By MICHAEL MAROT
2012-10-13 11:45 PM
Newcomers don't usually understand the nuances well enough to run a no-huddle offense for most of a game. And unlike countless other quarterbacks who flopped because they couldn't produce at key moments, Luck has already shown he excels when the pressure mounts.
It's not just good luck. Indianapolis has a polished, young quarterback who plays like a veteran and becomes more impressive each week _ just like the Colts hoped after releasing Peyton Manning in March and drafting his successor in April.
"A lot of guys in his position could get overwhelmed with things," Colts defensive end Cory Redding said. "He finds a way to win with his attitude, with his confidence, with his ability to make plays."
None of this should come as a surprise.
Scouts almost universally branded Luck as the most NFL-ready quarterback to come into the league since Manning in 1998 and perhaps as far back as John Elway in 1983. All three were taken No. 1 overall by the Colts.
But Luck has done more than live up to the hype.
One month into the season, the Colts, at 2-2, have already matched last year's victory total _ thanks largely to Luck's last-minute heroics. He set up Adam Vinatieri for a winning field goal with 8 seconds left to beat Minnesota, the Vikings' only loss, and Luck threw the winning 4-yard touchdown pass to Reggie Wayne with 35 seconds remaining to beat Green Bay last weekend.
He also set up Vinatieri for another go-ahead field goal with 56 seconds left in Week 3. Had Jacksonville not then connected on a stunning 80-yard touchdown pass, the Colts would likely be 3-1 and considered the biggest surprise in the league.
Longtime NFL veterans can't remember anything quite like it.
"I don't think so," New York Jets coach Rex Ryan said when asked if he could compare Luck to any other rookie quarterbacks he's coached against. "You know, we have coached against Eli (Manning) when he was a rookie. It was about six or seven games in, but he did not have a good day that day. Andrew Luck just seems to be one of those guys you can build a franchise around. When he came out, he was recognized as the top quarterback prospect probably since Peyton. Obviously, that's a lot to carry with you, but this young man looks like he really handles it well."
If Luck stays healthy and continues playing this way over the last 12 games, this could go down as the greatest statistical season for an NFL rookie.
Luck has already thrown 177 passes, a pace that would surpass Sam Bradford's record-setting number (590) by more than 100. With 96 completions, he's well within range of becoming the first rookie to complete 400 passes in a season. Bradford holds that rookie mark, too (354).
Last year's offensive rookie of the year, Cam Newton, broke the rookie mark for yards passing (4,051). At this rate, Luck would shatter the record by more then 750 yards, and if Luck maintains his pace for touchdown passes (seven in four games), he would break Manning's rookie mark (26), too.
The Colts are holding nothing back.
"You can ease him in if you don't want to try to win, if you're just going to try to protect him and grow him," interim coach and offensive coordinator Bruce Arians said. "We want to win. ... We're all about right now in the moment, and he's more than capable of handling it."
Numbers only tell part of Luck's remarkable story.
In Sunday's stunning comeback against Green Bay, older teammates couldn't ignore the poise and confidence Luck displayed in rallying the Colts from an 18-point halftime deficit.
He wasn't bothered by a bone-crushing hit that jarred the ball loose. On the winning drive, he not only converted three consecutive third downs, diving for one on a scramble, he threw Clay Matthews off his back, collected himself and still completed a pass downfield. Arians, a 20-year NFL assistant, said he's only been around one other guy who could do that: Two-time Super Bowl winner Ben Roethlisberger.
And Luck did it primarily by going no-huddle _ something Arians didn't dare try during Manning's rookie season when Arians was with the Colts.
The result last week: Indy ran a franchise record 89 plays against the Packers, breaking a mark set in 1963 by the John Unitas-led Colts and matched in 1975 by the Bert Jones-led Colts.
Luck, as usual, didn't get fazed.
"It is one game. We realize it is one game, one win. It doesn't translate into anything else," he said. "I know I made a lot of mistakes. I've got to get better if we are going to continue to go in the right direction."
What hasn't Luck done yet? Well, win on the road, something he'll have a chance for this Sunday on the biggest stage of all: New York.
Teammates believe in Luck for many reasons, the biggest being he's already shown a toughness few young stars possess.
"You look at how he takes the big pop and, from a defensive end standpoint, how he responds," Redding said. "You didn't see him get rattled when that happened (against Green Bay). That stuff right there, that's the stuff of champions, that's the stuff of great quarterbacks in this league."