It feels like years since I last watched a live NFL game (God, if you want to place me in a coma until mid-August I’d be okay with that). Since it’s early July, or Hell on Earth as it’s known in my household, we still have a ways to go before that particular thirst is quenched. So in lieu of that, I figured we might try something different and relive some of my favorite moments from the previous season (innovative thinking, I know, it’s what they pay me for, or would if I believed in money, if only Chase would respect my religious beliefs).
In what I hope will be a recurring segment (don’t get your hopes up, but anything’s possible), I am going to choose my five favorite plays from various players on the team. Since it’s the first in a series and I want people to actually care, I am going to start at the top. I’ve poured over hours of game film, dissected coaching tape, and watched every NFL game, twice, in preparation for this column (actually I mostly watched highlight videos). So here you go, my five favorite Andrew Luck throws from the 2012 NFL season, in ascending order.
Keep in mind, this is a purely subjective exercise, Andrew Luck completed 339 passes last season (not including playoffs), so there’s a good chance I won’t get the perfect five, but that’s the nature of the beast.
NOTE: These are GIFs that should play when you mouse over them, but you may need to let the browser load a little before they will work (if you’re on a dial-up connection, A) shame on you, this is 2013, but B) you will probably be waiting a really long time). SECOND NOTE: If you're using Firefox they might not load at all (so sorry, apparently Firefox bugs out on hover animations).
The Record Breaker
This is the pass that set the NFL rookie passing yards record. A bit of a copout pick perhaps, the pass itself was about as routine as an Andrew Luck play got last year, but for posterities sake it’s worth including on the list simply based on its historical significance. A lot of people seem to be dismissing this record, instead preferring to talk about Wilson tying Peyton’s rookie TD record or RGIII setting the highest QB rating. While that’s all well and good, it’s worth noting that it’s unprecedented to see a rookie QB with so many yards also managing to win games (Cam Newton and Peyton Manning, the previous holders of this record, went a combined 9-23 in their rookie seasons).
Wilson and RGIII were great to be sure, but their records came on the back of efficient offenses with running help and solid protection, Luck was a one man show behind a line with very little talent (that’s when they weren’t sitting out due to injury of course). Sure, Drew Brees and Matthew Stafford throwing for 5,000 yards every year does diminish the accomplishment in the eyes of many, but 4,400 yards as a rookie (besting the record by over 300 yards) on a team with other rookies at nearly every skill position is an achievement that many fail to adequately appreciate. I refuse to be one of those people.
Pass to Dwayne Allen While Running Left.
This is kind of a simple play in a less than interesting moment in a less than interesting game in the middle of the season (Luck did set the rookie single game passing record in this game, so there’s that), but there’s just something about it that really highlights Luck’s unique skill set.
Under pressure the entire season (this play being no different) Luck had to learn quickly how to adjust to that pressure and make throws that one wouldn’t exactly call routine. In this particular throw we see not only his ability to sense the rush, but also the body control and physical skill to whip a spiral across his body while rolling left, an incredibly challenging throw for a right handed quarterback. Speed to evade the rush, power to throw the ball on a rope, and accuracy to hit his receiver’s hands perfectly in stride for a first down on 3rd and long, just about sums it up.
TD to LaVon Brazill While Being Smashed
Obviously the final game winning pass to Donnie Avery as time expired was the more exciting play, but this isn’t the five most exciting throws, it’s the five “best.” This pass to Brazill showcased many of the things that made Luck so spectacular in his rookie season: poise under pressure, athleticism to escape pursuit, clutch throws in crucial game situations, unconventional release points, and of course perfect ball placement.
This throw was basically all arm, anybody who speculated that Luck lacked arm strength simply need watch this throw to realize their stupendous error in judgment. A little deeper and it’s over his head, a little shorter and it’s broken up by the trailing defender. Down double digits with mere minutes left on the clock, Luck showed once again that he has ice in his veins.
The 3rd and 23 Conversion
This particular throw has a lot of elements to consider. Week 17 against division rival Houston Texans (in Chuck Pagano’s return game no less), a 3rd and 23 conversion (which itself is ridiculous), travels 40 yards in the air, threaded between three defenders, perfect ball placement hitting TY in stride for the 70 yard TD.
Under any circumstances this throw is spectacular, but on 3rd and 23 in the fourth quarter of a one score game they desperately wanted to win? Transcendent. From snap to throw is roughly 3 seconds, just enough time to pump right, freeze the safety, open up the tiniest of windows, and thread the ball in perfectly to a streaking Hilton for the dramatic TD. This throw has it all. Perfect read, great misdirection, pin-point accuracy, beautiful spiral, degree of difficulty, and even a little emotional impact on the Chuck Pagano reaction shot (not included for file size considerations).
The #Chuckstrong Throw
This throw is Andrew Luck quintessence (yeah, I said it). Is there really any other throw to choose as number 1? The best throw in the best game of a great 2012 Colts’ season, arguably the best game of the entire 2012 season period. Down 21-3 at halftime in the first game of the #Chuckstrong movement, the Colts are trying to finish off a story for the ages as they fight back in a game that nobody gave them a chance to win. This game will certainly be most remembered for Chuck Pagano’s battle with leukemia and Reggie Wayne’s heroics, but this throw by Luck perhaps best exemplifies the resilience that defined this team last year.
With less than 2 minutes, trailing by a TD, and facing yet another 3rd and long (notice a pattern with these throws?). Faced with an all-out blitz, Luck sees an opening but is forced to pull the ball in when Clay Matthews breaks free and latches on to his throwing arm. Somehow (don’t ask me how) Luck manages to reset, reload, and throw a perfect strike to a heavily covered Reggie Wayne 20 yards downfield for the first down. The rest, as they say, is history.
So there you have it. That's my list. GIve us yours or tell me what I missed in the comments. As always, follow me on Twitter if you like, I'm a pretty personable guy:@Colt_Following
The offseason is way toooo long for the NFL! Coltnation is ready! Luck is more consistent than most qbs in my opinion. He's not the greatest but you don't need the greatest to be a superbowl champ.
luck threw for over 4300 yards. how u got him at 4100? seemslike you would know that. nice piece though.
@coltboy12 Thanks for the comment, but you must not have read the text below the picture. The image was taken from the broadcast directly following him breaking the record in the Kansas City game (when the pass I was referencing was actually thrown), it does not include week 17 against Houston. I did mention several times that his total yardage was close to 4,400 (I believe 4,371 off the top of my head).
New edition should be coming soon.
Oh man, somehow during this stupid offseason (seriously, I will never get over how long offseasons are), I forgot how amazingly beautiful some of Luck's throws are. I could honestly watch these GIFs all day. I said it before and I'll say it again, that 3rd and 23 throw to Hilton is one of the best throws I've ever seen. Just phenomenal.
"... but 4,400 yards as a rookie (besting the record by over 300 yards) on a team with other rookies at nearly every skill position is an achievement that many fail to adequately appreciate. I refuse to be one of those people"
@hankster Thank you, thank you very much.
@hankster @Colt_Following I'm on the same page with Scott there, bulk statistics are almost never a great way to measure success (obviously Stafford threw for nearly 5,000 years and Detroit won 4 games), but what Luck did last year was perhaps the exception that proved the rule, managing to do what he did, throwing 35 times a game, and still winning 11 times.
Luck really does throw a nice looking ball. I love Peyton Manning even more than most but he certainly wouldn't be accused of throwing the prettiest spiral in sports. Luck has some serious rotation on this rockets, maybe not Vick but not that far behind him.
You justified why the Donnie Avery TD wasn't one of Luck's 5 best - to which I agree - but it will probably go down as one of the most memorable plays I've ever seen. Also, you're bang on about the #Chuckstrong game. Like the AFC Championship in '06-'07, I will never tire of it.
@Lou Pin To be clear, first part of that statement was a reference to the Green Bay game, my comment was really unclear.
@Lou Pin It really was a great game, kind of the moment that you really started to feel like maybe this team was going to be special. Up to that point it really could have gone either way. The Avery TD was great but in terms of the throw, it was basically a hand off. I agree though, it was a super exciting game and all-time great Colts moment.
Ahhhh, the Chuckstrong throw.... Insanity ruled my roost that day. What a bloody throw...from a rookie???!!! Amazing.
@Platinum I probably should have made it a top 10, too many great throws to choose from. But then the GIFs would really be out of control.
@Colt_Following @Platinum Do you remember the pre-season game against the Steelers? Luck threw a pick 6 to on a pass to well covered Wayne. The announcers set off into a love fest for LeBeau's defense and its record against rookies. What happens? Luck marches the Colts down the field and scores a touchdown. At that point I decided the season was going to a hell of a ride.
Couldn't agree with you more about people underestimating the rookie season passing yards record while doing it on an 11 win team.
@DougEngland I think people see 4,400 yards and think, "That's like league average these days (obviously it isn't, but you know)." They seem to fail to realize that as great as that rookie class was last year, nobody was close to Luck's volume. 2nd place was Brandon Weeden a full thousand yards behind at 3,385, he won 5 games.
With great pleasure did I absorb this wonderful analysis of Mr. Luck's best throws.
To the Author: Do not cease to contribute to this host of Colts writers- just as there are diamonds in the dross of African mole hills, so too are there 'gold contributors' in the mountain heap of Colts authority contributors. You sir are the gold.
Go on. Write more - Off!
3rd and 23 also featured Hilton's best touchdown dance of the year, in my opinion. Not captured in the GIF or any (but 1) of the highlights on the net, but it's choice. We get a couple "T-Ys", he points at someone (camera guy perhaps?), and does this floppy dead-guy dance. Awesome. And an awesome post!
And don't say I never did anything for you, fan service to the extreme, the TY "Bernie Lean" just for you sir: http://219.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/bernie-dance.gif
@Colt_Following @naptown_ninja Oh, a million thankyous! That made morning. Reference to 80's movie, Weekend At Bernie's, perhaps? The protagonists want to party with Bernie, but Bernie dies, and they cart him around, all weekend making him appear as if he's alive-ish, unwilling to stop partying. Im a little fuzzy on the plot, but that's what I remember.
"God, if you want to place me in a coma until mid-August I’d be okay with that). Since it’s early July, or Hell on Earth as it’s known in my household"... Amen, brother.
@Bobman1 At least we're getting close. I can almost smell the sweat, wait...
Fantastic collection of throws. Great work, and great commentary.
But to the GIF thing... unless there is some reason these aren't just YouTube clips (copyrights, maybe?) please don't do this again. The user experience is, at best confusing ("did it load? why isn't it playing? do i click?") and at worst frustrating. I'm getting 70mbps, above dial up, to be sure, and even some of the later GIFs were about a 10 second wait from when I hovered.
It's probably a neat technology for some applications, but not this one.
@TroyS Worked well on IE and Chrome for me, but for Firefox I'm getting anywhere from 7-13 second delays.
@TroyS Unfortunately it's really the only way to do it. I could certainly make the files smaller, which would make them load faster, but you'd get a serious degradation in quality. For me it's usually about a 3 second delay at first but once the system caches the file it's instantaneous from there on. Not sure why yours was so slow, but it's either still images or this I'm afraid.
Certainly YouTube has a lot of choices, but that's more frustrating IMO, and with a GIF you can get the loop effect to really analyze the play without having to find the spot and reload it repeatedly.
Of course everyone has their own preferences, in the end it's all about the reader experience so if you guys don't like it then I certainly won't do it again (was a lot of work to put all those together).
Also, I don't mean to detract from the high quality of the article. It was really well done. I just can't turn off the web developer in me that is thinking about page weight, UI/UX, and bounce rates.
Keep up the good writing!
@TroyS @Colt_Following Thanks! Yeah, don't get me wrong, I share those concerns, but when it comes to football plays and providing actual video of a particular event it's way more challenging than you'd think given the popularity of the league. They're notoriously stingy about copyright and clips over 10 seconds are routinely removed from YouTube. What you're left with is highlight videos that you have to cue to certain spots (assuming you can find the clip at all). That solution is less ideal even than this one IMO.
Trust me, I understand where you're coming from, the fact that I had to provide two warning up front (and it doesn't work on mobile platforms at all), tells you that the solution isn't perfect. If there's a better one I'm more than happy to try it. I could have the GIFs play automatically as they load, which would solve a lot of the problems, but then you have 10 videos looping at the same time which looks incredibly busy and ruins the experience for me personally.
@Colt_Following @TroyS The GIFs look nice. I wish I could spend some time to learn how to make some myself. It's just a little bit confusing at the beginning because all you see it's the pictures and wonder where the videos are.
Anyway, I look forward to seeing more memorable passes this year from Andrew.
Just let me know when a good time would be for you.
The only software I'm using that costs money is Photoshop, so you would need that, but beyond that it's simple. I could do some screen captures of the process too, that wouldn't be too much trouble.
@codrutc I'd be happy to walk you through the process at some point if you want, it's really not too bad once you get a handle on the basics (I'm no photoshop expert by any means), took me quite a lot of trial and error to find the sweet spot between quality of capture and file size (not sure I'm quite there yet).
Do you think you'd prefer the GIFs without the rollover effect? I personally find it too busy when all the clips are playing at once, but there are drawbacks to having the rollover as well (confusion and apparent incompatibility with certain browsers being among them).
@ColtsHead_Ben @Colt_Following @TroyS Thank you sir. It wouldn't be too much trouble to do during the season when the pool is smaller, a lot of the challenge was sifting through all the clips from the season (Luck had a lot of great throws last year), with just one game to worry about I can't imagine it would be too challenging.
I think the GIFs just take a little getting used to, but hopefully if I do this again the format will be understood and won't cause confusion.
Until Andrew Luck can come in during the 4th quarter and throw a football over them mountains, us Colts fans are never gonna get back to the Super Bowl!
Back in '82, Curtis Painter used to be able to throw the ball a quarter mile.