Drive to Victory: Andrew Luck Wins One For Chuck
Obviously, Andrew Luck's self-awarded C grade stands for "Clutch". Then again, Indianapolis' entire campaign has stood for "Chuckstrong".
With 5:58 remaining in Sunday's game, the Colts (5-3) capped off a 13-play series with an Adam Vinatieri 43-yard field goal to claim a 23-20 lead over the Miami Dolphins (4-4). In this shockingly significant battle between two potential playoff players - the worst team of 2011 versus a predestined bottom feeder of 2012, that would prove to be the ultimate score.
Luck (30-of-48, 433 yards, 2 touchdowns) surpassed Cam Newton's year-old rookie record for passing yards in a single game by one yard, and he actually secured the victory.
His four game-winning drives this season equals the combined total of the other four rookie starters (Robert Griffin III, Brandon Weeden, Russell Wilson, and opponent Ryan Tannehill) in the NFL, and is one shy of tying marks left by Ben Roethlisberger and Vince Young since the merger. He has four performances of 300 yards or more thus far, already matching the legendary quarterback he legendarily replaced.
The man out of Stanford is additionally tied with Peyton Manning for third in the league with 2,404 passing yards, and that's the most a rookie has thrown for through his inaugural eight contests. He's ascertaining that yardage both from inside and outside the pocket, and he's pairing it with wins.
How about now? If you're still not satisfied, you are not alone - neither is Luck, which is what's most impressive.
Of course, his body of work has done nothing short of inspiring Head Coach Chuck Pagano, and vice versa. Pagano was in attendance after taking a leave of absence in September to treat his diagnosis of leukemia, and witnessed all 13 plays of Luck's go-ahead drive to victory, as "it's already beat."
On 3rd-and-11 from their own 5 (after a negative pass play to Dwayne Allen and a Delone Carter rush stuffed for no gain), Luck converted with a 20-yard completion to Allen. He connected with his tight end again two plays later (with a three-yard run from Vick Ballard sandwiched in the middle of them) for an additional 20 yards.
Allen, a rookie from Clemson who slided into the third round, validated the Colts' decision to select two tight ends back-to-back early in the Draft. Stepping in for the injured Coby Fleener, fellow rookie and collegiate teammate of Luck, Allen racked up six catches for 75 yards.
Once both men are healthy and comfortably on the field together, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez should be given a shirts-vs-skins run for their money.
Following an incompletion intended deep for LaVon Brazill, Indianapolis mustered seven yards to T.Y. Hilton and then six yards to Reggie Wayne, consecutively. It was Luck's best day by far in regards to third down efficiency (13-of-16, 204 yards, 1 touchdown), showcasing his poise, resiliency, and big-play ability.
Luck, moreover, cherishes the reciprocated faith he restores in his receivers, young and old. Hilton (6 receptions, 102 yards, 1 touchdown) - as you might have guessed, another rookie - dropped a potential touchdown twice throughout the game, and yet his field general continually looked for him, as he led the receiving corps with 11 targets.