November 16, 2012
Andrew Luck's play adds to Colts-Pats showdown
By ROB LONGLEY, QMI Agency
Like anyone with more than a passing interest in football, Andrew Luck tried not to miss a down.
Every time Tom Brady and the New England Patriots faced Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts it was must-watch, especially for an aspiring pro quarterback.
There were epic regular-season battles and even better post-season ones, the type of games the Colts dynamic rookie would have dreamed of playing in himself some day.
By the time his college career at Stanford was coming to an end and the prospect of being the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft realized, the odds that he would play in such meaningful games himself increased significantly.
But this soon?
So many times over the past decade, Colts vs. Patriots in mid-November would have been a standout of the schedule, but not this year. Not initially, anyway.
The Colts were coming off a 2-14 season, the Patriots 13-3. The rookie quarterback was going to have to learn the ropes, wasn't he? After all, Manning was just 2-14 with the training wheels on.
Well here they are, both teams at 6-3 in a game that has familiar meaning for each.
"As a young quarterback growing up, I took the opportunity to watch the sort of benchmarks of quarterback play," Luck told reporters in Indy this week. "There were some great playoff games at both stadiums.
"It's a big game, obviously. A huge game."
Huge and unexpected, which only adds to the appeal. With each Colts win in their unlikely run to contention, it has become increasingly difficult to dismiss this run of Luck. Besides the obvious pro talent, which will only develop the deeper he gets into his career, he is protected within a system designed to reduce the risk. The Colts are buying into their young star and the results have been fast-tracked.
Normally, going into New England would be a supreme test for a rookie quarterback as historically, Patriots coach Bill Belichick's defence has turned such fresh meat into chowder. As well, so far Luck has been less productive on the road where he has thrown just two touchdown passes and seven interceptions.
But the Patriots D is ranked 29th this season against the pass and with the poise Luck has shown thus far, perhaps he will be up to the test.
As is his way, Brady wants no part of the storyline, sticking with his standard "I'm-not-playing-Luck-I'm-playing-the-Colts" line. He did allow that he was impressed with what Luck has accomplished so far as a freshman, chuckling at his own memory as a rookie late-round pick.
"As a rookie, I was like fourth-string and eating nachos before the game in the stands," Brady told reporters in Foxborough. "There wasn't much of me thinking of playing."
Give Buffalo Bills coach Chan Gailey credit: It seems he can read a defence better than his quarterback can.
Late, late Thursday night, after his team defeated the Miami Dolphins, 19-14, Gailey started his press conference with this:
"Before you all start with the negatives, there are some positives."
Sure there were, even if you have to search for them. The Bills were excellent on field goals, the defence played much better than in recent weeks and in moving to 4-6, they are in second place in the AFC East.
Realistically, however, Buffalo must win at least five of its final six games to have a playoff shot, a challenge even if the schedule isn't loaded with NFL heavyweights. Only two of those foes -- Indianapolis next week and Seattle three weeks later -- currently have winning records and the combined records of the remaining six is 23-32-1.
If the defence can keep it up, the Bills' chances for a respectable finish improve, but there are still some big concerns on the other side of the ball.
Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick has led that unit to just two touchdown passes in the past four games and all four trips to the red zone on Thursday ended in field goals.
Though he has practised some this week, it is expected that New England tight end Aaron Fernandez will miss a third consecutive game because of an ankle injury ... Patriots linebacker Brandon Spikes reportedly has been fined $25,000 for his helmet-to-helmet hit on Fitzpatrick last Sunday ... An NFL official has reportedly been docked a game's pay for a string of obscenities that were caught by the crowd when he failed to turn off his microphone in a Nov. 4 game between the Colts and Dolphins. The foul language was caught by both the crowd in the stadium and the audience on CBS.