When game's on the line, Andrew Luck has the edge with ... his feet
Colts second-year star quarterback Andrew Luck knows when to run to keep Indy moving in the second half of games.
Andrew Luck is a remarkable young quarterback who will lead the Colts to a division title this year and doesn't appear to be suffering from the second-year blues that other quarterbacks in the class of 2012 are dealing with.
Luck really tries to stick by the game plan in the first half of games. Eventually, however, to win games he resorts to his athletic ability -- specifically his legs -- to run to victories.
There's a reason he already has 11 come-from-behind wins in his 27-game career. He will run with the game on the line. Against the Titans, Luck's 11-yard touchdown run to take the lead 20-17 is typical of him when it counts.
Take a look at Luck and when he uses his escape skills: In the first half of games, he has run 13 times for 77 yards, four first downs and no touchdowns. He has two runs over 10 yards. And the Colts have struggled at times, scoring 119 points but giving up 143. The minus-24 net for first-half scoring ranks 24th in the league.
Then the second half gets underway with the Colts looking for ways to win and it leads to Luck the runner. He has 28 runs in the second half for 154 yards with four touchdowns and 10 first downs. Seven of those runs went for more than 10 yards. The Colts spike right up to the No. 3 scoring team in the second half of games, 133-7.
Most of the time it's Luck's third-down runs that break opponents down. Over the past two years Luck has run on third downs 38 times, converting to first downs 25 times with a large majority of those runs in the second half of games when his team is losing or tied.
Robert Griffin III is an outstanding runner in his own right and will use his legs even more than Luck, but he hasn't scored a touchdown this year in 66 runs and he only has four game-winning drives in his 26-game career. RG3 has taken off and run in 12 third-down situations but only converted two times. Over his career RG3 has run 43 times on third downs and converted 14 times.
During the Eagles game this past week RG3 ran on two critical third downs and failed to make it. Though a penalty on the Eagles moved the chains, the drive and the game ended with an interception.
There are plenty of reasons Luck has 11 game-winning drives and draft classmates RG3, Ryan Tannehill, Brandon Weeden and Nick Foles have nine among them. Russell Wilson is the closest player to Luck with nine game-winning drives. Part of the reason for Luck's late heroics is his strategic ability to run the ball.
Disruptive move by Jets?
Ed Reed has one interception in his past 16 games and onlysix passes defended in the same time period. The last time Rex Ryan coached Ed Reed was 2008 when Reed was 29 years old. Reed had 11 interceptions and 19 passes defended that season as the Ravens went to the AFC championship game.
Some believe he brings leadership to the Jets, but I can tell you from my own experience in the NFL, leadership really comes after you prove to your new teammates that you can still do it on the field. The Jets lost to the Bills and gave up 37 points in Reed's debut. A few players around the NFL believe bringing Reed into the Jets will be more disruptive than positive. Time will tell but so far they may be right.
Manning in control
There's a reason Peyton Manning might play for 20 years -- he gets rid of the ball and he knows where to go with it. The Chiefs came in with the most sacks on defense and never touched him. As Dan Marino always says to me, "The clock in your head is the key."
Manning's clock was dialed in to two seconds and the ball was gone. The Broncos have now won 20 of their past 21 regular-season games, won 12 straight at home and nine consecutive division games.
Manning is chasing the Tom Brady 2007 season when Brady after 10 games had 3,059 yards, 38 touchdowns and just four interceptions. Manning has 3,572 yards, 34 touchdowns and 6 interceptions. At one point it looked like Manning had a chance for 60 touchdown passes but now he will be lucky to break 50.
He is trying to win a Super Bowl and realizes the run game is critical. Denver called 36 run plays against the Chiefs. The Broncos now have five games with more than 30 runs per game and I wouldn't be shocked if we see the run calls head closer to the 35 range in the remaining games.
Last year in their final five games the Broncos averaged 40 runs a game and I expect the same this year, especially if Julius Thomas and Wes Welker are struggling with injuries. Last week, the Broncos ran the ball 17 times from the no-huddle for 48 yards and two touchdowns. That's where the run game will grow in the coming weeks.
No-huddle plays increasing?
The team with the most no-huddle plays so far this season is Philadelphia. By my count the Eagles have run 516 snaps of no-huddle out of the 719 plays called, or 72 percent of their offense.
The Seahawks have run the fewest no-huddle plays with only 11 all year. Seattle has executed 673 offensive plays, so its no-huddle is less than 2 percent of the offense. Both teams have played 11 games and Philadelphia has only 46 more plays called, or four more plays per game.
The top three teams employing the no-huddle offense are the Eagles (516 plays), Broncos (483) and Bills (441). The three teams that use it the least are the Seahawks (11), Panthers (16) and Saints (17).
The three teams using it have an average of six more plays a game than the three teams that use it the least. The top three no-huddle teams have a combined record of 19-13 while the non-users are 25-6. I really like the no-huddle offense, but it isn't a miracle cure for offensive problems and it really doesn't add a lot more plays to the game.
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