The world’s luckiest man ran out of luck Saturday night. You probably noticed it when Andrew Luck looked shaky and feckless for much of the night. There seemed to be no luck, no hope, no belief. Or maybe it was the possibility New England was simply better than the Colts.
For a moment there, you wondered if the 24-year-old Luck had a trick up his sleeve, but not on this night. He had a completely dreadful night after throwing four interceptions in a season-ending 43-22 loss to the Patriots. He wasn’t smiling, seeing, reading or completing passes. But we won’t ever forget that he’s the young quarterback who rallied Indy from 28 points down to stun the Chiefs last weekend. That right there was truly football’s most exciting, improbable come-from-behind wild-card victory, making it the second largest comeback in playoff history.
What we see now, and pretty clearly, in a game where he was tested and met his challenge against the Patriots, is that Luck is far from being elite. He has, for now, managed to lead his team to the playoffs the way his predecessor Peyton Manning did when he built an empire in Indianapolis. There’s a chance Luck will be great one day, and write his name in Colts lore, but he’s not quite as good as Brady right now. And now that you have watched him play twice in the postseason, now that you have seen one of the most memorable performances of his career, you have a better idea of what the future holds.
The truth is, from what we’ve just seen this season, the Colts have improved steadily under the burgeoning quarterback. If he hopes to truly be the greatest, he must improve his accuracy and minimize his turnovers, which overshadow his unique blend of physical and mental attributes. It’s a perfect time, even though the Colts were eliminated from the playoffs and will now have a lot of work this offseason, to recognize that he is going to be really good and that he’s shown a lot of improvement, but it wasn’t good enough to continue on in these playoffs with the realization that their season is over. All we’ve heard for a week is how good or lucky Luck has been. The Colts, lucky or not, watched their crazy playoff run come to an end.
He was picked off when Patriots linebacker Jamie Collins cut off the pass as Luck tried to connect with his tight end, Coby Fleener, making it impossible to even think about a miraculous comeback. The pick was the third of four interceptions for Luck on the night, and as much as he was responsible for the offensive woes, he is the face of the Colts franchise.
The Colts, meanwhile, went 80 yards in just three plays when Luck launched a pass to T.Y. Hilton for 46 yards and aired out a pass to LaVon Brazill for a 35-yard touchdown to turn it into a 29-22 ballgame in the third quarter. It was an all too familiar scene, and the Colts had the Patriots right where they wanted them, aiming for another late comeback to stun America as Indy did last week. It wasn’t happening against the Patriots, though, and in the fourth quarter, LeGarrette Blount ripped off a 73-yard touchdown run with 12:55 left.
The bigger story here is Luck’s turnovers and not so much how the Patriots demoralized the Colts. He threw nine interceptions in the regular season. Of all nights, he dealt with much pressure, missed his intended targets, made terrible decisions and bad throws while under duress in a hostile environment. And still, he threw for 331 yards and two touchdowns, but he was never at one point in the game flawless. Luck, who had not looked so good in these playoffs, was horrendous and disastrous in which he had seven interceptions in two playoff games.
Against the Patriots, he has turned the ball over eight times, and accounted for seven interceptions in two meetings. It’s partly because he’s a young quarterback enduring growing pains amid a rebuilding phase, and that’s just how it is. If the Colts hope to ever become a dominant team, well, they are going to need more than luck from their rise-and-shine quarterback. They also need Luck’s skills and finesse, but it has become increasingly clear that he still is looking to polish his game. Although at this point, the Colts are two years into a rebuild after finishing 2-14. There was no doubt the Colts overachieved this season and overcame the loss of five offensive starters, largely leading receiver Reggie Wayne.
Luck, however, didn’t work his miracles to somehow beat the Patriots and stun the world for one of the greatest upsets in NFL history. This time, he was responsible for all four of the Colts’ turnovers against the Patriots. The Colts didn’t just get beat by Brady’s bunch on this night. They got trounced by one of the more successful playoff teams in the league. There was no way this was a duel between Luck and Brady, just no way.
It’s never a good feeling to lose, especially when so much is worth playing for. But one can only hope that Luck will learn from his mistakes and only become stronger as a quarterback, to be one of the elites in the NFL in the next couple of seasons. For right now, he’s flying home with his team to pack it up and hopefully try it again next season.
The early exit from the playoffs leaves a bad taste in Luck’s mouth.
So he will definitely give it a shot next season.