The "it" that the Indianapolis Colts quarterback has may be an intangible thing. It may be something completely unquantifiable. It may be subjective and up for debate, but he has it. If you don't believe he has it, you either live in one of the competing AFC South cities or simply don't know it when you see it.
I see it. I see it in Luck.
Dude has it in spades.
Heading into the Colts' 27-24 Sunday Night Football win against the Texans, Luck had already amassed nine game-winning drives in his young NFL career. He just picked up his 10th in a game the Colts had no business winning.
Star wideout Reggie Wayne is done for the year with an ACL injury. The last game Wayne missed was 12 years ago—when Luck was 12 years old.
It's safe to say that Wayne was Luck's top target. It's probably more accurate to say that Wayne was Luck's only target with a game well-rounded enough to garner Luck's trust when the chips were stacked against the team.
With all due respect to receiver T.Y. Hilton, tight end Coby Fleener and running back Trent Richardson, none of you guys are Wayne. All of those young players are guys with tools, but works in progress. Wayne is legitimately one of the best receivers in the game of football and has been for quite some time.
Here's a quick primer for offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton's offense. First, a team has to be able to run the ball. Then, that team has to run the ball some more. After that, the team has to run the ball repeatedly down an opponent's throat until it is demoralized like one of Ivan Drago's opponents not named Rocky.
Then, and sometimes only then, a quarterback gets the rare opportunity to bust off a bootleg on a play-action pass and chuck the ball down the field.
On Sunday night, with zero run game and no Wayne, Luck had to be sitting there kicking rocks as he watched Houston quarterback Case Keenum rattle off several long play-action passes to his star wideout Andre Johnson.
Luck was probably thinking, "Hey, that's my job!"
So, it was the Texans who took the 21-3 lead heading into halftime. Then, it was the Texans who had that lead at 24-6 with under five minutes left in the third quarter.
This is when good teams thrive and bad teams wither on the vine.
The Texans, my friends, are not one of those good teams.
Don't get me wrong, the Texans have a ton of talent. Even with linebacker Brian Cushing out, that defense still has a ton of playmakers. They were able to harass Luck all night...except when it counted. When it counted, they lost guys in coverage and managed to botch the crucial two-point conversion during which Fleener simply outplayed the defenders for the ball.
Outplayed. Not overmatched, just outplayed.
That's been the Texans' M.O. for a while now. Dating back to last season, it reared its ugly head when they needed overtime to beat inferior teams like the Jacksonville Jaguars and Detroit Lions, and then they lost three of their last four against playoff teams.
There's a world of difference between Luck and the Colts' "cardiac kids" routine and the Texans' apparent ability to play down to any level of competition.
The results may look the same, but they smell drastically different. Last season, the Texans were winning, but the stench of losing could still be detected permeating from their pores. The Texans' days at the top of the AFC South were always as tenuous as they are now short-lived.
Texans head coach Gary Kubiak—who is reportedly in stable condition after a halftime trip to the hospital—certainly gets a pass for Sunday's loss, but has never shown a penchant for making the in-game moves needed to really dominate a lesser opponent.
Too often, Kubiak coaches not to lose with his decision-making rather than acting like he has the much better team on the field.
Matt Schaub—now relegated to backup duty in favor of Keenum—had the same problem. Schaub wilted under the pressure which seems to strengthen Luck. When both are tested by fire, Luck comes out looking like gold while Schaub just burns away.
Now the two-time Pro Bowler is on the bench in favor of a former undrafted rookie free agent. Of course, while Keenum has all the moxie this side of a late '90s teen football movie, he wasn't exactly spectacular in the second half of the Week 9 matchup either.
The Colts went to a Cover 0 look late in the game, which basically demanded that Keenum get the ball out in a hurry against a receiver in single coverage.
Gone were the long bombs to Johnson. Suddenly, Keenum looked like a confused younger QB—because that's what he was. He might have more "it" than Schaub, which isn't saying a lot (if anything), but he also doesn't have Luck's physical tools.
The 6-2 Colts find themselves back on top of the AFC South, as they've moved near-seamlessly from the Peyton Manning era to Luck's time to shine. The Texans (2-6) had their shot to turn the tide, but rather than grabbing the bull by the horns, they simply got gored.
This is Andrew Luck's division, and the Texans are just living in it.
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