Last year Andrew Luck won his first career playoff game. That game against the Kansas City Chiefs was a microcosm of the Indianapolis Colts‘ entire 2013 season. The Colts fell behind early, Luck threw three interceptions and then he achieved “angry gear,” going for 443 yards, four touchdowns and an iconic “Superman” goal-line leap. That game perfectly encapsulated everything those Colts were.
But how does that compare to this 2014 squad? What does a budding star like Luck do after an iconic Superman moment that will be a part of his highlight reel for the rest of his life? Can he top that, for emotion and significance? Was it possible The Superman leap over Kansas City would become the iconic image of his career, his version of Joe Montana‘s “The Catch” or John Elway‘s “The Drive”?
These were the questions I was asking back in August, as I meditated on the back-handed compliment nature of fourth-quarter comebacks. What Colts fans have seen since then is a steadier, possibly more mature quarterback. Against the Denver Broncos and Philadelphia Eagles in the first two weeks, it felt like the team had picked up right where they left off. They fell behind early and raced to catch up — except in those two games, they didn’t catch up.
After starting the season 0-2, Luck and the Colts ticked off five straight wins, culminating in the 27-0 thrashing of the Cincinnati Bengals (and including a win over the Baltimore Ravens that I keep forgetting ever happened). During that stretch, the Colts subtly demonstrated a shift in the pattern people had come to expect. They grew more steady and fans barely noticed. They still have their bad days, but they aren’t the fourth-quarter cardiac kids anymore.
In 2012, Luck had seven fourth-quarter comebacks/game winning drives. In 2013, he had four (including the Kansas City game). In 2014 he had one, against the Cleveland Browns of all teams. Luck hasn’t really utilized his angry gear this season. In a way, I miss it. He’s often said that he needs to take a hit early in the game to achieve maximum focus. But now, it seems like Luck either starts out in assassin-mode or he gives fans the Dallas Cowboys game. There’s not as much gear shifting anymore.
Last year in chilly, rainy Foxborough, Luck threw for 331 yards, two touchdowns and four interceptions. This year in chilly, rainy Foxborough, I wouldn’t be surprised if they won. I wouldn’t be surprised if they got Gronk’d into next month. But Luck has a golden opportunity to add another iconic image to his reel. This time of year, steady is the best kind of Superman.