How Andrew Luck found his form under new OC

Under new OC Rob Chudzinski, a refreshed Andrew Luck took down the league's top defense.

| 1 year ago
(AP Photo/R Brent Smith)

(AP Photo/R Brent Smith)

How Andrew Luck found his form under new OC


Before yesterday’s game against the Broncos, the highest grade Andrew Luck had received this season was in the opening weekend against Buffalo (+1.2). That was also his only positive grade of the season, and since that point, he rattled off five-straight negatively grades performances, and sat 34th in our quarterback rankings, with the lowest passing grade of any quarterback.

Things were not going well in Indianapolis, and offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton became the fall guy, losing his job as a result.

While it’s always tough to single out one person as the problem, it had been clear for some time that the Colts needed to make some schematic changes to help Luck out of his rut, rather than just stick to what they had always done and waited for him to climb out of the other side. Hamilton never looked likely to do that.

With Rob Chudzinski in charge this week, Luck looked reborn, earning a +3.5 grade and climbing a spot in the rankings.

Luck was more comfortable in an offense that made some subtle changes to ensure he was under less pressure than normal. Though the number of snaps in which he felt heat was actually similar, there was a notable uptick in tempo of the passing game, with Luck’s average time per pass attempt dropping, as well as the percentage of plays in which he held the ball longer than 2.5 seconds.

Over the season, only 41.9 percent of his passing plays have been out in 2.5 seconds or less, but against Denver, that number was up to 45.2 percent, and there was a small increase in the number of three-step drops, as well as the number of passes coming out really quickly (under 2 seconds).

Luck’s average depth of target for the season coming into this game was 10.2 yards downfield. This ranked fourth in the NFL and was a big part in the struggles he was facing with such poor pass protection. Luck had to wait for receivers to uncover downfield, and often had no place to go with the football. Against Denver, his average depth of target was lower (9.0), and while that doesn’t seem like a significant change, it would be enough to drop him 10 places in league-wide rankings, if that was his season average.

The Colts didn’t need massive sweeping changes to improve on offense, or for Andrew Luck to rediscover his form, but they did need to give him a helping hand along the way. When they were forced into playing Matt Hasselbeck, the offense changed to accommodate him, because Hasselbeck is a different kind of quarterback than Luck—and it actually looked like a more sure-footed unit when that happened.

With Hamilton sent packing, the team made similar changes to help Luck out this week, and they paid dividends against the league’s best defense. Luck proved that he didn’t become a bad quarterback overnight, and he can still get things done against the best the NFL has to offer.

| Senior Analyst

Sam is a Senior Analyst at Pro Football Focus, as well as a contributor to ESPN.

  • Uptown Sinclair

    Looked like the same offense that Pep succeeded with in the past. The team just executed better.

    • crashby89

      Yesterday was a big difference from what Pep has been doing this season.

      • YouBarkIBite

        How so? The only difference I noticed was that Luck was consistently accurate and didn’t throw the ball up for grabs, which I’d hardly pin on the play calling.

        • crashby89

          Yes Luck played better but there was also: More reliance on the run. More max protect schemes. Dump offs available on every play. Healthy dose of short passes to gain momentum and confidence. All of those were missing under Pep. Even Luck said after the game that the play calling was different.

          • YouBarkIBite

            I’m dubious any of those changes couldn’t/wouldn’t have happened under Hamilton. Denver was by far the best defense and pass rush they’ve faced this year, and that naturally influences the game plan. They could afford to run because they had the lead almost the entire game. Even before this week, I saw Luck consistently ignore the open outlet man and instead go for the home run (he even did it this game on 3rd down before their final field goal). I’m more inclined to believe the success was the result of a more focused and motivated offense than any magic with the play calling.

          • crashby89

            Pep could have made the changes but the problem is he didn’t. In close games he abandoned the run. He would rather spread the field than play more protection. The Pats game is a perfect example where Pep started doing those things then abandoned it at halftime. Go look at some breakdowns there were many plays where there were 0 under routes for Luck to check down to. As I said yes part of it was that Luck and Co played better, part was that there were without a doubt play calling changes.

    • crashby89

      Yesterday was a big difference from what Pep has been doing this season.

  • crosseyedlemon

    John Elway gave the Broncos orders to take it easy on the Colts because he knew there would be a public lynching of Luck if he had a terrible game against Peyton.