INDIANAPOLIS — Usually setting league records at the quarterback position is a good thing.
But as Indianapolis Colts head coach Frank Reich analyzes the box score from his team's last two games, the record number of attempts he sees under Andrew Luck's name is a cause for concern.
It's not that Reich isn't satisfied with the quality of play out of his quarterback — it's quite the opposite, actually. Regardless, the dozens of pass attempts last Sunday and again on Thursday night indicate a couple disappointing trends that Reich hopes are temporary patterns.
"It's killing me to have to throw this much," Reich told reporters Friday in a conference call. "I know you can't sustain this."
To put the dependence on Luck and the passing game in context, his 121 pass attempts over the last two games are the second most in a two-game span in NFL history, and just two shy of Philip Rivers' record of 123 set back in 2015.
Interestingly, Rivers' offensive coordinator that season? Frank Reich.
But because the Colts had to follow up a draining overtime matchup against the Houston Texans last Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium with another extremely challenging road matchup against the New England Patriots Thursday night in Foxboro, Mass., Luck actually set an NFL record for most passes attempted within a five-day span.
"The story doesn't end well when you have to sustain this level of throwing," said Reich, speaking from experience from both his coaching background and playing experience as an NFL quarterback. "Maybe there's exceptions to that."
Two factors, more than anything, have led to the high number of pass attempts the past couple games.
First, the Colts haven't been able to sustain any sort of consistent success running the ball. Indianapolis had just 17 rushing attempts for 41 yards — just 2.4 yards per carry — against the Texans, and had a little bit more success on Thursday against the Patriots, running the ball 21 times for 84 yards (four yards per carry).
But perhaps most importantly, the Colts have found themselves being forced to utilize a quick passing attack in the second half of both games to come back from large deficits.
Trailing by as many as 18 points against the Texans, Luck had 25 pass attempts over the final two quarters (and another 13 during the overtime period); trailing by 21 points in the third quarter against the Patriots, Luck threw the ball 38 times in the second half alone, helping Indy cut the New England lead to just seven points by early into the fourth quarter.
"We know we need balance," Luck said after Thursday's game. "Football's not rocket science. You need to be able to run the ball well to help protect your passing game. We'll keep working at it and we have no excuses for it. We've got to get better. Everybody, including me in it."
Reich on Friday didn't have much in the way of injury updates on the several Colts players who went down during Thursday night's game, as well as the many players who missed the game altogether.
The team's seven players who made up the inactives list were all injured players or those dealing with issues away from the team: tight end Jack Doyle (hip), tackle/guard Denzelle Good (personal), wide receiver T.Y. Hilton (hamstring), running back Marlon Mack (hamstring), cornerback Kenny Moore II (concussion), defensive tackle Hassan Ridgeway (calf) and cornerback Quincy Wilson (concussion).
Two other players didn't even dress for Thursday's game: cornerback Nate Hairston and linebacker Darius Leonard, each of whom have been dealing with ankle injuries.
Then, tackle Anthony Castonzo, who has been dealing with a nagging hamstring injury since before training camp and is yet to play in 2018, was active by default on Thursday, but was only going to be used in a dire emergency up front.
But four more players suffered injuries during the Patriots game and didn't return: linebacker Anthony Walker (concussion), safety Clayton Geathers (neck/concussion), defensive tackle/end Denico Autry (hamstring) and safety Matthias Farley (hamstring).
The concern with Geathers, specifically, is the fact that a serious neck injury ended his season in 2016 and required surgery; Reich said Friday the team is still in the evaluation process as it pertains to Geathers' latest neck injury.
Reich was also asked if he had an update on the status of Hilton, the Colts' top receiver who on Thursday missed his first start in 42 games. The first-year head coach said he was hoping to have a more concrete "day-to-day" or "week-to-week" classification for Hilton by next week.
The Colts next take on the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium in Week 6 action on Oct. 14.
"The bottom line is you have to take ownership and responsibility for what you put on the field. Ultimately that's measured by wins and losses. We know that. … But it goes deeper than that. It goes to every little step along the way." — Reich, asked about being 1-4 through five games, but seeing fight in his team that has been in every game.