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PRIORITIZING NUMBERS

Posted Nov 5, 2012

Through eight games, quarterback Andrew Luck has pieced together some impressive numbers that have entertained fans and aggravated opponents. His aptitude, physical courage and overall ability have helped direct the Colts to a 5-3 mid-season record. The Colts are one of six AFC teams with five or more victories. That is the number that means the most to him.

INDIANAPOLIS – A couple of days after he helped the Colts wipe away an 18-point second-half deficit by throwing a touchdown pass in the final minute to beat Green Bay in early October, quarterback Andrew Luck was asked if there were any statistic to which he paid particular attention.

 

His answer was telling.

 

“I think wins are important…the number one thing,” said Luck as he flipped through his mental rolodex.  “I think there are stats that do tell you a little bit of a story.  I’ve always believed third-down percentage, completion percentage, touchdown-interception ratio.  I think they all are combined and entered to form a passer rating or whatever they may have. 

 

“Wins, I think, are the most important.”

 

With Luck being a major component, the Colts are five games improved from a year ago.  Fifty-two weeks ago, Indianapolis was playing for pride and improvement, while Luck was involved in leading Stanford to an 11-2 record.

 

Now, the Colts are one of six AFC teams with five or more victories.  Luck has hit 190-of-336 passes for 2,404 yards for 10 touchdowns, guiding Indianapolis to fantastic finishes with victory margins of three, three, four, six and three points.

 

Four foes (Minnesota, Green Bay, Tennessee, Miami) were bested with fourth-quarter or overtime comebacks and while Luck might concede his numbers are compelling, he said again Monday that the victory total is what matters the most.

 

“The victories have been great,” said Luck.  “If we can continue to cut down on turnovers and put touchdowns on the board, hopefully those will keep coming.”

 

Head Coach Chuck Pagano and interim leader Bruce Arians have said all year that Luck is his own toughest critic.  Monday was evidence of their claim when Luck was asked to grade himself over the first eight games.

 

“I think they say ‘C’ is average,” said Luck.  “I’d give myself a ‘C.’ ”

 

Opponents might have a different view of his performance.  Yesterday, he completed 30-of-48 passes for an NFL rookie-record 433 yards and two touchdowns.  Against the NFL’s best third-down defense, Luck completed 13-of-17 attempts for 204 yards and a touchdown, a 135.4 rating.  Twelve of those completions netted first downs.

 

Indianapolis snapped eight or more plays on its first eight possessions and gained a season-high 516 scrimmage yards against Miami. 

 

Arians has been an eyewitness to Luck’s accomplishments, yet is not surprised by the harsh grade he pinpointed for himself.

 

“That doesn’t surprise me one bit,” said Arians, who earlier this year said he has yet to see a moment too big for the young player.  “He’s comparing him to himself.  I’m comparing him all the rest of the guys I’ve ever had.”

 

Arians helped sculpt Peyton Manning’s early career years, times when Manning threw for 26 scores as a rookie and topped 4,000 passing yards in each of the next two seasons before Arians’ departure. 

 

In Pittsburgh, Arians helped make Ben Roethlisberger one of the NFL’s top performers, and here he would issue Luck a different grade.

 

“Probably an ‘A’,” said Arians of what he thought Luck should have.  “There are only a few throws he’d like to have back, probably.  His overall performance has been outstanding.  He’s kept us in games.  He’s won games.” 

 

Luck later described the grading scale he uses and what would make his grade improve.

 

“I think a perfect grade would be if you won every game, didn’t have any incompletions, no interceptions,” said Luck.  “We’ll keep working until we get to there.”

 

In grading on a grander scope, Luck feels Indianapolis is positioned well as it prepares to meet Jacksonville on Thursday.

 

“I think we’re on the right track.  Obviously, it’s nice to have a winning record and maybe in the hunt for the playoffs,” said Luck.  “Obviously, (we have) a long way to go.  We realize that, and it starts with this quick turnaround and this Thursday game down in Jacksonville.  That’s where our focus is, but I think we’re on the right track.”

 

The Colts will be meeting Jacksonville for the second time.  The Jaguars beat the Colts, 22-17, in Indianapolis on September 23 on a last-minute 80-yard touchdown pass.  Indianapolis relinquished a 14-3 lead in that outing and needs to correct matters against what Luck feels is a formidable opponent. 

 

“A very tough, hard-nosed team, very disciplined defensively,” said Luck.  “I thought they did a good job of creating turnovers.  I know we turned the ball over at a couple inopportune times.  We know it’s going to be a tough test down at their place, a tough division game.”

 

Arians said Monday that Luck is performing well beyond his years, something that has been evident to observers and opponents alike.  Emotionally, Luck is rock-solid.  He views Sunday as a chance to compete and succeed, not to exact anything else from an opponent.

 

“I’m not too big in that whole business,” said Luck when the word “payback” was mentioned to him.  “It’s another game and a chance for us to get a win.  I know they’d love to get a win as well.  It should be a hard-fought, tough-nosed, good football game.”

 

Arians said cornerback Vontae Davis (knee) and tight end Coby Fleener (shoulder) will remain out.  All other players are day-to-day.  Players who left yesterday’s game were tackle Winston Justice (knee), cornerback Jerraud Powers (toe), wide receiver Donnie Avery (hip), linebacker Robert Mathis (back) and center Samson Satele (back), while running back Donald Brown (knee) played sparingly.

 

The club went through a Wednesday-type practice today, but at a walk-through speed.  How much running will be done in tomorrow’s practice is to be determined.  The team will work on Wednesday before traveling, something else that makes a compacted week even tougher.

 

PAGANO UPDATE – Arians said Head Coach Chuck Pagano stopped by the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center today after attending Sunday’s game.  Arians said Pagano’s condition is fine as he is being prepped for more chemotherapy to treat his leukemia.  It could be the start of a tougher period for the popular field leader.

 

“His count was great.  He knows this next one is going to be really tough,” said Arians.  “We’re praying, pulling (for him), and he’s going to be fine.  Once he comes back from round two, he’ll have to have round three.  Our goal is for him to be on the sidelines on December 30.

 

“He’s doing great.  We know what’s coming.  That downhill slide has to come.  It’s great news. … There are down times coming, but it’s great to see him here.”

 

Pagano spoke to the Colts prior to the Miami game, a moment that was special though tough to quantify for how it much assisted in the team’s 23-20 victory.  Arians said it did help immensely, though.

 

“I don’t know how you put that into any form of value.  It’s extremely special to have him walk through that group of guys.  See their reaction to it.  Take that message.  In the second half, we played with that same fight,” said Pagano.

 

NEW ENGLAND GAME MOVED – The Colts game at New England on November 18 has been moved from a 1:00 p.m. (ET) kickoff to 4:25 p.m.

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