Heading into the Colts' season finale against the Texans, Andrew Luck had failed to connect on 50 percent of his passes in four consecutive games.
In the win against Houston last Sunday, he connected on exactly half his passes. He was generally more accurate and made the plays Indianapolis needed to win the game.
Much has been made of Luck's completion percentage (54.1) and interceptions (18) this season. Those are not good numbers, but he has regularly done things to overcome them.
I was struck Sunday by two passes Luck threw in very difficult circumstances: On third-and-13 from the Colts' 40-yard line early in the fourth quarter, he dropped back, had time and stepped into a great throw to Reggie Wayne for a 24-yard gain. It was called back because of a hold against left tackle Anthony Castonzo.
Given a second chance on third-and-23, Luck got quality protection again, stepped into a throw again and connected deep to T.Y. Hilton for a 70-yard touchdown.
Back-to-back throws. With good protection both times (aided by a hold on the first), Luck was able to really step into his throws, and they were excellent.
How many of his 14 incomplete passes resulted from an inability to step into the throw?
There is a degree of subjectivity in assessing what happened on a play. Here is my breakdown of the incomplete passes:
Hurried or hit -- 5
Drops -- 3
Thrown away -- 2
Defended by DB -- 2
No issue -- 1
Batted -- 1
Those five hurries or hits certainly affected Luck’s ability to be accurate. He overthrew Donnie Avery and bounced a ball to Wayne.
These are situations every quarterback faces. Luck tends to hold on to the ball extra at times to try to make something happen, knowing he can handle some jostling or even absorb a hit in exchange for extending a play.
“Luck is already one of the best quarterbacks around at keeping his eyes downfield and moving within the confines of the pocket, which is amazing for a rookie -- and lucky for him, because the Colts' line is obviously pretty bad," said Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. "But Bruce Arians does help the line out, and they obviously go deep a ton. Luck has the natural abilities to throw well even when his feet are not set, but like you mentioned, Luck might be lethal if he actually had adequate time to throw more consistently in their downfield attack.”
The issue Luck has had recently with throwing high seemed to have settled down in this game. He was blitzed a great deal by the Texans but not, incidentally, on the third-and-23.
It’s basic for any good quarterback: Protect him well, and the odds of a good result improve.
Still, I imagine Arians, offensive line coach Harold Goodwin and quarterbacks coach Clyde Christensen showed that Luck-to-Hilton touchdown pass, and even the one to Wayne, to the entire offense: See how assertively Luck was able to step into his throw? See the quality result? If we can give him a chance at more plays like that Sunday in Baltimore, we can be playing in the divisional round a week later.