 yards per carry coming into Week 6, ran through, around and over the Colts defense for most of the afternoon. Greene finished with 161 yards on 31 carries.
Gadget back Joe McKnight chipped in another 71 yards rushing on just three carries.
By the time the clock in New York hit 0:00, the Jets had grounded and pounded their way to 252 yards rushing.
New York's defense continued to expose the holes that litter Indy's offense, too.
Luck was sacked four times for a total loss of 23 yards, the Colts' running game was held to 41 yards on 17 carries (2.4 yards/rush) and only three times in 11 tries did Indianapolis convert on third down. It added up to a rough day at the office for everyone involved offensively, Luck included.
The offensive line continues to be a huge weakness for the Colts, one that even an athletic and well-built Luck cannot consistently overcome. There need to be wholesale upgrades up front over the next few offseasons.
At receiver, Reggie Wayne is mostly a one-man show. Wayne is also approaching the twilight of his career, so more changes will have to eventually be made at the receiver position too.
Defensively, the Colts will continue to undergo massive roster turnover. In fact, no team in football underwent the kind of turnover that the Colts saw this offseason.
With the rest of the roster missing pass-rusher Robert Mathis and starting running back Donald Brown, among others, Indianapolis simply didn't have the pieces around Luck Sunday to compete with a team many wrote off as dead no less than two weeks ago.
The quarterback on the opposite sidelines Sunday in New York knows all too well what Luck is feeling.
After having the necessary pieces around him to start his career with the Jets, Sanchez saw his offensive weapons dry up, his offensive line turn into a ragtag group and a once-dominant defense get surprisingly soft.
Granted, Luck is head and shoulders better now than Sanchez was at this point in his respective career. But this game of football has 11 starters on both sides of the ball for a reason.
Until the other 21 starters around Luck are any better than below average, the Colts are going to struggle.
Even a quarterback as good as Luck needs help to be the savior everyone expects him to be.