Shoulder problem? Andrew Luck letting it rip at record pace

INDIANAPOLIS -- Remember when there were questions about whether quarterback Andrew Luck could be effective again after missing last season because of his injured right shoulder?

Consider them answered.

Through five games, the Indianapolis Colts quarterback leads the NFL in completions (163) and attempts (245), and he would have a bigger gap on his completion lead if not for the NFL-high nine drops by his pass-catchers over the past two games.

What made Luck's attempts even more impressive is that 121 of them came during a four-day stretch. It was the second most attempts over a two-game stretch in NFL history.

"Nobody should be surprised," Colts receiver Chester Rogers said. "Not at all. We know what type of player he is. I've been with him for three years and this is the type of player he can be. We don't want him to throw the ball that many times, but we got behind the eight ball in some games, which forced us to throw that many times."

Luck is on pace to shatter the NFL record for attempts in a season, set by Detroit's Matthew Stafford (727) in 2012, and completions, set by New Orleans' Drew Brees (471) in 2016.

"I felt like I've gotten so much better every game," Luck said. "And maybe it shows to the naked eye a little better the past two games -- and at the same time, I know I have so much more to improve upon. I know I can be a better quarterback for this team, and certainly some things do feel well out there. I think for a large percentage of those throws, the ball was going where I wanted it to go and all over the field. But there's still -- I feel I still have a large room, bunch of room for improvement.

When you take into account everything Luck has endured to become healthy again, it's clear he's been one of the feel-good stories of the young season.

"He's getting more comfortable with himself and with his injury," Colts tight end Eric Ebron said. "When you come back, those first couple of games you be tip-toeing. That's how it is. You're afraid of going through that process again. It's a long process to come back healthy. Now you're seeing him finally just say 'eff it' and go out there."

When you step back and look at the big picture, though, it's not good for Luck or for the Colts that he's had to fling the ball around the field so much.

"It's killing me to have to throw it this much," Colts coach Frank Reich said. "I know you can't sustain this. The story doesn't end well when you have to sustain this level of throwing. Maybe there are exceptions, maybe there are exceptions to that, but I've learned that in my past. We are doing everything we can do to try to balance that out."

There's been two reasons why Luck has had to throw so much. The Colts fell behind 28-10 to Houston in Week 4 and trailed New England 24-3 in Week 5. And the Colts have yet to establish a running identity this season. They're 29th in the NFL in rushing at 74.4 yards a game. Luck is averaging 10.6 of those yards a game.

The Colts are never going to become a run-first team, but they would ideally like a 60-to-40 pass/run ratio, because it'll help them become less predictable. At some point teams aren't going to expect them to even attempt to run the ball, and the Colts want to be known more as a physical team than a finesse one.

"I just believe what wins championships is being physical," Reich said. "Yeah, you have to be finesse and you have to have great skill players, but you've got to win up front on both sides of the ball. At least that was my experience, certainly last year and then some other years that I have been on really good teams. Going back to the era when I was here before with Peyton [Manning], even when he was at his best in the pass game we were still running the ball great.

"Going back to my days playing [with] four Super Bowls in a row. Thurman Thomas always had 1,200 yards. Now, Jim Kelly was going to be the star and he was going to throw for a zillion yards, but we were going to have a 1,000-yard rusher. So, I just think that's really important."