Three weeks into his rookie season, it is becoming pretty clear that rookie quarterback Andrew Luck will have to carry the load for whatever success his Indianapolis Colts can muster in 2012. A week after Luck rallied the team to victory in his home debut against the Minnesota Vikings, he nearly pulled off the feat again when the Colts hosted the Jacksonville Jaguars on September 23. Although Indianapolis ultimately came up short (22-17), Luck again showed composure in late pressure situations, which gives Colts fans visions of the past and hope for the future. The ugly play in many facets of the game should remind us all that this team is young and building.
After taking down the Vikes last week, there was a lot of water-cooler talk about how good this team might be by the end of 2012. In that game, the defense looked fairly solid, and Luck was able to establish a rhythm that served him well in the two-minute drill that delivered victory at the end of the game. With the lowly Jaguars coming in on the verge of an 0-3 start, the Colts looked like they might enter the new week with a winning record for the first time in close to two years. Unfortunately, Indy managed to play at the Jaguars' level this week.
While Luck's final numbers from Sunday were nothing special (22-46, no TDs, one interception), he did amass more than 300 yards passing and ripped off a 19-yard run of his own. The bad news on the rushing front is that, while Luck ran for 50 yards on his own, lead back Donald Brown picked up just 62. And while Luck was not sacked on the day, the credit for that accomplishment goes mostly to his own legs rather than his offensive line. Even the usually solid Adam Vinatieri contributed to the malaise, missing a 36-yard field goal attempt late in the game. On the plus side, receivers T.Y. Hilton (113 yards) and Reggie Wayne (88 yards) proved able targets and gave Luck a little breathing room.
But the real problem area for the Colts on this day, as during the rest of the millennium, was on the other side of the ball. Maurice Jones-Drew sliced the Indy defense for 177 yards and a touchdown, which came on a 59-yard run to start the second half and set the tone for the rest of the game. The Colts backfield did manage to keep the Jags receivers in check for most of the game, until there were but 45 seconds left. At that fateful juncture, after Luck had led the Colts downfield for go-ahead field goal, safety Sergio Brown lost his man and Jags quarterback Blaine Gabbert made him pay with an 80-yard TD strike.
And that is how Cecil Shorts III, with one of the great names in football, joined Sean Payton on the Colts' all-time Bucky Dent list. It may not have been the Super Bowl, but this kind of loss always hurts.
Adam Hughes was raised, and still lives, in rural Indiana. He has been a Colts fans since the team arrived in Indianapolis on a snowy morning in 1984. The Blue and White eventually replaced the Chicago Bears as his #1 team, and Super Bowl XLI was a dream come true.