INDIANAPOLIS–* *After 12 minutes of play on Sunday at Pittsburgh, the Colts trailed, 14-0.
One of Pittsburgh's scores came on a long interception return of an Andrew Luck pass. Adversity was knocking.
As soon as he took the field after that miscue, he was sacked on first down. Adversity was knocking…loudly, and in a stadium where Head Coach Chuck Pagano stated afterward he had seen teams wilt from the pressure of the defense that inhabited the hostile venue.
Luck responded on this stage as he did so many times in college, he took the Colts right down the field to score. Four straight completions covered 60 yards and five plays later the Colts were in the end zone. The deficit was halved.
Luck suffered an interception deep in Pittsburgh territory on the next possession after an on-target pass was bobbled. His response – another touchdown drive, one he punctuated with a fourth-down scoring rush. Tie game.
An Indianapolis defense that provided stops in the second quarter did so again, and Luck moved the Colts 31 yards in the last 42 seconds, and Adam Vinatieri hit a half-ending 53-yard field goal.
It was a performance that others noticed.
"Like any quarterback, he's got amnesia," said Pagano of Luck's ability to rebound. "Just like a great cornerback gets beat and gives up a touchdown pass completion, all the great ones think it's a fluke.
"He understood the competition level and those types of things, and he was able to come back and put it behind him just like he always has. We saw the same thing in college. He was able to bring his team back from behind. There was nothing surprising to us to see him come back and put together the drives that he did."
Guard Joe Reitz was one of the 11 battlers on the field down 14 points. He noted the team remained calm and focused, and he said Luck was the leader of the pack. Reitz thought it was impressive that Luck was able to connect on eight straight passes on first down to help spur the comeback.
"Guys were upbeat and positive," said Reitz. "Everybody was saying, 'Hey, let's focus, do our jobs, focus on the next play.' That's how you have to do it – one play at a time. It showed some resiliency battling back from that deficit. It (the completion streak) showed how good he is, and the type of competitor he is. He got better as the game went on."
Pagano has stated that Luck is his own worst critic, and that he is the type of player no one can rattle. If there are buttons to be pushed on the quarterback, he will do it himself.
"You can't beat yourself, through interceptions or blocked punts or whatever it is, and expect to win a football game," said Luck. "As a quarterback you never want to throw a pick-six or any interceptions, even if they are tipped or bobbled or whatever. We've got to cut down on those, but I think we showed we can bounce back from those mistakes and sort of climbed out of the hole, which is a good sign."
Luck played in the big arena at Stanford. He has conquered opponents and overcome adverse conditions. One is coming back from interceptions, which he did twice by producing scores, even after one of his passes went the distance the other way. He just shook it off and played again.
"You get angry for a bit. You don't shut out emotion completely as a quarterback, but I realize it's a quick turnaround," said Luck of his interception for a score. "The other team has to kick off, and now you've got a chance to go out there again. You've got to flush it and focus on the next play. You're thinking so much about the play call that it's easy to forget about good or bad or whatever happened earlier."
Reggie Wayne is a veteran of shaking off rough spots in competition. He has been a key cog in countless Indianapolis comebacks through the years. Wayne believes Luck has the wherewithal to respond to a tough situation, and it is a key ability for a competitor.
"Amnesia. He's good at putting things behind him and focusing on the task at hand," said Wayne of Luck's comportment. "I'm sure he understands that that's the nature of this game. He's going to have some tough times, but being able to stay focused and bouncing back (is important). He did a great job of that tonight."
In two games, Luck has directed six scoring drives. He has hit 26-of-41 passes for 363 yards and two touchdowns. Against St. Louis, he hit seven different receivers in just less than one half of action. He was 10-of-16 for 188 yards in that game, connecting on completions of 63, 32 and 23 yards. The 63- and 23-yard completions went for touchdowns.
At Pittsburgh, he was 16-of-25 for 175 yards, again hitting seven different receivers in 30 minutes of action. He had completions of 27, 24, 14 and 13 yards, and hit his last eight first-down attempts in aiding the comeback.
Reitz is a young player himself, but he senses the special qualities in Luck, who has an 8.85 yards per attempt average in his first two outings.
"He's a great quarterback and a great leader," said Reitz. "He's the field general out there, and we're all falling in line with what he says and what he does. We just have to make sure we keep him protected, because he can carve up some defenses when he gets going."