Andrew Luck looks to duplicate his monster performance from Wild Card Weekend against the Patriots.
Come-from-behind victories are usually something celebrated around the league. But when it happens in a playoff game, down 28 points, that performance should be feared.
The days of Peyton Manning struggling to play in the cold against Rodney Harrison, Tedy Bruschi and Richard Seymour are over.
Enter 24-year-old quarterback Andrew Luck.
Luck is coming off a second-half performance of a lifetime—which was different after last season's postseason struggle. With his team down 38-10 in the third quarter against the Kansas City Chiefs, Luck marched downfield, got into the red zone and let Donald Brown rush in from the 10-yard line.
Luck wasn't finished. Two touchdown passes and a fumble-recovery score later, the Colts found themselves doing the impossible.
Down 44-38 with about 4:30 remaining in regulation, Luck dropped back, analyzed the coverage and hit a streaking T.Y. Hilton deep down the middle for 64 of his 224 receiving yards. The comeback was complete and the Colts held on to win a wild game.
Having to come back doesn't always make a recipe for success. But doing it against a defense that gave up only 19.1 points per game during the regular season is impressive.
The Patriots are a different team, however, but after what we saw on Wild Card Weekend, I fully believe the Colts have all of the momentum and an advantage against New England.
First, the Patriots are ailing on the defensive side of the football.
On Monday, New England announced that starting linebacker Brandon Spikes was placed on injured reserve with a knee injury. Spikes is one of the Patriots best players on defense—their quarterback on the defensive side of the ball.
New England could also be without Devin McCourty (concussion) and Alfonso Dennard (shoulder), both of which are listed as questionable for Saturday. A makeshift linebacking corp will be in place for Bill Belicheck's defense, especially without Jerod Mayo who has been on injured reserve since October.
Indianapolis' ability to respond through adversity gives them an advantage. The Colts were at home and down 28, what more do you want? They play the visitors role on Saturday, but momentum has a funny way of working itself into a football game.
As mentioned before, Hilton had a career game against Kansas City, catching 13 balls for 224 yards and two scores. Hilton has made a living of exposing struggling secondaries in 2013, ask Jacksonville, Houston and St. Louis. More importantly, ask the Seattle Seahawks about Hilton.
In Week 5, Hilton caught five balls from Luck. Just five. The difference? Yards after the catch. Hilton scores twice in the Colts 34-28 victory against Seattle, one going for 73 yards.
If the Patriots' defensive backs struggle to stay on the field, how do they expect to contain Hilton, who recorded a 1000-yard season in his second NFL season.
The offensive line will provide a helpful punch for the Colts against the New England front. Against the Chiefs, the Colts O-line protected Luck well, only surrendering one sack which happened early on in the game.
Anthony Castonzo, Gosder Cherilus and the rest of the offensive line will not have to worry about Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly, who have been on IR for the majority of the regular season. Good protection and blocking in the run game will benefit Indianapolis.
The last reason why the Colts have momentum—Luck.
After a sub-par performance in the 2013 NFL Playoffs, Luck started 2014 on fire, completing 64 percent of his passes and posting a 98.7 passer rating despite throwing three interceptions early in the ballgame.
Not only does New England have to be aware of the Colts matchup problems on defense, but they need to be aware of Luck using his feet. If the Patriots get pressure, Luck has the ability to escape and avoid danger.