Despite his team sitting at 6-6, Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck is arguably having his most impressive career season because of what the team’s franchise player has had to play through so far this season.
While poor pass protection, uncharacteristic wide receiver drops, and a bottom of the league defense have significantly hindered the team’s overall success this season, Luck has been one of the few constants on the Colts that have helped them stay afloat in the AFC playoff hunt.
Coming off a winning performance against the New York Jets in which Luck completed 22 of 28 throws (78.6%) for 278 passing yards, 4 touchdown passes, 0 interceptions, and a sparkling passer rating of 147.6–which was a career high, the Colts franchise quarterback should arguably be an MVP candidate given his complete body of work this season.
Luck has been incredibly efficient. Specifically, he’s thrown 23 touchdowns to just 8 interceptions on the season, while completing a career high 64.0% of his passes:
"“For me, nothing specific,” said Luck earlier this week regarding the key to his success this season, “It’s about getting completions, taking care of the football, no negative plays, and trying to score touchdowns. When we can do that, then we have a chance.”"
However, it hasn’t just been the efficiency of Luck that’s been so impressive, it’s under the conditions that some of that efficiency has occurred–having been under considerable pressure in the pocket (per NFL.com’s Matt Harmon):
"“Next Gen Stats’ pressure metric measures how close the nearest pass rusher was to the quarterback at the time of throw or sack,” writes Harmon. “Entering Week 13, the Colts protection unit allowed the nearest pass rusher to be only 2.26 yards away from Luck on pass plays, which was the worst mark in the NFL.”“Entering this game Luck had attempted 149 passes with a pass rusher less than two yards away from him at the time of throw. That was far and away was the most among starting quarterbacks, despite Luck missing a game. Kirk Cousins was the next highest with 136.”"
There are throws like the one below Luck made on Monday night that have simply been incredible:
However, he’s consistently made plays under duress all season, yet Monday night was easily his best performance to-date, as per NFL.com’s Matt Harmon:
"Nov 6, 2016; Green Bay, WI, USA; Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck (12) throws a pass under pressure from Green Bay Packers defensive end Datone Jones (95) and safety Morgan Burnett (42) during the fourth quarter at Lambeau Field. Indianapolis won 31-26. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports“In Weeks 1-11, Luck had a 53 percent completion rate and a 76.2 passer rating on throws with a pass rusher less than two yards away from him,” writes Harmon. “Tonight, he was simply masterful in the face of pressure. Luck completed six of his eight passes with a rusher less than two yards away from him for a 76 yards and a touchdown, good for a 143.8 passer rating. You can’t possibly quarterback under duress any better than that.”"
Pro Football Focus shared a similar sentiment on his prolific passing performance under pressure from Monday night’s win:
"“Luck’s most impressive numbers on the night were his throws under pressure, where he had a 108.3 QB rating on his nine drop backs under pressure.”"
Luck has had to play under considerable pressure throughout his entire NFL career since being drafted by the Colts in 2012. However, if Monday night was any clear indication, he’s starting to improve drastically in his ability to throw under pressure–not that he was necessarily bad to begin with.
However, compared to how backup quarterback Scott Tolzien fared against the Pittsburgh Steelers a week prior when his QB rating dropped from 76.8 to 31.3 in 18 throws under pressure by Steelers’ defenders (per Pro Football Focus), one starts to see how seemingly special Luck can be withstanding duress in the pocket.
If Luck can continue his coolness in the pocket throwing under pressure, the Colts have a chance to not only win this Sunday in a must-win game against the Houston Texans, but also make a late season push–as well as a potential playoff run.