NFL morning after: Andrew Luck brings the Colts back to life

AP

If Indianapolis hadn’t been completely left for dead after Monday night’s loss in Carolina, that was a function not of people actually believing in the Colts, but of the rest of the AFC South being terrible: Yes, we thought, maybe the Colts can still win their division. But they might do it as a 6-10 team that will get blown out in the wild-card round.

What a difference one Sunday can make.

Yesterday the Colts completely flipped the script, with Andrew Luck playing an excellent game against an outstanding Broncos defense, and Indianapolis beating previously undefeated Denver 27-24. Now the Colts’ 4-5 record doesn’t look so bad, and the rest of the season doesn’t just look like a march toward an early playoff exit and the firing of coach Chuck Pagano. Now there’s a real chance the Colts can make something of this season.

The reason for that is Luck, who played by far the best game of the season. New offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski, handed the playcalling duties after Pep Hamilton was fired following the loss to the Panthers, called a good game that finally had Luck making the most of both his great athleticism and his great arm. Luck threw for 252 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions, no fumbles and only one sack, and he added 34 rushing yards. All that against a Broncos defense that just a week earlier had totally shut down the Packers and Aaron Rodgers.

Luck was obviously hurt earlier this season, even if the Colts have been secretive about the precise nature of his injuries, but he also looked like something was wrong with him mentally, as if he had lost his impressive ability to read defenses quickly and was holding onto the ball too long. That changed on Sunday, as Luck was decisive and poised in picking apart the Broncos’ defense. Luck is a truly special talent — if I could pick one player to start a franchise with, I’d want Luck — and with him at the helm, the Colts are going to be a tough team to beat in January.

It’s not that the Colts have solved all their problems. In fact, I still think it’s more likely than not that both G.M. Ryan Grigson and coach Chuck Pagano will be fired after the season. The two of them just haven’t done a good enough job of building a good football team around Luck.

But the most important piece of a good football team — the franchise quarterback — is in place.

Luck was the player I most enjoyed watching on Sunday. Here are my other observations:

Marcus Mariota is something special. In leading the Titans to a win over the Saints, Mariota threw for 371 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions. He’s the first rookie in NFL history to have at least 350 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions in a game, and the first rookie ever to have two different games with four touchdowns and no interceptions. Mariota has 13 touchdown passes this year, putting him halfway to the rookie record of 26, which is shared by Peyton Manning and Russell Wilson. Like the Colts, the Titans can feel confident that they have their most important part in place.

Worried about the Packers? Relax. Last year, “Relax” was Aaron Rodgers’s mantra when fans in Green Bay expressed concern about the Packers’ 1-2 start. That should be the mantra in Green Bay again this year, as the Packers have dropped two straight. Yes, it’s always disappointing to lose two games in a row, but both games were on the road against Super Bowl contenders, in Denver and Carolina. The Packers will play the Lions next week, and that’s just the kind of game they need to turn things around. Green Bay is still an overwhelming favorite to win the NFC North, and still a strong contender to win the Super Bowl.

Toby Gerhart was a healthy scratch. Last year the Jaguars signed Gerhart to a three-year, $10.5 million contract. He responded by averaging just 3.2 yards a carry in 2014, and he’s been even worse this year, averaging 2.2 yards a carry. Yesterday he hit a new low, as he was inactive despite being healthy: The Jaguars no longer even think he’s good enough to play on the 46-man gameday roster. Gerhart’s deal was a big waste, and a reminder of why teams are so reluctant to invest in running backs.

Antonio Brown is amazing. Brown’s 284 receiving yards in the Steelers’ 38-35 win over the Raiders yesterday were a Steelers franchise record, and the most in any NFL game since Calvin Johnson had 329 yards against the Cowboys in October of 2013. The Steelers will need Brown more than ever in the coming weeks, with Ben Roethlisberger out with a foot injury. Brown averaged just 37 yards a game in the three games Michael Vick started this season, but he had 124 yards in the game Landry Jones started, and with Jones likely starting next week against Cleveland, the Steelers will be relying heavily on Brown.

Blaine Gabbert is better than Colin Kaepernick right now. A couple years ago, I thought Gabbert was the worst quarterback in the NFL, and Kaepernick had the potential to change the way the quarterback position was played in the NFL. Now Kaepernick has regressed as a passer to such a great extent that he’s been benched for Gabbert. And Gabbert was pretty good on Sunday in leading the 49ers to an upset win over the Falcons. Unlike Luck, who just had a rough start to the season, Kaepernick looks like there’s something fundamentally wrong with him right now. He’s going to need some time on the sideline, and probably a new team in 2016.

Peyton Manning’s records will have to wait a week. Manning headed into yesterday’s game hoping to break two of Brett Favre’s records, for career passing yards and for most games won as a starting quarterback. But Manning came up three yards shy of the yardage record, and the Broncos lost in Indianapolis. Manning will have to wait until next week, as his old team got the better of him. And his successor as franchise quarterback in Indianapolis showed why he’s the kind of player who might break both of those records some day.

60 responses to “NFL morning after: Andrew Luck brings the Colts back to life

  1. Yeah, GB’s losses were against Super Bowl contenders, you know, the kind of teams you play against in the playoffs. Sorry, you don’t get to play the Lions twice in the postseason.

  2. pump the brakes there big guy. colts still have a lot of issues and will be lucky to finish above .500

    with that said I think there is still a chance we could repeat as AFC FINALISTS, so we got that going for us…

  3. Luck is a very tough hombre. He took some vicious shots in that game, many of them cheap shots that were not flagged.

  4. And only one game in, I think it’s obvious the Cokts are a far better team without Peppy running the offense. Colts fans have realized for the last 3 years how inept he was at play calling and running the offense in general.
    I agree that Pagano and Grigson will likely be gone as well, as they should.

  5. Must be overreaction Monday. The NFL is week to week league. Take everything you see with a grain of salt. A team can look great one week and awful the next. The Colts are not a good team, they just happened to play their best game of the year when Peyton Manning came to town. It was a lot less about what Colts did and more about what the Broncos didn’t do. Broncos beat themselves with offensive turnovers and defensive penalties.

  6. After only one game where Luck manages to actually hold on to the ball, we’re saying he’s bringing the Colt’s back to life? The bar must not be set very high in Indy.

  7. “Now the Colts’ 4-5 record doesn’t look so bad, and the rest of the season doesn’t just look like a march toward an early playoff exit and the firing of coach Chuck Pagano.”
    **********************

    Yea, no. All of those things still seem highly probable. The Colts are a bad team who beat a very good one. Happens all the time in the NFL.

  8. I get so tired of the “Pagano getting fired at the end of the year” diatribe. He isn’t under contract at the end of the year. If you want to say “Pagano not getting an extension at the end of the year,” go right ahead. I’m guessing that at the end of the year Pagano walks whether he is offered an extension or not. Grigson effect.

  9. Okay NOW for the real Monday Morning notes:
    Andrew Luck is still terrible. Denver like KC LAST YEAR is fools gold. Antonio Brown got all those numbers off backups since Raiders were banged up at CB and safety and if Steelers played Raiders 10 more time Raiders would win all 10.. It makes no difference as Raiders will eventually win AFC WEST this year and not even get the wildcard. So if I’m a Steelers fan I worry about Denver not Oakland. Oakland won’t lose another game this year

  10. Don’t worry peyton you’ll get your record, best in season quarterback one and done will retire soon………

  11. “Gerhart’s deal was a big waste, and a reminder of why teams are so reluctant to invest in running backs.”

    No, teams are not reluctant to invest in running backs, as this and countless other examples illustrate. The deal is a reminder of why it IS foolish to invest big money in running backs. But many teams do not learn this lesson.

  12. “and with him at the helm, the Colts are going to be a tough team to beat in January.”

    Like last January? Guess it’s a matter of perspective, oh and opponent. They were certainly too tough a team for Denver last January. There was that other team though…
    Yep, all about perspective.

  13. The Colts are setting up to be a 4 seed, which puts them at the #1 seed for the divisional, or perhaps the 2 seed. Either one could be in New England. They will be lucky to survive until the opening kickoff.

  14. Honestly, this was a battle of the Brady Shadows. People on here defending Pagano like he made something special happen.

    This game was won for a simple reason. Manning doesn’t have it anymore. Cut the straw anyway you want, the “it” factor is gone. 9 TDS and 13 INT are the statistics of a tweener, maybe not even.

    Call New England cheaters, because it’s all you have left. We certainly know none of you have any football statistics to back up your boys (junk yards don’t count, sorry).

    Make sure Talib and Manning don’t forget their spitshine in the locker room week 12. Mile High gets a taste of reality, you’re not gonna beat Tom in there everytime.

  15. Andrew Luck… meh… don’t think so.

    Change in O Coordinator gets most of the credit and Luck gets credit for following the lead.

    Simms said it well… Offensive coordination isn’t about the plays… every team has similar plays. O Coord is about the skill of knowing WHEN to call certain plays.

    I reverse my comments on Pep… obviously play calling decisions were an issue… obvious by what the Colts did last night to the best D in the NFL.

  16. Pagano getting fired or not renewed is merely semantics. He was coaching for his job this year after not being offered a multi-year renewal last year. That team had high expectations and a win at home against Denver doesn’t make everything all right. They are looking like a 9-7 team with a ridiculously easy schedule and a #4 seed with a wild card game against the Jets.

  17. Gore got 28 carries. Only 83 yards, but it’s clear the Colts wanted to get him more involved and that is a good thing.

    27 points against the Broncos is a good sign.

  18. I want to see what “the league” does to Aqib Talib for walking up to a guy and sticking his fingers in his eye

  19. I’d be a bigger believer in the Colts if they beat a good team other than the Broncos. As it showed in last year’s playoffs they are able to get up for a game versus the Broncos but when it comes to an actually good team (the Patriots) they don’t even belong on the same field.

  20. Would love to see Peyton get the record but lose the game. Then again he is playing the Chiefs so never mind, he has always had their number and they suck even worse this year.

  21. Easy big fella’.
    Read below then remember what RGIII did for his entire rookie season. Patience and consistency. A short sample can be very misleading.

    “Marcus Mariota is something special. In leading the Titans to a win over the Saints, Mariota threw for 371 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions. He’s the first rookie in NFL history to have at least 350 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions in a game, and the first rookie ever to have two different games with four touchdowns and no interceptions. “

  22. After hearing the guys on NFL Countdown yesterday and pretty much everyone in the media ripping Luck over the past two weeks, I wonder how many of them, down the road, will admit they openly questioned his long-term ability to play QB.

    Yesterday on Countdown, they all were in agreement that Luck was vastly overrated and some speculated he was really just a product of the media (all hype).

    I love how quickly these so-called football “experts” change their opinions….

  23. Bucrightoff and otislaylor….well played on both counts. I gotta say I heard First Take RIPPING Luck. If Peyton was playing behind that line this year he would have been on IR already. Luck gets his butt whipped daily and they most certainly made the right choice. If Peyton didn’t have the best defense in the NFL they don’t have a winning record right now.

  24. Re. the ‘Toby Gerhart was a healthy scratch’ paragraph.

    That signing was a head scratcher when it happened and looked exactly like what it was; a dumb move.

    In this case, it had nothing to do with any inherent risk at signing a RB.

  25. Looked like the same Colts that were the second best team in the AFC last year. The team played with a lot more enthusiasm than I’ve seen, and Pagano looked pretty fired up in the locker room after the game. I think the team really got a shot in the arm with the firing of Pep Hamilton, and Luck’s shoulder looks like it’s almost back to being 100%.

  26. bucrightoff says:
    Nov 9, 2015 7:46 AM
    Cowboys now 0-4 with Greg Hardy in their lineup. So nice to see such scum failing so badly
    ———————————–
    It’s more to do with Romo being out, when he is back…the wins will come for the Cowboys.

  27. Are the broncos WR’s gonna play keep away from Manning again when he breaks the record next week? Maybe he has something else planned.

  28. Typical Gomer game away from home without a dome. Roof was open last night.

    Gomer good for 2 INTs.

    Even that TD to Sanders, he had to put his entire body into it to even reach Sanders.

    Last week he claimed no one knew what they were talking about with is decline. LMAO

    Easy to say that with a cortisone shot and a week off.

    All downhill from here for Gomer.

  29. Frazier28/7 says:
    Nov 9, 2015 9:35 AM

    Don’t forget about the Vikings Defense.

    ======================================
    The one really odd thing about this winning streak the Vikings are on this: as good as their defense has played, they do not have a single takeaway during the last three games. They’ve lost the turnover battle three weeks in a row, and yet still won each week.

    If they want to keep winning, their defense is going to have to start taking the ball away. Taking that up against the Raiders next week would be a good start.

  30. tigerlilac says:
    Nov 9, 2015 8:08 AM

    Luck is a very tough hombre. He took some vicious shots in that game, many of them cheap shots that were not flagged.
    —————————————————
    That’s complete crap. For all of the pats fans that say everyone spends so much time hating them, they sure do spew plenty of vitriol themselves. Bunch of loud mouth morons. Just be happy you’re a fan of the most dominant team of our generation, and quit being d bags.

  31. Green Bay has no chance of getting to the SB with that defense. Was at yesterday’s game and watched Panther receivers running free or GB’s DBs playing man-to-man coverage with a five yard cushion. In critical third downs Caper’s goal seemed to try to contain Newton with three rushers, giving him as much time as he wanted. Carolina has rebuilt a championship defense in two years, while GB keeps drafting players who can’t make a seemingly poorly designed scheme successful.

  32. nhpats says:
    Nov 9, 2015 9:24 AM
    I want to see what “the league” does to Aqib Talib for walking up to a guy and sticking his fingers in his eye


    Agreed, trying to blind a guy after the play is over? How do you not get suspended? Why wouldn’t the NFLPA stand up for the victim in this case?

    Put this one in the dictionary as defining “dirty play”.

  33. “In leading the Titans to a win over the Saints, Mariota threw for 371 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions. He’s the first rookie in NFL history to have at least 350 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions in a game, and the first rookie ever to have two different games with four touchdowns and no interceptions.”

    He played the Saints. Opposing QBs have a 112 QB rating against the Saints this year. Pump the brakes.

  34. “Blaine Gabbert is better than Colin Kaepernick right now.”
    ___________________

    You say that as if it’s an amazing accomplishment.

    Stephen Hawking is better than Colin Kaepernick right now.

  35. If ya wanna talk about coaching hot seats, what about Rob Ryan? That defense is getting worse game by game, year by year. Man, I don’t think they can stop a cold.

  36. @12coltsfan12 says:
    Nov 9, 2015 8:03 AM

    pump the brakes there big guy. colts still have a lot of issues and will be lucky to finish above .500

    with that said I think there is still a chance we could repeat as AFC FINALISTS, so we got that going for us…
    =================================
    Nice try Martha………………….

  37. Damm. .. the only thing that could make the Brady-Manning debate interesting is if Peyton went undefeated

  38. The Packer offense had some issues even before the Denver game. The consensus seems to be that receivers aren’t getting open, which also helps shut down the running game. The D isn’t good enough to carry the team in a game until the offense can get back on track.

  39. MM needs to stop being stubborn and put some new blood in at D-coordinator; the defense just hasn’t gotten any better in the years since winning SB 45.

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