Andrew Luck's latest fourth-quarter masterpiece still has my jaw dropping.
Luck led the Indianapolis Colts on two touchdown drives in the last four minutes of the team's Week 13 road game against the Detroit Lions, ultimately winning the game with a 14-yard touchdown pass to Donnie Avery as time expired.
This is a quarterback who has now led five fourth-quarter, game-winning drives in his first 12 games—an astonishing accomplishment for any quarterback, let alone a rookie. Furthermore, Luck had thrown three interceptions during this game, yet he never second-guessed himself—a rare quality in a rookie.
So, how did Luck get it done? Let's take a look at the tape and find out.
First things first: Luck ran 19 plays in just 2 minutes, 30 seconds during the final two drives. That's just under eight seconds per play, and he didn't use a single timeout to do it.
We've recently seen Pro Bowl quarterback Drew Brees mismanage the game clock against the Atlanta Falcons, yet Luck—a rookie—was able to manage the clock like a boss on the road in a hostile environment.
Luck plays with the poise and leadership of a 10-year veteran, and it's going to be interesting to see how good he is when he actually is a 10-year vet.
First Scoring Drive: Converted Crucial Fourth Down
The Lions forced the Colts offense into a 4th-and-3 after Ndamukong Suh hit Luck while he was attempting a pass on third down.
The Lions lined up in their Wide-9 defense with the four down-linemen spread out toward the perimeter as usual.
The rest of the seven Lions defenders all broke away from the line of scrimmage to get into their zone coverage, and Luck immediately saw a huge void in the middle of the field.
He made a quick decision to make the play with his legs, rather than try and force a throw into coverage, and he easily made enough yardage for the first down. As an added bonus, Nick Fairley was flagged for a horse-collar tackle that tacked on another 15 yards to the play.
42-Yard TD Strike To LaVon Brazill
After picking up that crucial first down on 4th-and-3, Luck connected on two short passes to pick up another first down—one to running back Donald Brown and one to running back Vick Ballard on 3rd-and-5.
Then, on first down from the Lions' 42-yard line, Luck made a brilliant play to pull his team to within six points (five, with the extra point afterwards).
Ndamukong Suh and Willie Young collapsed the right side of the Colts offensive line almost immediately, sending Luck scrambling to his left to avoid the sack.
Luck just did get away from the pressure and managed to throw the ball right before Lawrence Jackson, who was charging at him from the right, was about to hit him (he did end up hitting the turf).
Just so we're clear on what's happening at this point: Luck rolled to his left and had to square up his body in order to throw the ball downfield before getting creamed by three defensive linemen.
And the throw to Brazil was as perfect as it could be. Under duress, Luck recognized that the Lions were in man coverage, laid it in over the top of Drayton Florence and Brazil made the easy catch for a touchdown.
This play was Aaron Rodgers-esque, and it was just the start of Luck's amazing comeback.
Final Drive of the Game: 11 Plays in 1:07
Luck made a handful of brilliant plays on this final drive of the game.
First, he decided to take off and run it himself on the first play of the drive, bullying his way through Suh and Cliff Avril before finally getting taken down by Suh after a gain of nine yards.
Spike (to stop the clock).
Luck then throws a 26-yard dart to Reggie Wayne in the middle of the field, right over the top of two defenders and right in front of Louis Delmas. It was the kind of throw that had to be on the money or it would have been intercepted.
On the next play, Luck made a smart decision when he didn't see anyone open downfield. He took off and ran for 16 yards, out-running Suh and picking up as many yards as he could down the right sideline while making absolutely sure he got out of bounds to stop the clock.
Then Luck made the right decision on the next play to hang in the pocket. He was pressured from both sides of the line, and Jackson actually laid his hands on Luck.
Luck maneuvered just enough in the pocket to escape the pressure and then threw a seed to rookie tight end Dwayne Allen, who picked up the first down before getting out of bounds and stopping the clock.
The final play of the game was another stroke of brilliance from Luck, as he realized Avery had an open lane to the end zone, dumped it off to him at the eight yard line and watched him run it in for the game-winning touchdown with zeroes on the clock.
This is the stuff legends are made of, and if Luck's first 12 games are any sign of what's to come, Colts fans will be treated to another golden era.