Colts, Andrew Luck still waiting for that blow-out win

NASHVILLE, TN - OCTOBER 23: Andrew Luck #12 of the Indianapolis Colts passes against the Tennessee Titans in the first quarter of the game at Nissan Stadium on October 23, 2016 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

NASHVILLE, TN - OCTOBER 23: Andrew Luck #12 of the Indianapolis Colts passes against the Tennessee Titans in the first quarter of the game at Nissan Stadium on October 23, 2016 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – It’s seldom easy.

Not with the Indianapolis Colts. Not with Andrew Luck.

“If we could blow teams out each week we’d much prefer that,’’ Robert Mathis said after the Luck-led Colts walked the high wire once again before pulling out a 34-26 win Sunday at Tennessee.

“But that’s not how the NFL goes.’’

It’s certainly not how the Colts roll.

They continue to push the limits and turn games into 60-minute experiences that run the gamut: from anguish to exhilaration and, too often, back to anguish. At Houston, it was 60-plus minutes.

Each of the Colts’ seven games has been decided in the final two minutes. Blame their proclivity for piling up penalties – they’re on pace for 133 and 1,197 yards, each of which would be the second-highest total in team history – and suffering too many lapses on offense and defense.

Considering his ultra-competitive nature, Luck was asked if he enjoyed being a part of so many beat-the-clock games.

“You enjoy winning at the end of the game,’’ he said. “What we need to learn is how to blow that game open a little earlier.’’

Until then, the Colts seem destined to go as far as Luck takes them. Especially in one-possession games, especially in the fourth quarter and often after the final 2-minute warning.

In his four-plus years as the Colts’ quarterback/catalyst, Luck’s reputation has been forged by late-game heroics. He has few peers when it comes to relying so heavily on turning losses into wins.

Sunday marked Luck’s 17th game-winning drive in the fourth quarter or overtime during his 68 career games, including the playoffs. They account for 41.5 percent of his 41 career wins.

How does that GWD ratio stack up with his peers? Consider:

  • It ranks No. 2 to Detroit’s Matthew Stafford among qualifying QBs (52.2 percent, 24 of 46).
  • The rest of the top 5 consists of Atlanta’s Matt Ryan (40.5 percent, 32 of 79), Dallas’ Tony Romo (37.5 percent, 30 of 80) and Chicago’s Jay Cutler (36.8 percent, 25 of 68).
  • Of Peyton Manning’s record 200 victories, 28 percent (56, another league record) required a fourth-quarter/overtime comeback.
  • Other notable GWD percentages: Tom Brady (24.4), Dan Marino (30.9), John Elway (28.8) and Aaron Rodgers (15.2).

In Luck the Colts trust.

And as long as Luck is under center, opponents realize frequently it’s never over till it’s over. Four of his 17 comebacks have been at the expense of the Titans, and Sunday’s win was the Colts’ 10th straight in the series.

“I’m pissed. I’m upset,’’ said defensive tackle Jurrel Casey, whose USC Trojans also had trouble dealing with Luck’s Stanford Cardinal. “That makes 10 in a row to lose to the Colts and me personally, I’ve been losing to this guy since college. It hurts me deeply.’’

“We knew that Luck really plays good in the fourth quarter,’’ tight end Delanie Walker said. “He’s the type of quarterback who can come back and get his team in the game, and he showed it today.’’

The Titans grabbed their first lead of the game at 23-20 on Ryan Succop’s 48-yard field goal with 6:02 to play. Then, the Luck-led offense answered with a 12-play, 70-yard drive. Luck completed 5-of-7 passes for 60 yards, capped by a 7-yard TD to tight end Jack Doyle with 1 minute, 55 seconds remaining.

“Credit to him and their team,’’ Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota said. “He’s been doing it for a long time . . . Andrew does those things and he can thrive in those situations.’’

Occasionally, the fourth-quarter comebacks are a byproduct of Luck and the offense playing poorly in the first three quarters.

A vivid reminder of that visits Lucas Oil Stadium Sunday. In a 2013 wild-card game, Kansas City bolted to a 38-10 third-quarter lead. Luck aided the pending blowout with a pair of interceptions.

Then, magic.

The Colts orchestrated the largest comeback in team history and second-largest in playoff history, winning 45-44. Over the final 28 minutes and after trailing by 28, Luck completed 17-of-23 passes for 314 yards with three touchdowns and one interception. He also picked up Donald Brown’s fumble near the goal line and stretched for a 2-yard TD.

He and the Colts found a way.

This season, Luck and the offense are batting .500 in six of those fourth-quarter situations. Luck directed game-winning drives against San Diego, Chicago and the Titans. In three the four losses, he’s had possession with less than 2 minutes to play and been unable to deliver.

The euphoria of winning, Luck insisted, is “addicting, it really is.

“You wish you weren’t so much a slave to that feeling of emotion, but I think we are. There’s a lot we still need to clean up, but to find a way to win that game . . . ”

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