As the Texans welcome the Colts to Houston this weekend at Reliant Stadium, Gary Kubiak and his team have to make sure what happened in New England is not going to happen again.
At Gillette Stadium, the vaunted Bulls on Parade were embarrassed by Patriots’ QB Tom Brady, who dons No.12. Andrew Luck, the Colts’ rookie signal-caller, wears the same number at the back of his jersey. Both are the heart and soul of their respective franchise.
Despite the similarity in jersey number and importance to their teams, it would be foolish to compare the two. One is a 7-time Pro-Bowler, 3-time Super Bowl champion and 2-time Super Bowl MVP; the other has not even completed a full season of pro football. With his potential, it is possible that one day Luck’s resume might look as impressive as Brady’s; but for now, Luck is no Brady.
The Texans should expect the same.
The first overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, Andrew Luck was selected by the Colts to inherit the throne left behind by the great Peyton Manning. That is no small task, especially with the lack of a supporting cast as the Colts entered a rebuilding phase. Coming into the league, Luck did not have the luxury of great coaching and offensive system (RGIII in Washington), or strong defense and running game (Russell Wilson in Seattle) like his fellow rookie QBs enjoy. He does have a security blanket in veteran receiver Reggie Wayne, but that’s about it. Luck was thrown right into the fire.
A 9-4 record and potential playoff berth later, Luck has proved to the NFL that he clearly belongs. He already had six fourth-quarter comebacks to his name, the highest single season total for a rookie QB in the history. Without a doubt, Luck plays an enormous role in getting the Colts to where they are at this point of the season; his late-game heroics and the way he flawlessly ran two-minute drills are reminiscent of the days when No.18 was still under center for Indianapolis.
But Luck still has plenty of flaws in his game, as a rookie should. And the Texans will look to exploit them this coming Sunday.
1. Bad Decision-Making
Luck currently leads the NFL in turnovers with 23, including 18 interceptions and 5 fumbles lost. In his last four games, which featured a couple of fourth-quarter comebacks, Luck has thrown eight interceptions, effectively digging a hole for his team while putting himself in a position of having to come from behind. So far this season, when being put under pressure, Luck has thrown eight INTs to only five TDs. Even when he did have time to throw, he had the tendency of trying to do too much and forced balls into coverage, which resulted in 10 other picks. While Luck has shown tremendous mobility and can scramble out of the pocket effectively when pressured, his ball security remains a concern, as evidenced by his 10 fumbles (five lost). Against a Houston defense who excelled in forcing turnovers (27, second in the AFC), this could be a recipe for disaster for Luck.
2. Over-Reliance on Reggie Wayne
It is always great for a QB to have a go-to receiver. Joe Montana and Steve Young made the Hall of Fame by throwing to Jerry Rice; Manning had Marvin Harrison. More recently, Brady-to-Welker and Stafford-to-Johnson come to mind. That said, good QBs know how to spread the ball around and get everyone on the offense involved. That has not necessarily been the case in Indianapolis. Despite the recent emergence of rookie T.Y. Hilton, Luck is still primarily relying on Wayne to make plays. The rookie QB has targeted Wayne on a whooping 28% of his dropbacks this season, the highest target percentage of any QB-WR combo this season. Utilizing your best weapon is fine, but Luck has been forcing it to the veteran way too often. 10 of his interceptions thrown his season were intended for No.87, tied for first in the NFL. If the Texans can scheme their coverage to Wayne, Luck will have to go to other options. If he insists on forcing it to Wayne, the Texans will make him pay.
Other than their impressive victory against the Green Bay Packers, the Colts’ victories this season came from games against Jacksonville, Minnesota, Buffalo, Miami, Tennessee (twice), Cleveland, and Detroit, not exactly household names. If the Texans can execute their gameplan against Luck properly, which I believe they will, this game should be a good remedy for the Texans, who are desperately in need of a confidence booster following a lackluster performance last week.
All in the quest for win No. 12.
– Huy Nguyen
Statistics from ProFootballFocus.com