INDIANAPOLIS –In a town known as much for its "hurry-up" offense as it is for anything else, the Colts have freshened that approach in 2012.
After the club distinguished itself that way offensively over a 13-season run that stopped in 2010, a new offense has emerged this year with fresh players performing familiar routines.
Through four games, Indianapolis has produced two final-quarter comeback wins where the offense starred along the way. Last-minute victories over Minnesota and Green Bay have highlighted the action.
The offense also performed the same late heroics against Jacksonville in week three, but the Jaguars pulled a game-deciding play of their own. Even late in the first half in the Chicago opener, the offense was efficient in its up-tempo mode.
On the nine drives that have been conducted in the "hurry-up" offense in the final stages of the first and second halves to date, the Colts have scored 28 points. That total accounts for more than a third of the club's seasonal amount.
In spring work and training camp, players commented about the accelerated pace at which information was thrust at them by the coaches, likening the process to "throwing mud on the wall to see how much would stick, then more would be thrown the next day."
Interim Head Coach Bruce Arians was a chief mud-thrower, and he hurled it relentlessly at rookie quarterback Andrew Luck. Arians has sculpted many careers, and he even spent 1998-2000 as the quarterbacks coach in Indianapolis – Peyton Manning's first three years.
Arians did not spoon feed Luck into the process.
"You can ease him in if you don't want to try to win, if you're just going to try to protect him and grow him. We want to win," said Arians. "We've got some guys on the team who are not into rebuilding, and neither am I. I'm too old. I'm with those guys. It's all about right now in the moment. He's (Luck) more than capable of handling it."
Luck is 31-of-52 during those nine drives, throwing for 429 yards and three touchdowns. Of the four drives that did not produce points, the Colts missed two field goals, while punting once and having the game end once. Two of the five scores were game-winners. Four of Luck's incompletions were spiked attempts.
Reggie Wayne has 14 catches for 196 yards and two touchdowns during those drives, accounting for nearly half of the offense's production. Coby Fleener has caught eight of Luck's completions, while Donnie Avery and Donald Brown have three receptions apiece. Wayne can spot a budding performer.
"The thing about it is that they're throwing so much at him," said Wayne. "He's taking it all in, taking it in stride. He knows what's going on. He's admitting his mistakes and he's taking on all of these challenges that they're giving him. As a receiver, you want to be there for him. You want to back him up, and you want to make him look good. He's going to be special, he really is."
Luck has thrived in the offense no matter what is run. Against Green Bay, Arians estimated the no-huddle was run about 80 percent of the time, and Luck thought it was a solid plan for that day.
"I think it helped us as an offense running it. It was a different dimension," said Luck. "I think we got something like 100 snaps in, which is great. Hopefully, we continue it and make it a part of our offense and maybe change the pace up every now and then."
On every level of football, Luck has excelled in the mental aspects of preparation. He liked the aggressive pace earlier this year and enjoyed having the playbook thrust at him quickly.
"It's not overwhelming, and it hasn't been really for a while. If it was overwhelming and the season had started, that would have been a bad situation," said Luck. "I think Coach Arians knew that and all of us knew that. He's never put too much on anybody's plate on the offense. He's given us what he thinks we can handle.
"He's a great judge of that quality in players. You try and learn more every day. I think it's working to our advantage that we do have some plays that you can dig down and call them in certain situations…especially in a game with 100 snaps, you are going to have to dig deep on that call sheet. I think everybody handles it very well, and (I'm) glad there is a chance to choose from a bunch of plays."
Luck embraces the need for a balanced offense. While he wishes the team could rush for 250 yards and throw for 300 each game, he knows it is not possible. Luck is content to run what Arians and the staff calls.
"Whatever it takes to get the win, that's what I think every guy in this locker room would do," said Luck.
General Manager Ryan Grigson has seen the club grow over the first four games, with Luck playing what Arians calls a "five-star" role. Grigson is not surprised by Luck's performance in crunch time.
"That's why you take a guy number one in the draft overall. We expect him to be great. He's shown that. He's shown flashes of greatness," said Grigson. "As I have said before and Chuck (Pagano) has reiterated, 'The greatest thing about Andrew is he's his harshest critic.' It's not like you have to needle him to get better. Every time he steps on the practice field or into the weight room, that's all he's trying to do. He's a type of kid we expect big things from. He has a great tutor and mentor in Bruce (Arians), who is bringing him along.
"It's not shocking how we're doing on offense. We have explosive receivers. We have some guys who can separate and create mis-matches at tight end. We have a guy who can put the ball on the money, is mobile and can make plays under duress, and when things break down. That is a key, key trait for a quarterback in this league."
Clyde Christensen was a coaching component in many of the "hurry-up" moments of past seasons. Christensen lived through those successes and likes what he sees in Luck.
"(He's) so poised. He's steady. He's a plodder. He just keeps fighting," said Christensen. "He's a football mature guy. He's mature way beyond his years. Everything is new, but he keeps learning. Andrew hasn't flunked any quizzes yet."