No Wayne, no problem

Andrew Luck led his 10th career game-winning drive in the fourth quarter or overtime in a 27-24 win over the Texans. The win pushed the 6-2 Colts to No. 2 in ESPN’s weekly NFL Power Rankings.

It was Luck’s first game without Reggie Wayne and although the Colts walked away with a win, it was anything but pretty. Luck completed only 45 percent of his passes, his worst percentage of the season and second lowest of his career.

Was this just a case of playing a tough defense on the road or was Week 9 a sign of struggles to come for the Colts’ offense?

The Colts need Reggie Wayne

Wayne was the most dependable of the Colts’ wide outs as Luck completed 65.5 percent of his attempts to Wayne this season, and 49.6 percent to all other Colts wide receivers.

Wide receivers have made up 66 percent of the Colts’ pass targets this season, the fourth highest percentage in the NFL. That percentage actually went up without Wayne, as 28 of the Colts’ 40 passes vs. Houston were to wide receivers.

Andrew Luck Targeting Wide Receivers

This Season

That’s not to say that those attempts were successful. Luck completed a season-low 43 percent of his attempts to wide receivers despite completing seven of his 11 passes to T.Y. Hilton. Luck was 5-17 when targeting Darrius Heyward-Bey, Griff Whalen and LaVon Brazill.

The running game is not helping matters. Trent Richardson has averaged 3.0 yards on 83 rushes with the Colts. All other Colts have averaged 6.0 yards on 61 designed rushes.

The Colts can win without Wayne

Wayne has been important to Luck and the Colts offense, but he had become less of a focal point.

Last season Wayne accounted for 31 percent of the Colts’ total passes, third highest in the NFL. Through Week 8 this season, that number had dropped to 26 percent.

One of the reasons for the decline is the emergence of Hilton.

The seven receptions and three touchdowns on Sunday were career highs for Hilton. His ability to stretch the field makes him a constant threat on the outside. Since entering the NFL, Hilton leads all players with eight touchdowns on passes thrown 20-plus yards downfield.

Another big reason the Colts can continue to contend is the ball security displayed by Luck this season, which is in part tied to Wayne.

Luck has thrown 21 career interceptions, and 12 have been when targeting Wayne, including two of his three this season.

Most GW Drives in 4th Qtr/OT
In 1st 2 Seasons Since 1966

Those 12 interceptions account for 4.9 percent of his passes to Wayne. To all others, interceptions account for 1.4 percent of his passes. Despite a low completion percentage in Week 9, Luck didn’t throw a pick for the fifth time this season. He had six games without an interception in all of last season.

And as was seen in Houston, when the Colts are losing, they are never really out of it. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Luck’s 10 career game-winning drives in the fourth quarter or overtime are the most for any quarterback in his first two seasons in the Super Bowl era.