New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick spoke Tuesday about the tall task of slowing down Luck and the Indianapolis Colts’ offense. The Patriots undoubtedly will have their hands full in Sunday’s AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium, even with New England being considered the heavy favorite.
“He’s like a sixth receiver you have to cover,” Belichick told reporters of Luck during a conference call. “He can run. But again, if he extends the play, then he has the ability to create big plays. We’ve seen him do that multiple times throughout his career already.
“It’s another guy you have to defend in the running game, the passing game in terms of his ability to scramble and make first-down yardage on possession-type downs. And he makes good decisions, so all those things are a problem: having to cover receivers longer and having to deal with his ability to run for yardage.”
Luck, who threw 40 passing touchdowns during the regular season, has 12 career rushing touchdowns. He’s rather fleet-footed, especially for someone listed at 6-foot-3 and 235 pounds, and his scrambling ability adds a whole other dimension to Indianapolis’ attack.
While few quarterbacks possess Luck’s combination of size and speed, there are some similarities between the 25-year-old and Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Both signal-callers are very athletic, and each is critical to his team’s overall success.
“Yeah, he’s a big, strong guy that runs out of a lot of arm tackles and that type of thing,” Belichick said of Luck. “He’s a lot faster than Roethlisberger, so he’s much more of a threat to gain more yardage and gain it quicker. But, yeah, similar. Roethlisberger is, that guy is really hard to tackle. He’s a really strong guy in the pocket. So is Luck. But they’re both a problem.”
Luck has thrown nine touchdown passes to 10 interceptions in his postseason career, yet he also has amassed more passing yards (1,703) through his first five playoff games than anyone else in NFL history. It speaks to both the Colts’ reliance on the third-year pro and his continued maturation.
“The guy is a really good quarterback. He can do everything that a top quarterback needs to do,” Belichick said. “He’s got a great arm, throws the ball deep, reads coverages well, can make the intermediate throws. He has a nice touch on some of the shorter passes and to the backs and things like that, screens and all those kinds of plays.
“He’s mobile. He can run, he can stand in the pocket and shrug off tacklers. He’s got good poise, good vision, handles the team well. He’s a smart player in terms of game management and situational football. So I’d say all of those things are strengths. They’re all assets. He does a good job of all of it. There are a lot of things about his game that are very good and hard to defend.”
The Patriots have wreaked havoc on Luck in the past. He has thrown eight interceptions in three head-to-head matchups, all of which New England has won handily. The Patriots aren’t taking anything for granted this time around, though.
Luck’s early failures could make him an even more dynamic force moving forward.
Thumbnail photo via Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports Images
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