NFL: Why Andrew Luck Needs to Win Against the Patriots
The expectations that followed this young quarterback were immense. Not only was he determined to be the best quarterback prospect since John Elway, but he was tasked with replacing an absolute legend in Peyton Manning. That’s a heavy burden to place on the shoulders of a 23-year-old. But as we would all soon find out, Luck was as good as advertised. Truth is, he’s better.
In his three seasons under center for the Colts, Luck has taken Indy to three straight playoffs and led them to back-to-back AFC South titles. This season, he will also be making his third straight Pro Bowl appearance after finishing first in the NFL in passing touchdowns (40), third in passing yards (4,761), and proving to be one of the top quarterbacks in the sport. Luck entered the NFL as a polished passer with a big-time football IQ and an extremely sound feel for the game. And despite his increased responsibility on the field, Luck has managed to improve every year. The Colts, as a whole, have been better for it.
The steady improvement of Luck has coincided with Indy’s success on the gridiron. In fact, the Colts have advanced farther in the playoffs each year since Luck’s been under center. Sure, it must’ve been a painful decision to move on from Peyton, but Luck is proving to be more than a competent heir to the thrown.
In order to be the best, you have to beat the best. And so far, Luck has no answer for Tom Brady and the newly crowned AFC champions the New England Patriots. Going into Sunday’s game at Gillette Stadium, Luck had yet to beat the Patriots. His individual numbers against the team were not impressive, either: 968 passing yards, 6 TD, 8 interceptions, and a completion percentage of 53.8. Sunday was his chance at redemption. It was an opportunity for Luck to get over that hump and make his first appearance in the Super Bowl. Unfortunately, it was not to be for Luck and the Colts.
It may have been a different day, but the story remained the same. Luck and the Colts got creamed by a score of 45-7. This was also Luck’s worst performance against the Pats to date. His final statistics on the day were 12-33, 126 passing yards, 0 TD, and 2 interceptions. Those numbers aren’t good enough to beat most teams in the NFL, let alone New England. While the Luck and the Colts were playing in his first conference championship game, they ran into the same roadblock. And once again, they proved they weren’t quite ready.
It’s a tall order to beat the New England Patriots in the playoffs. It’s an even more daunting task to try and usurp them in Foxborough. Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are arguably the greatest quarterback-coach combo in the history of the game, and Luck isn’t the first Colts quarterback to be bested by this duo. This was also one of the major knocks on Peyton Manning — fantastically gifted QB with all the tools and numbers, but unable to get it done in the big game. So far, the same can be said for Luck.
There is no denying that Luck has the goods. He has all the tools you could ever want in a franchise quarterback. But more importantly, while he prides himself on getting better individually, he will always put the team first. That is what makes him a true leader and the type of player who could go down as one of the greats to ever play the game. With each passing year, he gets a little bit better, and so do the Indianapolis Colts. This year, they won two playoff games, one of them on the road against the former face of the franchise. But it wasn’t enough. And Andrew Luck knows this.
It’s impossible to claim that Luck isn’t one of the elite quarterbacks in the NFL. But “greatness” isn’t measured by numbers. It is a special level that not many players are able to reach. Andrew Luck has the ability to get there, but he has to beat the Patriots first.