It was a record-setting day for Andrew Luck in Kansas City as the Colts earned their 10th win and clinched a playoff spot in the AFC.
Luck’s performance was up and down, including a season-worst streak of 10 straight incomplete passes in the second half. But that was immediately followed up with six straight completions, including the game-winning touchdown pass to Reggie Wayne.
That’s the kind of season it has been for Luck. He makes the big plays, and his seventh game-winning drive ties the regular season record. It has only been done 11 times in NFL history, including twice by Peyton Manning, so the Colts are used to this.
They may not resemble the efficient Peyton Manning machine, but the Colts still know how to pull out an improbable victory, beating the Chiefs despite allowing 352 rushing yards and being outrushed by 262 yards. That has never happened in NFL history before.
Also never happening before is a quarterback taken No. 1 overall getting to 10 wins and the playoffs. Luck’s game-winning drives alone match the most wins (Sam Bradford’s 7 in 2010) any No. 1 pick has ever had.
Let’s examine how the record-setting day played out, and especially what went wrong on that 0-for-10 streak.
Drive No. 1
Drive Stats: 15:00 left (1st quarter), tied 0-0. 3 plays, 9 yards (three-and-out punt).
Starting to sound like a broken record, but it was a three and out to start the game again. Vick Ballard picked up two yards, Dwayne Allen was open for a little 5-yard gain, then the Colts tried to run a pick play to convert the 3rd and 3. But the Chiefs were not fooled by the two receivers running out routes, and Donnie Avery was met by Eric Berry and a crowd of defenders a yard short of the first down. The Colts had to punt.
Drive No. 2
Drive Stats: 8:11 left, leading 7-3. 5 plays, 11 yards (punt).
Thanks to a pick six the Colts led 7-3. Ballard fumbled to start the drive, but Coby Fleener recovered. Reggie Wayne made his first catch of the day for 11 yards, but after Ballard lost a yard on the ground, Luck had to scramble and was sacked. It was a 0-yard sack. He actually slid and might have gained a few inches, but it goes down as a sack.
According to CBS, the Colts were leading the league at converting on 3rd and 8+ this season (37.1 percent). But on 3rd and 11 Luck held the ball long (3.97 seconds), could not find anyone, and was sacked again.
Drive No. 3
Drive Stats: 0:41 left, leading 7-3. 6 plays, 37 yards (Adam Vinatieri 48-yard field goal).
Luck had Avery wide open over the middle on a crossing pattern, but he slipped on his own for just a 5-yard gain. On the first play of the second quarter, it was 3rd and 4. Luck’s protection held up well, and he was able to find Avery down the field for a 28-yard gain on a perfect connection.
Starting 5/5, Luck’s first incompletion came after a rare, uncontested drop by Wayne at the 9-yard line. It would have gained 21 yards. On 3rd and 7, Luck felt the pressure, was hit as he threw and the pass was nearly picked off. Adam Vinatieri came out for the 48-yard field goal.
Drive No. 4
Drive Stats: 10:34 left (2nd quarter), leading 10-3. 11 plays, 38 yards (punt).
Starting with play action, Allen was open for six yards. On 3rd and 2, Luck went back to Allen for seven yards. With 43 receptions, Allen broke the rookie record for a Colts tight end.
Under pressure, Luck simply threw a pass away to avoid the sack. After three runs, Luck converted a 3rd and 3 with Avery just getting past the marker for the first down. The drive stalled at the KC 42 after Luck threw two incompletions. The first was another throwaway under pressure, while on 3rd and 8 LaVon Brazill was matched up with Brandon Flowers, and Luck’s pass down the field was overthrown and a bit wide.
Drive No. 5
Drive Stats: 1:02 left, leading 10-3. 6 plays, 60 yards (Adam Vinatieri 36-yard field goal).
Luck had 1:02 and all three timeouts left at his own 22. His first pass was batted at the line. Luck then stepped up in the pocket and got T.Y. Hilton involved with a 23-yard gain. Luck now had the single-season rookie passing record. That was followed up with a 32-yard gain to Mewelde Moore after Luck found him on the move, and Moore did a good job to gain 29 yards after the catch.
A big opportunity was then missed. Brazill was wide open in the end zone, but Luck’s pass went well out of bounds. It did not appear he was throwing it away intentionally, but the pass just got away from him. Going deep for Wayne, it was good coverage by Berry.
On 3rd and 10, Luck scrambled up the middle, took the linebacker head on, but it was only a 5-yard gain. Vinatieri made the 36-yard field goal to take a 13-3 lead into halftime.
Drive No. 6
Drive Stats: 14:40 left (3rd quarter), leading 13-10. 4 plays, 33 yards (punt).
It only took the Chiefs one play to make it 13-10 as Jamaal Charles went 86 yards for the touchdown. Luck answered back with a 33-yard pass to Wayne. It was another good job to step up in the pocket and fire.
But that’s when the coldest of cold streaks began for Luck, as he would throw 10 straight incompletions.
The first was a drop by Avery off his hands towards the sideline. Luck then barely failed to connect with Brazill. On 3rd and 10 Luck was quick with the trigger and the pass was not even close to Wayne. The Colts had to punt.
Drive No. 7
Drive Stats: 11:42 left, leading 13-10. 3 plays, 9 yards (three-and-out punt).
After Ballard lost two yards, Luck scrambled to his right, showed a little cut move, and picked up 11 yards on the ground, setting up 3rd and 1. Luck could have had Wayne for the first down over the middle, but instead threw incomplete to the tightly covered Hilton for a quick three and out.
Drive No. 8
Drive Stats: 6:00 left, tied 13-13. 5 plays, 20 yards (punt).
With the game now tied, the Colts were looking sloppy on offense. Wayne had another pass go through his hands. On 3rd and 3, Luck threw incomplete but Derrick Johnson led with his helmet on a hit, drawing a 15-yard flag and first down.
Off play action, Luck had a clean pocket, but his deep attempt for Fleener was incomplete. The next play was strange. Jeff Linkenbach was beaten badly off the snap, but Luck avoided that sack. He scrambled to his right, eased up near the sideline, then Flowers just knocked him down for what is a 2-yard sack. A rookie mistake.
On 3rd and 12, Luck had Avery open over the middle, but he flat out dropped it. Not sure if he would have made the first down, but there was an opportunity wasted.
Drive No. 9
Drive Stats: 1:37 left, tied 13-13. 3 plays, 5 yards (three-and-out punt).
Almost three quarters into the game and Jamaal Charles (213 yards) was actually outgaining the Indianapolis offense (202 yards). Hilton was hit hard on first down and dropped the ball. It was another good play by Flowers and happened almost simultaneously with the catch.
Luck had a good deep ball to Wayne, but the coverage by Berry was too good on the pass defense. On 3rd and 10, Luck was under siege and just did a great job of avoiding the sack and running for five yards. But it was another three and out.
Drive No. 10
Drive Stats: 10:13 left (4th quarter), tied 13-13. 13 plays, 73 yards (7-yard touchdown pass to Reggie Wayne).
Into the fourth quarter, the defense held on 4th and 1, and now it was the offense’s turn to go win it. The drive started with Luck’s 10th straight incompletion as he threw a poor pass at Fleener’s feet.
Things were getting very dangerous here, and the Colts had a big 3rd and 4. The play call was the right one as Hilton was open on the out route for the huge 11-yard gain to get things going.
On what might have been a sight adjustment on a called run, Luck threw a quick pass to Avery, but without any blocking for him he lost a yard. The Colts went for a better designed screen, and even after Luck pump faked on it, he got the ball to Wayne who gained 18 yards behind good blocking.
Three plays later the Chiefs blitzed and Luck delivered a strike to Wayne who extended the ball for a 12-yard gain. That moved the ball into the red zone.
On a 2nd and 2 at the KC 10, Luck took a hit after the throw but got it to Fleener for two yards and the first down. Ballard picked up a yard, then the Colts got cute. Too cute. So cute you could puke.
Luck pitched to Hilton, then went out to block for him as Hilton rolled to his side and was looking to throw. He did throw the pass, but it killed an earthworm and brought up a huge 3rd and goal. Scrap this one, Bruce.
The Colts called a timeout to discuss this one. With the protection getting it done, Luck stood tall and delivered over the middle of the defense to a wide open Wayne in the back of the end zone for the 7-yard touchdown. Colts led 20-13 with 4:08 left.
Drive No. 11
Drive Stats: 2:30 left, leading 20-13. 3 plays, 13 yards (end of game).
With another chance to end a game in the four-minute offense, the Colts went back to the conventional two runs. That set up a 3rd and 10 after the Chiefs used their final timeout.
Down to 2:20 on the clock, a first down would seal the win. Expecting the Colts to go to the air with the shotgun, they instead kept it on the ground. It was one of those elongated handoffs that usually result in a loss of yards, but Ballard took the carry, followed his blocking left and stumbled ahead for 13 yards and the game-clinching first down.
Just three knees by Luck and this one was over. The Colts are already back in the playoffs after going 2-14 a season ago.
Andrew Luck finished 17 of 35 for 205 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT, and a 76.5 passer rating. Excluding kneel downs, he ran three times for 21 yards and was sacked three times.
Here is the summary of Luck’s 18 incompletions:
- 4 passes dropped
- 3 passes thrown wide
- 2 passes overthrown
- 2 passes intentionally thrown away
- 2 passes defensed
- 1 pass defensed-dropped (Hilton)
- 1 pass underthrown
- 1 pass batted at line of scrimmage
- 1 pass where Luck was hit as he threw
- 1 pass where Hilton was hit with ball in the air (no flag)
During that 0/10 streak, Luck had three drops, one defensed-drop, and the play where Hilton really should have got a flag for being interfered with. So it was only about half as bad as it looked on his part. Eric Berry also just had that great deflection on the pass to Wayne down the left side of the field.
The offensive line held up better. Kansas City was fairly aggressive, but Luck was not as poorly protected as we have seen in the last month. Two of the biggest pass plays this week came with Luck under pressure.
STR (snap-to-release) time was very high at 3.20, but that does not mean the protection was great. Luck just held the ball a lot longer as he scrambled around. The play where Flowers sacked him going out of bounds was 7.66 seconds alone, and just an odd looking play as Luck eased up. He won’t do that again.
The play-action pass did a decent job this week, though one of the biggest plays was the 18-yard screen to Wayne. That was actually the only screen the Colts ran this week, but at least it was a good one on the game-winning drive.
Wayne picking up 20 YAC on that play and Moore’s big run after the catch were really the only significant YAC plays of the game as the Colts were at 39.5 percent YAC this week. Everything else was defended well, and tackled quickly.
The receivers could have definitely done a better job this week, but so be it. They caught the last six thrown their way to win the game. Just would have liked to seen more than 13 points from the offense.
Next week: Chuck Pagano is back as the Colts look to finish off an 11-5 season at home against Houston. Luck already has the rookie passing record, and could tie the NFL record if he should pick up an eighth game-winning drive. The first game against Houston was all about J.J. Watt, but we will see if the Colts can clean up some of their mistakes and pull off an upset before entering the playoffs.
"The Colts had to punt"
Any chance you could start writing "chose" to punt? I hate it when the TV talking heads talk about being forced to punt. The team is never forced to do so; they simply wimp out and choose to do so.
And to be clear, I'm not really advocating that the Colts go for every 4th down (although I'm not convinced it's a bad strategy in most cases) but it would sure be nice if it weren't an automatic decision for most of the game. I hate it when everyone immediately starts walking off the field on 4th down.
Like I said, and damn me for saying this, I just got this terrible Curtain Painter feeling when the D would get a stop and we went three and out, over and over. Eventually the D gets gassed and it's typically a loss. Luck picked it up later for the final scoring drive, something that Painter and Orlovsky could not manage much. I keep telling myself he's a rookie and next year he'll settle down. I do like that when he has protection, like he did for a couple of plays last week, he does a good job. Plus he's throwing the ball away more, rather than squeeze one in. I hope he doesn't go too much in that direction because I think some of the greatest plays he's had when he's thrown some passes into some tight spots. That just improves his accuracy.
Would like to see the Texans lose.