Colts O-Line Allowed Lowest Rate of Short Sacks Last Season


Let me preface this piece by saying if you don’t currently read or follow Football Outsiders Assistant Editor Scott Kascmar, you definitely should as he always produces great content.

According to the aforementioned statistical guru, the Indianapolis Colts ranked 1st last season in the entire NFL in best rate of short sacks (i.e. less than 2.6 seconds post-snap) allowed at just 17.2% last season:

While the Colts offensive line was littered by injuries and much maligned last season, the unit as a whole actually fared quite well in minimizing short sacks, which is surprising to say the least. That being said, most of that can presumably be attributed to the exceptional play of their superstar quarterback in Andrew Luck.

Jan 4, 2015; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck (12) throws a 36-yard touchdown pass under pressure from Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Carlos Dunlap (96) during the third quarter in the 2014 AFC Wild Card playoff football game at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Just as Peyton Manning rarely took sacks as a member of the Colts despite middling talent along the offensive line, Luck has also become elite in his pre-snap reads and figuring out where the defensive pressure will come from. He’s successfully able to avoid pressure in the pocket, while getting the football out quickly from his arm to his intended receiver before defenders can seemingly sack him. 

If his pocket breaks down before he can throw, Luck also has the exceptional athleticism, speed, and strength to shake off defenders and avoid sacks in a very Ben Roethlisberger-esque way:

When looking at the other teams, who also ranked in the Top 5 of lowest rate of short sacks allowed, it’s very easy to see why as Kascmar alludes. Both the Jets and Chiefs at #2 and and #3 respectively, played in ground heavy offensive attacks which emphasized short throws. Their quarterbacks in the Jets’ Geno Smith and the Chiefs’ Alex Smith were asked to get the ball out of their hands quickly in passing situations, and there wasn’t much featured downfield passing.

Jan 18, 2015; Seattle, WA, USA; Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) looks to throw in the first quarter against the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC Championship Game at CenturyLink Field. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

At #5 is the Green Bay Packers and Aaron Rodgers, who like Luck, is among the elite quarterbacks in the game, and at this point, even more so. Rodgers is excellent in his pre-snap reads and figuring out where the pressure will come from, and like Luck, is able to successfully avoid pressure in the pocket. Both are incredibly intelligent quarterbacks that can properly diagnose a defense, and each possesses excellent “feel” in the pocket with the exceptional athleticism to also avoid trouble if needed.

As we’ve said before, Luck covers up a lot of the weaknesses for the Colts, and this is another clear example of it. While a largely makeshift Colts offensive line gave an admirable effort last season, Luck was able to cover up some of their flaws using his elite smarts, feel, and athleticism in the pocket:

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