INDIANAPOLIS — The biggest question that Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck faced when he returned to the football field this September was if his surgically-repaired throwing shoulder could handle the workload of a typical NFL quarterback.
Well, five games in, no level-headed observer could still pose those questions. Not only is Luck on pace to shatter the NFL record for completions and pass attempts in a season, but he looks excellent in doing so.
The Colts have found themselves fighting back from second-half deficits in four of their five games, which leads to them relying on the passing game to get them back into it — and Luck has been up to the challenge each and every week.
"I love the fight, and I love how we've come back," Colts head coach Frank Reich said following Thursday's loss to the New England Patriots. "It's been a lot of guys, but Andrew's led the way with that. He's really played good football here in these last — the whole year — but especially the last two weeks. When you've got a guy like him, you've always got a chance."
This volume of passing has shown that Luck can make all the throws and to all zones of the field. His re-acclimation into football, regaining his arm strength and his growing chemistry with some of his new pass-catchers is allowing him to progress through the season.
Luck is showing great zip on the ball; he has been able to uncork perfectly-placed deep passes, and he's put any concerns to bed by bringing the velocity needed to fit some throws into extremely tight windows.
In the last two weeks, Luck is 78-for-121 passing (64.5%) for 820 yards (6.8 YPA), seven touchdowns and two interceptions, and he's done much of it without his two most familiar targets in T.Y. Hilton and Jack Doyle.
Luck's 121 pass attempts in the last two games are the most ever in a Sunday-to-Thursday turnaround, and he's been able spread the ball around to many players who were likely unknown to those outside of Indy when the season began.
Dating back to 2016, Luck has now thrown a touchdown pass in 28 consecutive games, which is the longest active streak in the league and surpassed Peyton Manning for the second-longest streak in team history. Luck is also tied with Dave Krieg and Philip Rivers for the 11th-longest streak in NFL history.
Luck has thrown for multiple touchdowns in four of five games this year for a total of 12, which is currently tied for second in the league.
Perhaps most importantly, Reich said Luck is simply making good decisions.
"I have watched the offense multiple times (film from Thursday) and every time I go back and look at it, it gets better and better for him," Reich said Friday. "I mean, just really making good decisions, really good poise in the pocket, really good at the line of scrimmage making the right protection calls and really pinpoint accuracy.
"(There were) a couple misses, but (when) you throw it 60 times you're going to have one or two. But just couldn't be happier – just how he is on the sideline. When we got it to within one score, you just felt his energy. You felt like we were going to make it happen. So, couldn't be happier with how he continues to lead our team and the way he is playing."
It's not only Luck's head coach taking notice either. Bill Belichick, the Patriots' head coach, commented on the Colts' offense following Thursday's game.
"Yeah, I mean look, they're a good passing team. They can throw the ball as well as anybody. Good quarterback, good receivers, good tight end, good backs, well-coached," Belichick said. "They've thrown it against everybody. They lead the league in third-down conversions."
This season, Luck is also on pace for a career-high in passing yards (4,771) and to narrowly miss a new high in touchdown passes (38). He threw a league-leading 40 touchdowns back in 2014. Luck is also on pace to complete 66.5 percent of his passes, which would be a career best, while his offensive line, as well as the Colts' new offensive scheme under Reich, has led to him getting hit much less often.
Asked for his own self-assessment on Thursday, Luck, as usual, was a little uncomfortable absorbing any praise — especially after a loss. Simply put, he feels as if he's getting better each and every week.
"Maybe it shows to the naked eye a little better the past two games – and at the same time, I know I have so much more to improve upon," Luck said.
"I know I can be a better quarterback for this team and certainly some things do feel well out there. I think for a large percentage of those throws, the ball was going where I wanted it to go and all over the field. But there's still – I feel I still have a large room, bunch of room for improvement."