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INDIANAPOLIS – Among Colts quarterback Andrew Luck's more impressive feats this season is answering every question every week with hardly a hint of exasperation.
Even those in the circle surrounding his locker stall have to feel for the unending critique of his every move, touchdown, interception and neck beard growth. Yet Luck stands in the pocket of reporters and delivers.
Reporter: “What did you learn from watching the New England film?”
Luck: “You can't give good teams two pick-sixes.”
Great sound bite. But Luck didn't stop there.
“You can't score on the first two drives and then sort of peter out,” he said. “We did some good things as well, but realize you can't make mistakes because elite teams like the New England Patriots will beat you with them.”
Luck and the Colts weren't devastated by the 35-point loss at New England, and that's the good thing about the young offensive leader and his young team. It helps that perspective is always a thought away with the “CP” stickers on their locker and the “ChuckStrong” poster on the wall. Their coach, Chuck Pagano, continues to fight leukemia, and that puts fleeting Sunday beatings in their place.
The Colts “flushed” the New England performance and start today in earnest preparing for a home game with the Buffalo Bills this Sunday.
What I like about Luck, as a longtime observer of his predecessor (Peyton Manning, not Dan Orlovsky), is how much he already understands the business of being an NFL quarterback.
He tolerates the media and tries to be thoughtful on the occasional thoughtful question. He understands that game-day plays, good or bad, are moments for growth and not to be lingered on.
On the field and off, he seems like one tough son of a quarterback.
“Once you sit down and watch the film, hear the critiquing, the criticism…you sort of flush it and on to the next one,” Luck said. “If this was the last game of the year and you're done, it would sting a lot more. But it's not. We've got a lot to play for.”
Luck isn't much for reviewing and basking in the good moments, such as his two touchdown passes to T.Y. Hilton. But interim coach Bruce Arians has shown a perfect touch in developing the rookie, drawing from Arians' past success with Manning and Ben Roethlisberger.
Arians proffered the thought that all was not bad in the New England loss.
“Our first two drives were outstanding,” Arians said. “We ran the football at a 5.0 (per carry) clip and we had four negative plays because of mental errors, so it could have been even better.”
Run defense was another positive, Arians said, as was third-down percentage and red-zone success.
The No.1 negative, Arians said, was protecting the football. Luck threw two picks and fumbled the ball on a sack.
Luck's reaction to each of those was similar. He was mad at himself. He said as much afterward.
“Each time he comes off the field, good, bad or indifferent, we have a moment and talk about what happened,” Arians said. “Then I send him over to Clyde (Christensen, quarterbacks coach) and they go through the pictures.”
Then, Arians sends Luck back out.
Even trailing by 28 points late in the New England game, Luck remained at quarterback. Arians had no thought of putting backup Drew Stanton in.
“I told (Luck) in the fourth quarter you're no different than the guy you replaced and his first trip up here, it's almost deja vu,” Arians said. “Just keep battling, keep slinging it out there and see what you can learn the rest of the way in this game.”
Manning used to play every minute of every game, regardless of the score, win (as he so did for a decade) or lose (as he did in the early days).
“There's no reason to put anybody else in the ballgame when you're the guy,” Arians said. “Go out there and learn something from the next coverage, the next throw, something more about your guys in the huddle. It speaks volumes about how tough he is both mentally and physically and the way he plays.”
Luck went back out and soaked in more knowledge. The next day, he was at his locker again, circled by reporters.
“We'll take the lessons,” Luck said, “and move on.”
The more I see Luck, the more he sounds like the guy who used to be in the circle. Luck's good times versus New England will arrive someday, too.