Midway through the New England Patriots’ divisional playoff game against the Indianapolis Colts, the argument could be made that Andrew Luck was outperforming Tom Brady.
Through three quarters, the Colts quarterback had thrown for 292 yards while completing 53.6 percent of his passes with two touchdowns and two interceptions to Brady’s 168 yards with a 50 percent completion percentage. Luck had made some incredible throws to wide receivers T.Y Hilton and LaVon Brazill that were completed despite near-perfect coverage from Patriots defensive backs.
That’s the kind of quarterback Luck can — and likely one day will — be. If Luck puts it all together, he will go down as the greatest quarterback in NFL history. There is no one in the NFL — even Aaron Rodgers or Russell Wilson — that has the combination of accuracy, intelligence, size, durability and strength that Luck has.
But the key here is that Luck does not have it all put together yet. And that was evidenced by his mental errors in New England’s 43-22 win over Indianapolis on Saturday.
Despite the fact that Luck threw for 133 more yards than Brady and had two touchdowns to Brady’s none, the Patriots quarterback avoided the costly mistakes that Luck made. Every play and player matters in an NFL game, from the starting quarterback down to the punt protector, but many games are decided by a few big plays.
Luck’s 38- and 35-yard touchdown passes to Brazill were game-breakers. Those were the kind of big plays that can reverse a team’s playoff fortunes. But his four interceptions were equally as costly.
Two of Luck’s picks led to New England scores, one closed out the first half and the last closed out the game.
On Luck’s first interception, he trusted his ability to fit the ball into a tight space and Brazill to fight Patriots cornerback Alfonzo Dennard for the ball. Neither worked out. Luck’s pass split between Dennard and Brazill and the New England defender ripped the football away from the Indianapolis wideout.
Luck’s second pick was thrown behind fullback Stanley Havili. Havili probably should have still made the catch — it hit him in the chest — but it was a less-than-ideal throw from Luck. The ball bounced off the fullback and into linebacker Dont’a Hightower‘s arms.
Luck didn’t see linebacker Jamie Collins on his third interception. The rookie was deep down field and simply had to cut in front of Colts tight end Coby Fleener to make the grab. Indianapolis trailed 36-22 at the time with 12 minutes left in the game. It was well within reach. There appeared to be some miscommunication between Luck and Brazill on the fourth pick.
The “Andrew Luck face” has become nearly as discernible as the “Peyton Manning face” in days of Colts yore. The Luck face typically features the second-year signal-caller slapping himself on the helmet as if to say “Stupid, Andrew! Stupid!”
“You can’t turn the ball over against good teams,” Luck said after the game. “I wish I had learned my lesson against the Chiefs a week before [but] didn’t. The finality of losing a playoff game is very real and it stinks.”
The Colts quarterback got “Luck-y” to some extent against the Kansas City Chiefs. He put in the effort to mount a comeback, but it was an embarrassing performance by Kansas City to relinquish such a huge lead.
The Patriots were a better team than the Chiefs. And though Luck threatened another comeback, New England wouldn’t let Indianapolis back in it.
A direct comparison between Luck and Brady cannot be made after Saturday night’s game. Brady had the much better offensive line and running game behind him. Brady didn’t need to put the team on his shoulders with LeGarrette Blount doing that job for him. But Luck had the opportunity to bring the Colts back and failed through costly mistakes. When he forgoes those errors, watch out, but for now, Luck will have to be content with last week’s playoff win.