Jim Irsay is grinning today.
Yesterday began the mark to the New Era Colts, and Irsay couldn't have scripted it better.
It started out with a beautiful day, allowing the Lucas Oil Stadium roof and window to be open throughout the game. It ended with a Colts' lopsided win over the flailing St. Louis Rams, thousands of excited, content fans, and a bucketful of national hype and praise for his shiny new quarterback.
Seriously, outside of a few injuries (that look to be minor, we should find out in the next 24 hours), I don't think there was anything Irsay would have changed about this day.
Of course, the belle of the ball was Andrew Luck. We'll get to the rest of the team later this week, as I'll be breaking down film just about everyday. But first we'll be taking a look at the Colts' newest icon, breaking down each of the pass plays from his impressive debut.
1-10-IND 37 (9:34) (Run formation) A.Luck pass short middle to D.Brown for 63 yards, TOUCHDOWN.
As Luck admitted after the game, this may have been the easiest touchdown pass in his career, eerily similar to Peyton Manning's first preseason throw: a ten yard slant pass that Marvin Harrison took thirty more yards for a touchdown.
Still, it was an electrifying moment for a preseason crowd, and one that will be incredibly memorable for me if Luck turns out to be what we all hope he will be.
Luck didn't do much on the play, just giving the ball to Brown on a pass that traveled about four yards in the air. Brown did it from there, finding space behind Reitz' block on the DT, and Dwyane Allen's down-field block on a defensive back. Brown turned on the speed, and nobody was going to catch him.
1-10-IND 17 (3:15) (Run formation) A.Luck pass incomplete short left to R.Wayne [R.Quinn].
2-10-IND 17 (3:11) (Run formation) D.Brown up the middle to IND 12 for -5 yards (Q.Mikell; K.Langford).
3-15-IND 12 (2:35) (Shotgun) A.Luck scrambles left end to IND 21 for 9 yards (J.Murphy).
Just a messy series by the offensive line here.
First down was an odd play, that saw Wayne motioning to almost directly behind LT Anthony Castonzo. On the snap, Wayne appears to be helping block the DE, so Castonzo passes him off to him. But, Wayne was planning on going out to the flats for a pass, so the DE was free to take a shot at Luck. Under duress, the pass was high and incomplete. I'm not sure what the play call was supposed to be, a screen, just a pass in the flat, or what, but it was confusing and didn't work in this case.
I included the second down here for two reasons. One, it highlights the only concern for the offense going forward: offensive line (Samson Satele gets pushed back five yards, blowing up the play). Two, it sets up the long third down.
On said third down, Luck is again foiled by sub-par offensive line play. Originally, I thought the OL got penetrated here, but it's actually just a case of the pocket collapsing. Castonzo pushes the DE around and behind Luck, which normally would be fine. But, on this play both guards got pushed back into the pocket, giving him no room to step up.
Combine this with the fact that the receivers were not yet deep enough or open enough to get the first down, and you see why Luck decided to take off, finding enough room for nine yards. Thankfully, he didn't try to fight for the extra four for the first down, and smartly slid down.
2-3-SL 46 (14:34) (Run formation) A.Luck pass incomplete deep left to R.Wayne [C.Long].PENALTY on IND-W.Justice, Offensive Holding, 10 yards, enforced at SL 46 - No Play.
On first down, Brown picks up the blitzing linebacker, but Justice gets beat to the inside by the defensive end. Luck has to scramble left, and the other DE disengages from Fleener and cuts off his path, forcing Luck to throw it away.
Not the play you want, especially by Justice, but Luck has the veteran presence to not take the sack or throw a forced pass on the play, but instead feels the pressure, avoids the sack, and makes the smart throw.
2-13-IND 44 (14:16) (Run formation) A.Luck pass short middle to A.Collie to SL 46 for 10 yards (M.Brockers).
Now it's Mike McGlynn's turn to come to the party, as the right guard gets swiftly pushed back into Luck's face. Luck again takes a few steps left, but this time finds Austin Collie flashing towards the middle. Short, accurate throw on the run to Collie, and sets him up for a few extra yards.
(13:32) (Shotgun) A.Luck pass short left to T.Hilton ran ob at SL 34 for 12 yards.
Luck finally has a clean pocket on this play, and is able to step into a beautiful throw for the first down. T.Y. Hilton runs a 10 yard out route (although his break wasn't very clean), and Luck puts it to the only place where the cornerback wouldn't be able to get it (high and outside). Hilton may have bobbled it a bit too much, but he got his feet down and didn't let go of it, and it was a first down.
One of the very impressive throws that Luck made on the night.
2-7-SL 31 (12:44) (Run formation) A.Luck pass short right to C.Fleener to SL 26 for 5 yards (J.Murphy).
Luck's under pressure again here, as nobody picks up the blitzing inside linebacker (believe it was a mis-read by Moore here, but not if his job was to go out for a pass on the play). Seeing the pressure coming though, he goes to his check-down: Coby Fleener in the flats on the right side of the field. Fleener gets a couple yards after the catch, but they're still a couple yards short of the first down (which they get on a good short yardage run by Delone Carter).
1-10-SL 23 (11:24) (Run formation) A.Luck pass deep right to A.Collie for 23 yards, TOUCHDOWN.
Luck again has a clean pocket here, which gives him the time he needs to make this throw. Luck scans the field, giving Wayne a bit of extra eye-time in order to keep the safety from cheating over to Collie. As soon as Collie breaks behind the corner's zones, he turns, steps up, and throws a perfect pass to a wide open Collie.
That's the kind of progression you hope to see from quarteracks after a couple years. Luck's doing it in his first game.
1-10-IND 20 (7:18) (Shotgun) A.Luck pass short left to M.Moore to IND 29 for 9 yards (R.McIntosh).
Luck faked the reverse to Hilton first, and then spins around to find RB Mewelde Moore on a screen pass. Joe Reitz again has a very good downfield block, and Moore has room for a nine-yard gain.
2-1-IND 29 (6:51) (No Huddle, Shotgun) A.Luck pass incomplete short right to L.Brazill.
Luck throws a perfect ball to Brazill on the short in route, but it slips through the rookie's hands. It was a quick pass, but the OL was pretty clean on this play.
1-10-IND 32 (6:12) (Shotgun) A.Luck pass incomplete short middle to C.Fleener.
2-10-IND 32 (6:08) (No Huddle, Shotgun) A.Luck pass incomplete short middle to A.Collie.
Moore does a good job standing up a blitzing linebacker, but pressure is still coming from a few of the blitzing linebackers. Luck sidestepped one of them and then hit Fleener in the numbers. Unfortunately, Fleener drops the pass.
On the next play, it's incredibly similar, as Luck hits him on an in-route in the middle, but Collie can't bring it in.
3-10-IND 32 (6:03) (Shotgun) A.Luck pass short left to A.Collie pushed ob at IND 44 for 12 yards (Q.Mikell). P6
The tackles both push their DE's around and behind Luck again here, but the guards have done their job, and Luck can step up in the pocket.
Collie is open on the comeback route, and Luck steps into a powerful throw for first down.
1-10-IND 44 (5:51) (Shotgun) A.Luck pass short right to L.Brazill to SL 44 for 12 yards (J.Gordy).
Luck's throw is slightly high on the pass, but nothing that should cause a disturbance. On the short slant route, Brazill is slightly open, and makes a good snag on the high ball to keep the positive yards going. Quick throw for Luck here.
1-10-SL 44 (5:29) (No Huddle, Shotgun) A.Luck pass incomplete short left to A.Collie.
The Rams blitz too many on the Colts' left side of the OL for them to pick up, which left the cornerback free to Luck. Luck sees him though, and beautifully spins away from the corner, and sprints to his left.
He can't see anyone open, and throws it away, wisely. It's interesting that he keeps scrambling to the left, as his more natural throwing motion would be on display if he scrambled right. I don't think it's by design or anything, but it's still interesting.
3-9-SL 43 (4:40) (Shotgun) A.Luck pass short right to L.Brazill to SL 33 for 10 yards (J.Gordy).
The corner is playing ten yards back on Brazill, so Luck looked for the quick pass to him. The pass was slightly more in front of him than I imagine Luck wanted it, but it works.
Brazill makes a great play on the ball, catching it with one hand, then spinning to avoid the defender, and stretching for the first down.
1-10-SL 33 (4:07) A.Luck pass deep middle to Q.Cosby to SL 1 for 32 yards (J.Dunbar).
Another veteran play by Luck here, and the other really impressive throw by him. He keeps the safeties on the outside here by watching the outside receivers, and then throws the pass perfectly to his young WR (Quan Cosby), outside of the LB and high.
Cosby got a lot of reps in this game, including several with the first team. He's a possible option for a roster spot at WR.
1-1-SL 1 (3:21) (Run formation) J.Reitz reported in as eligible. A.Luck pass incomplete short right to J.Reitz.
Really the only poor play from Luck on the day, as he misses an open Joe Reitz in the endzone for the touchdown, throwing it over top of the ex-basketball player. The offensive line held up on the play action, and Carter had a sloppy, but effective, block to keep Luck upright.
If that's the only poor play for Luck, I'll take that all day, everyday.
Overall, there was absolutely nothing to complain about for Andrew Luck. He made the right reads, perfect throws (outside of the Reitz throw), and avoided the pass rush. It was comforting that the line got better as they played, but it WILL be inconsistent this season.
But, Luck showed great pocked presence and awareness on Sunday, and so far I have no qualms about his presence in the pocket, his ability to read coverages, and his arm.
He looked absolutely fantastic, and for any rookie quarterback, no matter who the defense is, it's an appearance that one is far beyond their years.
Good article. Exciting game. I can't recall the last time I was this interested in a pre-season game.
Here's my negative Nellie (or Danial downer) comment. Let's see how Luck holds up against the Steelers D. They're a much better team overall, and can blitz with the best of em. They also had okay coverage in corners last year. Not great but better than the Rams.
I think the Steelers will expose our defense for not being as good (or as average) as they looked this game. Rothlisberger, for all of his "hold the ball too long" faults, is a much better QB than Bradford.
If we make it thru that game this Sunday night and still are impressive, then I'll start feeling a LOT better about this team.
One last thing, I am glad that Luck did well, but it will be interesting to see what he does when he plays against a team that has made a thorough game plan for him and our offense.
At times it seemed like he was staring down some receivers, which could really hurt in the future, one way or another he will learn this. With that being said he did make nice progressions on many occasions and majority of the time made the right read.
He did a bunch of good things, but everyone has small things to work on, excited to see what he does against the Steelers.
It's interesting how a good analysis written in black-and-white can temper my emotional reaction to the white-and-blue I saw on the screen :-/
Holy crap, Kyle! Play-by-play film review of a pre-season game? Now that's dedication!
I think "flailing" is a great word for the Rams. It's hard to imagine a team getting a worse historical luck of the draw -- bottoming out and getting their franchise QB pick at the very end of the old salary system. (Bradford's average salary is $13M; Luck's is $5.5M.) And between his injuries and the chunk his cap takes out of their roster, it's starting to look like he may have just an average career.
Which seems to me like a cautionary tale about how random success in the NFL can be. The Colts' situation could have been so, so much worse. If Manning's neck had caught up to him just a couple seasons earlier, yesterday's matchup could have been the exact opposite, with us watching the overpaid averageness and them watching the once-in-a-generation rookie tearing it up.
@pierrezombie Yeah it sucks for Ram fans, really was not too much positive to take from the game besides the defensive front being able to get pressure on us at times, but they also have to consider that we have a fairly new line, that is still working on chemistry.
@pierrezombie I feel for the Rams fanbase. While Bradford wasn't hyped quite as much as Luck, they bad luck (pun intended) they've had is pitiful. And I don't know that Fisher is the one to turn it around.
Good analysis. I just have to keep repeating this (and yes, everyone else has mentioned this, but it's insanely important):
If yesterday was any indication, Andrew Luck's pocket presence is already at an uncanny level. You always hear talk about staying calm in the pocket, keeping your eyes up field, etc.. and sometimes it's hard to know exactly what people are talking about when they say this, but Sunday was the perfect showcase.
That said: the colts can't take his pocket awareness for granted. I understand some people have qualms about spending too many assets on the OL, but it needs to at least be average, otherwise you run the risk of turning Luck into a Joey Harrington or David Carr. I'm not comparing them on skill, simply the fact that I believe both of their careers were ruined by crappy offensive line play.
@GregC The worst part of the O-Line was that the Rams probably weren't pulling out all of their tricks. It all looked pretty normal from a pass rush standard, but they were still getting a ton of pressure. The couple times Luck got time, he looked great, but that amount of pressure in a preseason game is not a good sign for that O-Line. Compare that to what Manning got on Thursday, where I cried with 2005-2006 O-Line memories. Luck showed great awareness and decision-making on the run, and it looks like he'll need it.
@GregC Agreed. O-line is definitely a must.
This probably won't happen, but unless there's a lights-out, no-question elite caliber player at Indy's pick in the draft next year, I wouldn't mind a trade-down to really pack-in some O-line talent in the 2nd and 3rd rounds. But even if they didn't do that, as long as they find one more good guard (two would be better!) in the draft, next year can be less worrisome.
I also harbor this wish that Ijalana will make a roaring comeback next season. Given his injury, it's not very likely, but it'd still rock if it happened. If he could make it back, there's one roster position solved right there, even if it does end up only being at guard. Better yet if he could magically take over the RT spot, but that's in the realm of fantasy right there. He'd still have to come back to begin with, and not be given an injury settlement. That's something very likely to happen, unfortunately. :(
Re:Qualms. Yes, I think there's some legitimate concern there. You don't want to use up too many high round picks on linesman, plus there's an argument that you actually better build the line with lower round talent anyway (this article isn't my entire argument, but it's a fair amount of it: http://www.mockingthedraft.com/2012/6/26/3119999/why-i-believing-drafting-an-offensive-lineman-in-the-1st-round-is). But you don't want scrubs either, not when you've got a QB like Luck. Manning managed to achieve success without a decent line, but Luck's still developing; it'd be cruelty to subject him to that same problem. So yes, I wouldn't want to much put into the O-line either (defensive backfield is still a VERY glaring need), but it can't be ignored. A couple of good drafts of 2nd to 5th round talent would probably get the Colts in fine shape. Less if a later round pick starts producing (all this keeping in mind that you can't dictate drafts by need and overdraft a player; that's bad too. It's a balancing act).
@AJ_ @GregC The new FO might be more willing to go into free agency to improve the line than the old one was, too. Starting next year, they'll have enough cap room to do just about anything they want.