There's no tougher play for an NFL quarterback than third-and-long. Everyone knows he's passing. And that's what makes Andrew Luck's latest trick so impressive.
Luck went up against the NFL's top-ranked third-down defense and cut it to shreds. No, the Miami Dolphins aren't the 1985 Chicago Bears. But stats are stats. They had taken pride in third-down defense.
Luck went out and converted 13 of 17 third-down passes for 204 yards. That's phenomenal against any team, let alone the NFL's third-down leader.
Luck will take his hot streak to Jacksonville to play the Jaguars at 8:20 p.m. Thursday in an NFL Network telecast.
“His third-down percentage the last couple ball games has been out of sight,” Colts interim coach Bruce Arians said. “We need him out there chasing Ben (Roethlisberger) for that completion percentage record on third down. Early in the season, we weren't there quite enough. We were missing our chunk plays.”
There were no missing chunk plays against the Dolphins. Consider the distances covered in seven of Luck's 13 third-down conversion:
* Third-and-12, Luck rolls left out of the empty backfield, escapes pressure and hits Dwayne Allen for a 22-yard gain.
* Third-and-14, Luck rolls right out of the pressure and hits T.Y. Hilton for a 25-yard gain.
* Third-and-goal at the 9, Luck drops back, surveys the field and hits Reggie Wayne over the middle for a touchdown.
* Third-and-20, time running out in the half, Luck goes deep to Hilton again for a 29-yard gain to set up a field goal.
* Third-and-10, Luck finds a quick look sideline pass to Donnie Avery for a 22-yard gain.
* Third-and-16, after an offensive pass interference, Luck goes deep to LaVon Brazill for a 19-yard gain.
* Third-and-11, Luck finds a short pass out of the shotgun to Allen, who turns it into a 20-yard gain.
“He's been looking the gun right down the barrel and delivering some good balls, some catchable balls,” Wayne said. “A lot of the time it's on us. He's been doing his job. The rest is on us to catch the ball and get the first down. He's doing a great job. He's hanging in there even under duress.”
Luck said after the game he takes even more pride in his third-down conversions than he does in the single-game rookie-record 433 yards passing. Everything pales beside getting the wins, of course. But a quarterback who is clutch on third down is clutch, period.
Arians put Luck on the highest of pedestals when asked to compare his progress with that of two previous quarterbacks Arians tutored, Peyton Manning and Roethlisberger.
“Of the guys I've had, he's the furthest along at this time,” Arians said. “He's doing more, and we're asking him to do more. The other guys, not that they couldn't have, played extremely well. Their numbers are very comparable. The wins are now coming for us a little bit sooner than they did for Peyton. Ben went 15-1, so those are a little tough to beat.
“Is he playing perfect? No. We don't have anybody playing perfect. It doesn't take perfect to win, just play hard and good things will happen.”
Powers out Thursday
Arians announced that cornerback Jerraud Powers will miss the Thursday night game at Jacksonville due to a toe injury suffered against the Dolphins.
Darius Butler will step into the starting role opposite Cassius Vaughn, who has been in for injured starter Vontae Davis. Josh Gordy steps into the nickel package and Marshay Green into the dime package.
Arians joked that he had to learn Green's name.
“No, I've known Marshay,” Arians said. “He's been here for a couple weeks. He's a vet now, he's been here three weeks.”