There have been a couple speed bumps this season for Andrew Luck on his way to Canton.
The legend of Luck grew and grew in his first three seasons. He played very well, enough that we overlooked a lot of his faults, like a penchant for a few too many turnovers. Maybe it was that there are so few great young quarterbacks, we wanted someone to be that future Hall of Famer. And if you watched Luck close enough though, you knew he was legit, seemingly the best prospect in however many years who lived up to the hype. Luck was basically LeBron James in the NFL, the rare once-in-a-lifetime prospect who actually played to that level.
But it’s also rare to have an immaculate career, and Luck is gong through either a horrible slump or is having some of his flaws finally called out in his fourth season, depending on how you view Luck.
Luck is having a bad season and not surprisingly, the Colts are going with him.
Luck’s final numbers Sunday against the New Orleans Saints — 23-of-44 for 333 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions — look a lot better than he played. Luck did almost nothing until the Colts were trailing 27-0. He had 100 yards on his first 25 attempts, an unfathomable four yards per attempt against a bad New Orleans Saints defense. He threw a rookie-type interception very late in the first half with the Colts in field-goal position when he never saw cornerback Kyle Wilson dropping in a zone coverage.
Luck came into the game with a sickly 75 rating and bumped it up just a bit with an 81 rating on Sunday, thanks in large part to T.Y. Hilton getting free for an 87-yard touchdown. Luck’s rating in the first half, as the Saints took a 27-point lead, was 19.3. A big second half means little when your team is in such a big hole by halftime.
yep, me too) to win his first MVP award this season. He had 4,761 yards last season and was on pace for 5,000 for most of the year. Then the Colts added a real running back (Frank Gore) and Andre Johnson, who has looked slow but is still an upgrade over Hakeem Nicks, who was in Johnson’s spot last year. And despite all the expectations, the best game a Colts quarterback has played this season was somehow by 40-year-old Matt Hasselbeck, who played very well in a win at Houston. “Quarterback wins” is not a real stat, but it’s still worth pointing out that the Colts are 2-0 in games Hasselbeck started and 1-4 in games Luck started. Nobody thinks Hasselbeck is a better option, but it underscores how much Luck has struggled this season. The Colts are one of the most disappointing teams in the NFL.
So what’s the problem? Luck was picked by many (
An injury hasn’t helped. Luck missed those two games because of a shoulder injury and many times, especially against the Patriots last week, Luck hasn’t thrown the ball like he normally does. Having a poor offensive line doesn’t help either. But the Colts have invested in plenty of weapons for Luck, had Super Bowl dreams, and have been mediocre or worse all season.
Although plenty of excuses have been made for Luck in previous seasons (“he’s young,” “he’s being asked to do it all,” “he doesn’t have a running game” to help are the chief among them) and some of those excuses were very valid, it’s hard to say the Colts’ disappointing start isn’t in large part on his shoulders. But why? Is this is a slump he’ll break out of, especially when he’s healthy, or a sign that maybe he’s not as good as we assumed?
I’m still of the idea Luck is going through a prolonged slump, the injury hasn’t helped, and at some point he’ll snap out of it. Maybe the second half against the Saints was a sign of him warming up. If you’ve watched him extensively you’ve seen the makings of a special quarterback. What he did in the first three seasons wasn’t a mirage.
But that also doesn’t ignore how poorly Luck has played this season. If the Colts want to come anywhere near the goals they had before the season, Luck needs to play a lot better. He hasn’t yet. The Colts hope it’s just temporary.
Here are the rest of the winners and losers from Week 7 of NFL action:
Minnesota Vikings: Very quietly, the Vikings have become one of the best teams in the NFC.
They looked so bad in Week 1 on a national stage of “Monday Night Football” at the San Francisco 49ers that everyone forgot about them. But since then, the Vikings’ only loss was by a field goal at the undefeated Denver Broncos. They looked very strong in a 28-19 win Sunday at the Detroit Lions, too.
The defense gave up 160 yards in the first quarter and then the Lions had just five yards from the start of the second quarter to deep into the fourth quarter. Minnesota’s offense looked sharp too. Teddy Bridgewater threw for more than 300 yards. Adrian Peterson rushed for 98, most of that coming on a 75-yard run. Stefon Diggs continues to emerge, as the rookie fifth-round pick had six catches for 108 yards and a touchdown.
The Vikings look like a complete team, and there aren’t many of those in the NFL this season. And somehow, even at 4-2, they’ve mostly flown under the radar.
Lamar Miller and the Miami Dolphins: The Dolphins have a new approach on offense and a lot of it revolves around giving the ball more to a back who averaged 5.1 yards per carry last season. Crazy, I know.
Under Joe Philbin early this season, the Dolphins couldn’t figure out to just give the ball to Miller. But interim coach Dan Campbell wants to run the ball, and Miller is up to the challenge. He had 175 rushing yards on 14 carries, all in the first half. The Dolphins had a huge lead over the Texans, have a Thursday night game at the New England Patriots, and it made no sense to keep playing Miller (a lesson Bill O’Brien needs to learn, but we’ll get to him soon). Miller also had 61 yards receiving, and had two long touchdowns.
Miller is a talented back, and maybe a shift in scheme, with more I-formation looks with Ryan Tannehill under center, will do well for him. So will simply getting the ball. Miller had 13, 10, 7 and 7 carries before Philbin got fired. Now maybe we have another clue why Philbin got fired.
Kirk Cousins: I don’t believe one great afternoon makes Cousins a legitimate NFL quarterback. Matt Flynn had one of the greatest games in NFL history once upon a time. But Cousins was very good on Sunday (apparently the wind wasn’t blowing).
Cousins was 33 of 40 for 317 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions in a 31-30 comeback win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. There needs to be a qualification that the Buccaneers are terrible — this was a team that cut Darrelle Revis because Lovie Smith thought his system was more important than figuring out how to use players like Revis — but Cousins played well. He was especially good late in the game when the Redskins needed a touchdown. Cousins hit Jordan Reed for the game-winning score with 24 seconds left. Cousins was 9 of 11 for 75 yards on the game-winning drive.
We’ll see if Cousins can build off this. But if nothing else, he played great when the Redskins needed him on Sunday.
Bill O’Brien: O’Brien made this list before what happened in the fourth quarter to Arian Foster. The Texans were trailing 41-0 at the Dolphins. This same team trailed at the Atlanta Falcons 42-0 earlier this season. They lost at home to the Colts and Hasselbeck, who almost missed that game because he was so sick. How are the Texans this bad?
One can blame the quarterback situation, but that’s partially O’Brien’s doing. O’Brien had a say in the Texans’ inexplicably not drafting a quarterback with the first or 33rd pick of the 2014 draft. He had a big say in trading for Ryan Mallett, who is turning into a nightmare. Brian Hoyer struggled most of Sunday, but O’Brien didn’t help his confidence earlier this season by benching him before his first full start was even done, after stating he would not do that.
But O’Brien’s missteps pale in comparison to letting Arian Foster, who has had a ton of carries in his career and missed the first three games of this season with a groin injury, continue to play during the fourth quarter of a blowout loss. Foster tore his Achilles tendon and is done for the season, and with one year left on his contract, Foster’s Texans career might be done now too.
O’Brien’s first season with the Texans was pretty good, as he coaxed a 9-7 season out of Houston last season. This season has been absolutely terrible. And having Foster get injured in the fourth quarter of a game that was entirely over will make the rest of this season a bigger challenge.
Zach Mettenberger: The positive to the Tennessee Titans having to turn to Mettenberger on Sunday, with Marcus Mariota out with a knee injury, was that Tennessee could showcase the second-year quarterback for a possible trade. Mettenberger did show some solid things last season when he started most of the season.
Well, that trade value won’t be very high after Sunday. Mettenberger was not good in a game the Titans could have easily won against a flat Falcons team. Mettenberger was 22 of 35 for just 187 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. The Titans had two chances late to drive and at least tie the game. On the first drive, Mettenberger threw incomplete on fourth-and-4. On the last drive, he threw an interception to end the game. Atlanta escaped with a 10-7 win when it didn’t play that well.
At this point, the Titans need to just hope Mariota’s knee improves quickly.
San Diego Chargers: At least the Chargers were competitive in their past couple losses. They had a heartbreaking loss on the final play to the Pittsburgh Steelers, then came up just short of sending the Green Bay Packers to overtime last week. Those losses showed they weren’t a terrible team. Or at least it appeared that way.
On Sunday against the Oakland Raiders, the Chargers were a terrible team. And now that they’re 2-5, where is their season going to head from here?
The Chargers were trailing 37-6 at home against the Raiders. The Raiders are improving but that’s still inexcusable. The Chargers put together some drives when the game was entirely out of hand to make the 37-29 final score look better than the game actually was. The late rally didn’t really change how bad they looked.
After some rough losses it looked like the Chargers had a hard time getting up to play on Sunday. It won’t get any easier after they were embarrassed at home and their season is practically done.
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