While the Indianapolis Colts
While the Indianapolis Colts came up short against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Aug. 19 by a score of 26-24, rookie quarterback Andrew Luck continued to impress me in just his second game as a member of the NFL.
A week after disemboweling the St. Louis Rams at home, the Colts faced a much more difficult assignment: take on the Steelers in their park. Granted, it was just a preseason game, so the Pittsburgh crowd wasn’t nearly as hostile as a visiting team would expect during the regular season, but it was still a new challenge for the rookie out of Stanford.
Luck looked good in this new challenge.
He certainly didn’t get off to a good start. The first two drives were anything but impressive, and Luck looked very much like a rookie quarterback. On the third drive, Luck’s first pass was underthrown, and Ike Taylor relieved the Colts of possession of the ball, taking the interception 49 yards the other way for a Steelers touchdown.
After the ensuing kickoff, Steelers LB Lamarr Woodley introduced himself to Luck in the form of a 5-yard sack on the first play of the Colts’ drive.
Down 14-0 and facing 2nd and 15 on the road on national television, fresh off two choppy drives, a pick-six, and a sack, it was the perfect time for Luck to fold up shop and mentally check out of the game. I held my breath, waiting to see what he would do.
I was very pleasantly surprised by Luck’s response.
Luck fired two straight completions to pick up the first down. Two more completions in a row, and the Colts were at midfield. Donald Brown took the team the rest of the way into the end zone, but Luck never looked rattled or frustrated or over his head.
He wound up throwing another “interception” that unfortunately counts against his stats but was anything but his fault. The ball was right on target to fellow rookie T.Y. Hilton, who had it, and then didn’t, and then juggled it too high up into the air, where it was plucked away by Steelers DB Cortez Allen.
Again, it was another opportunity for Luck to melt down, throw a fit, scream at Hilton, or throw in the towel, and he did none of it.
Instead, on the very next drive, Luck’s very first pass was a completion to Hilton. “If at first you don’t succeed, T.Y.,” Luck seemed to be saying, “Try again.”
Luck completed five consecutive passes on that drive, leading the Colts to the promised land once again, running the ball … ahem … most of the way into the end zone for a touchdown that amazingly withstood official review.
The rookie threw three more completions in a row on his last drive before intentionally spiking the ball to kill the clock, allowing Adam Vinatieri the opportunity to attempt–and make–a 53-yard field goal as the first half expired.
Once down 14-0, the Colts took a 17-14 moral victory into the locker room at halftime.
Luck finished the game 16-of-25 for 175 yards and two interceptions–a measly 51.3 quarterback rating. But his stats on paper belie his resilience and leadership, even when the tide appeared to be turning against him. There was no deer-in-the-headlights look from him, there was no screaming at his teammates for anything, and after Hilton completely bricked the pass that resulted in Luck’s second interception, Luck went right back to Hilton at the very next opportunity. I liked seeing that.
Colts fans can’t forget that Luck is a rookie, that mistakes will be made, and that this is still just the preseason, but I still find myself encouraged that Luck showed what he did on the road Sunday night against a tough Steelers team.
The author is a resident of central Indiana and a longtime fan of the Colts. He is also a Featured Contributor in Sports for the Yahoo! Contributor Network. You can follow him on Twitter at @RedZoneWriting and on Facebook.