Colts' season not doomed with Luck out, Hasselbeck in
On Tuesday afternoon, it was first reported that Andrew Luck would be missing the next 2-6 weeks with a lacerated kidney and a partial tear of his abdominal muscle. This is obviously a hit to the Indianapolis Colts, who looked to be heading in the right direction coming off of a big win at home against the previously unbeaten Broncos.
On the surface, this injury looks like it puts the Colts in serious jeopardy of losing their top spot in the division, holding a two game lead over the Houston Texans. This is especially disappointing for Luck, who was coming off of his best performance of the year, posting a +3.5 grade in last week’s game against the Broncos (through nine weeks, though, Luck has had the worst season of his career, and ranks 35th out of 36 of all QBs).
The reason this injury will not put an end to the Colts’ season is because of how 40-year-old Matt Hasselbeck has performed this year. With Hasselbeck under center in Weeks 4 and 5, the Colts beat two AFC South competitors, and in those two games, Hasselbeck posted a +4.7 grade.
The key to this success centers around Hasselbeck getting rid of the ball much faster than Luck. Hasselbeck’s time to throw in his two games has been 2.28 seconds, while Luck’s has been markedly higher at 2.88 seconds. Hasselbeck has also gotten rid of the ball in less than 2.5 seconds on 74.7 percent of his dropbacks, while Luck has done that on only 42.3 percent of his dropbacks. In throws under 2.5 seconds, Luck and Hasselbeck post almost identical QB Ratings of 89.7 and 89.3. respectively, but it’s the dropbacks that have taken longer than 2.5 seconds, where the difference lies. Luck has posted a QB rating of 62.3 on those throws, while Hasselbeck has a QB rating of 113.4.
This is not to say that Hasselbeck is a better QB than Luck when he has to hold onto the ball longer; Luck is more mobile and can drive the ball downfield better than Hasselbeck. But it does go to show that Luck has been struggling making decisions when pressured, and has clearly been affected physically by it with the injuries he has had this season. Luck’s improvement against Denver was a result largely of his ability to get the ball out quicker (for more on that and the schematic changes under new offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski, see Sam Monson’s article from Monday).
The Colts’ key to continuing their success with Hasselbeck at the helm—and upon Lucks’ return—will be getting the ball out quickly, which will minimize mistakes and hits taken. The Colts should ride that strategy as they compete for an AFC South title.