With 46 seconds remaining on the game clock and a 3rd-and-long for the Indianapolis Colts, rookie running back Vick Ballard carried the ball and a pile of Miami Dolphins defenders slowly down the field for nine gritty seconds. The Dolphins, clearly disheartened, let Ballard push past the first down marker and stumble forward for another 12 yards, ending the game.
With that play, round one of a potential rivalry between rookie quarterbacks Ryan Tannehill and Andrew Luck came to a close. The victor? Andrew Luck.
And it wasn't close.
Luck was excellent from start to finish. His impressive performance took the Colts to a 23-20 victory, a 5-3 record and a strong position in the AFC wild-card race.
Not Playing Like a Rookie
You want a formula for winning in the NFL with a rookie quarterback against a blitz-heavy defense? How about throwing the ball 48 times and having your young quarterback drop back on 65 percent of your offensive snaps.
It should not have worked, but it did.
Luck demonstrated the whole game that he was the best player on the field. Early in the second half he eclipsed the 300-yard mark.
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) November 4, 2012
Shortly after that he went over the 400-yard mark. In the end he set an all-time rookie record with 433 passing yards, completing 62.5 percent of his throws. When Cam Newton set that record last season, he probably thought it would last for more than 13 months.
Tannehill had a good game overall as well, although he came up short at the end of the game. Miami's last drive ended when Tannehill overthrew three consecutive passes and then made a poor decision on fourth down. Since they were positioned at midfield, a few running plays or shorter passes might have set up a field goal opportunity to force overtime.
Using All His Options
Veteran wide receiver Reggie Wayne has been getting a lot of attention this season, and deservedly so. He had another impressive game Sunday—seven receptions for 78 yards and a touchdown.
However, Luck was not shy about spreading the ball around. T.Y. Hilton caught six balls, Donnie Avery caught five, Dwayne Allen grabbed six more and Vick Ballard caught three out of the backfield. Luck targeted eight different players overall.
The Colts are now on a three-game winning streak after being crushed by the New York Jets in Week 6. They owe a lot of that success to Luck, who has lived up to the expectations of a No. 1 overall pick so far.
Next they travel to Jacksonville on Thursday to face the Jaguars. Road Thursday games are challenging, but the Jaguars are a very beatable team. The Colts are currently in first place in the AFC wild-card race and will be looking to extend that lead against the division-rival Jaguars.