Andrew Luck has been everything for the Colts in 2014. He has carried the team to a 10-4 record and a second straight division title. Based on the way that defenses approach their offense, it’s evident that teams are afraid of Luck and not much else on the Colts.
Indy’s running game is almost non-existent. The offensive line creates no push. Trent Richardson doesn’t make his line better either, rarely gaining yards on his own. Compared to Richardson, Dan “Boom” Herron looks like Walter Payton at times. But he still doesn’t do enough to make the Colts’ running game dangerous.
With the exception of T.Y. Hilton, Colts receivers can’t create separation regularly. Reggie Wayne lacks the quickness that once made him a top receiver. Hakeem Nicks has officially become just a possession receiver. In fact, since the Colts lost to the Patriots in Week 11, he has slowly been phased out of the offense in favor of rookie speedster Donte Moncrief.
This offense doesn’t run through its receivers or running game. It runs through Luck, and he is getting the Peyton Manning treatment as a result. Cut off the head and the body will follow. Teams are disguising blitzes and coverages like they do for Manning, knowing that the Colts have no alternatives if Luck isn’t on his game. They’ve been trying to delay the speed with which he processes and reacts to information in an effort to completely disrupt the offense.
In Week 14, the Browns threw several disguises at Luck, including a 2-trap defense which forced a pick-6. Last week, the Texans did everything they could to try and confuse Luck. They used a 2-trap look on a few plays, similar to the Browns. More noticeably, they showed double-A gap pressure on a lot of snaps.
This is a blitz look that often confuses protection schemes. It threatens with immediate pressure up the middle. All NFL teams use this concept on defense. The difference last week was how frequently the Texans used it as well as what they did after the snap. Sometimes they showed blitz and then bailed. Sometimes they showed blitz and then brought everyone. This threw Luck’s timing off on his first interception. On this particular play, he was expecting blitz because of the double A-gap look.
He received the snap, immediately planted, and looked to get rid of the ball to tight end Coby Fleener.
But the defense had bailed into the throwing lanes.
This made Luck double-clutch and get rid of the ball late. It floated into the hands of Texans safety Kendrick Lewis, who returned it for a touchdown.
This double-A gap look gave Luck trouble all afternoon. It delayed his decision-making, threw off his timing, and led to several negative plays. It even led to a sack versus a 3-man rush. On the play below, the Colts had 5 blockers for 5 potential rushers. Right tackle Gosder Cherilus was the 6th blocker with J.J. Watt as the 6th rusher.
The double-A gap look ensured J.J. Watt would be matched 1-on-1 against the slower-footed Cherilus. At the snap, Houston defenders bailed. Only 3 men rushed, including Watt.
With 8 defenders in coverage, Luck had nowhere to go with the ball, and Watt ended up beating Cherilus easily for the sack. Luck had a difficult time discerning any predictable pattern in Houston’s double-A gap looks all game, and Indy finished with a season-low 17 points as a result.
Teams are not afraid of the Colts’ running game or their receivers. It’s all about stopping their 3rd-year quarterback. He is the entire offense. He is the entire team. Stop Luck, and the rest of the players around him can only rarely make up for it. This probably sounds familiar to folks in Indy. It’s deja vu all over again, with Luck getting the Peyton Manning treatment from defenses.
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