Luck rebounds from rocky start with strong 3-game stretch
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) Andrew Luck is remarkably resilient.
While the league-high 25 sacks may be taking a toll on his body, his mind is clear and free. The September turnover flurry has largely been fixed, and the early losses that threatened to end the Indianapolis Colts' playoff hopes have taken a backseat to Luck's return to late-game heroics.
Exactly how Luck moves on from a self-described ''bonehead'' play or a bad game might seem like a mystery, but whatever he does, it works.
''He's just a really competitive guy and things don't faze him too much,'' kicker Adam Vinatieri said Wednesday. ''He might get sacked on one play and get up and throw a 60-yard TD pass on the next play.''
Indianapolis (3-4) has almost come to expect that kind of thing from its franchise quarterback, who has engineered 17 winning drives in the fourth quarter or overtime. The most recent came Sunday at Tennessee, the most unforgettable being the 28-point comeback in the playoffs against the Kansas City Chiefs.
On Sunday, the Chiefs (4-2) will get another shot to take on Luck just as he's rounding into form. The numbers prove it.
Over the last three games, Luck has completed 69.1 percent of his passes for 927 yards, with six touchdowns, one interception and no fumbles. That's a stark upgrade from the completion percentage (58.1) through his first four seasons and the one interception per game he threw during his first 55 starts.
Sure, critics could contend Luck is simply getting better against subpar competition. But the last two opponents - Houston and Tennessee - both have defenses ranked in the top 10, and Chicago's defense is No. 12.
So despite playing behind three different starting offensive line combinations and missing some of his top receivers because of injuries, Luck has thrived during one of the best streaks of his career.
''Mistakes happen, and I think something that is always key is that you have to fix the specific mistakes. If I am not fixing a specific mistake, then there is a problem,'' Luck said. ''I'd like to think that I have gotten better every year, and especially this season every game at fixing some of those mistakes.''
What has actually changed?
Luck has embraced the philosophy of new quarterbacks coach Brian Schottenheimer.
Throughout the offseason, the Colts worked with Luck on his footwork to improve accuracy, urged him to get rid of the ball more quickly, and asked him to slide more frequently, too. Initially, the results didn't look so good. Luck was on pace to take nearly 200 hits, and threw three interceptions and lost two fumbles in the first four games.
Since cleaning up those mistakes over the last three weeks, Luck has looked more like the guy Indy envisioned when it drafted him No. 1 overall in 2012. The Colts made him the highest-paid player in league history in June.
Nobody inside the Colts' complex is surprised by Luck's progression. They're just hoping it continues throughout the second half of the season, when the Colts attempt to rebound from a slow start, just like Luck, and chase their third AFC South crown in four years.
''It's a learning process for everybody. As many games as he has won and as productive as he has been, there are still things that you can go back in your game and work on and get better,'' coach Chuck Pagano said ''There is a learning curve that comes with playing every position, specifically that one. Again, he is making great decisions and taking what the defense is giving him and not forcing things. Hopefully, knock on wood, he will stay where he is at and keep getting better.''
NOTES: Four players missed practice with injuries Wednesday: tight end Dwayne Allen (ankle), defensive tackle Kendall Langford (knee), outside linebacker Curt Maggitt (ankle) and receiver Chester Rogers (hamstring and foot). Safety Mike Adams, cornerback Vontae Davis, running back Frank Gore and outside linebacker Robert Mathis all were given an extra day of rest. ... Defensive end Henry Anderson (knee), receiver Phillip Dorsett (hamstring), defensive tackle Zach Kerr (ankle), left guard Jack Mewhort (triceps), receiver Donte Moncrief (fractured shoulder blade) and right tackle Joe Reitz (back) all did limited work Wednesday.
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