INDIANAPOLIS –Twice last week, Andrew Luck bounced back from second-half interceptions with touchdown drives.
Then he iced the NFL's second-largest comeback by roping a long scoring pass to subdue Kansas City, 45-44.
Luck's ability to follow down times with sterling play is one reason why he is one of the winningest young quarterbacks ever.
"He's able to compartmentalize," said Chuck Pagano. "If it's a pick he's thrown or whatever, he does a great job of putting that behind him. He figures out where he made the mistake, and he's got recall.
"He's got probably what Tom (Brady) has and what Peyton (Manning) has and all the great ones have, the ability to identify things, put things behind him and move on."
Luck has put the "first playoff win" stigma manufactured by many who never played the game behind. Now, he hopes to emerge from New England Saturday joining Joe Flacco and Mark Sanchez as opposing quarterbacks with playoff wins in Gillette Stadium.
He has guided the Colts to a 12-5 mark with guile – marshaling an offense that lost five starters, finding rhythm with new receivers and with a running moxie that bailed Indianapolis out of jams (one last week with a 21-yard burst on fourth down with a 17-point deficit).
Luck's performance against Kansas City led Ryan Grigson to compare him to Michael Jordan. ("He's always been a different animal in the fourth quarter. He relishes those moments. It's like Jordan when he'd take that last shot – he wants the ball. You're born with that.")
It was Grigson who last year thought the biggest play of the Colts' 18-point comeback against Green Bay was second-quarter hustle by Luck to run about 30 yards to bat a sack-fumble out of bounds with the Colts down 14 points.
Pep Hamilton saw Luck rebound in big games at Stanford (notably in 2010 against USC) and lauded how Luck gorges himself on opponents' statistical tendencies to put his own team in its best position.
Grigson once noted how Luck "ear-holed" a collegiate defender who had intercepted a pass, and Hamilton has seen that physical zeal match a relentless mental approach.
"There have been games in the past where he's gotten so excited before the game that you almost want him to temper that emotion," said Hamilton. "He approaches the game like a linebacker. He wants to hit somebody. He wants to get out and get his blood flowing.
"He's always had a fighter's spirit, that spirit of a guy that is going to pull everybody up. It was evident (last) Saturday. There's never been a time where I felt like his confidence was shaken."
As Indianapolis will have its challenges with Tom Brady, Bill Belichick expects some from Luck.
"Like (Ben) Roethlisberger is not really that dangerous to run for a lot of yardage, but he's very hard to bring down, he extends plays in the pocket, whereas a guy like (Cam) Newton can gain a lot of yards if he gets some space," said Belichick. "Luck is maybe somewhere in between.
"He's certainly capable of making plays with his feet and gaining yardage, but he's also very good at extending plays and sliding in the pocket or even getting out and giving his receivers a chance to scramble and get open."
Patriots coordinator Matt Patricia sees a unique breed.
"He's a lot like Andrew Luck. I think he's kind of a guy that's got his own skill set," said Patricia. "He's a player that excels at all those positives that he has. I don't know if you want to compare him singularly to anyone."
Luck hopes to double his post-season victory total on Saturday. He is facing the quarterback with the most triumphs ever (17) in post-season, and a victory could put Luck in Denver next weekend against Denver and Manning.
For now, he shares the field with a successful player who performs well in do-or-die games.
"He (Brady) has definitely set the standard for success at the quarterback position," said Luck to Boston-area media. "The way he handles himself, watching from afar, the competitive nature and basically all the right things he does. He is a barometer."
CBS ANALYSTS WEIGH IN ON LUCK –Dan Dierdorf is the analyst for Saturday's Colts-Patriots game. This is his third time seeing Luck this season and says, "Are we looking at a bright, young star in Andrew Luck? I can't imagine if you polled all 32 teams and said, 'You have to start your franchise today with a quarterback. Who would it be?' I'm hard pressed to imagine that even one team would choose someone other than Andrew Luck. That's taking into consideration Tom Brady's age and Peyton Manning's age, but I don't think there's any question that Andrew Luck is the guy. He is the man in terms of where the quarterback position is headed for the next decade or so. Said Phil Simms, who saw Luck play this year at San Francisco, "At the quarterback position, if you are looking for Andrew Luck I wouldn't wait up because there aren't going to be many of those guys coming out. He's a unique talent…I watch all of their games. He is the strongest. Now this is saying something in my eyes because there are some strong quarterbacks, he is the strongest quarterback in the NFL."