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Luck keeps Pats-Colts rivarly relevant

The SportsXchange

You'd think with Peyton Manning in Denver the once-fierce Colts-Patriots rivalry would be diminished. No such "Luck."

Now that Indianapolis has its new franchise quarterback -- rookie Andrew Luck, the overall No. 1 pick in this year's draft -- it's become quite clear this rivalry could remain intense.

Through nine games, Luck has looked incredibly poised for a rookie and appears to be the "next big thing" among NFL quarterbacks. He can run, throw, avoid pressure -- he does it all, and he could do a number on New England's beleaguered secondary when he gets his introduction to the Colts-Patriots rivalry Sunday at Gillette Stadium.

"I think the things that we knew about him coming out have certainly played out this season," Patriots' head coach Bill Belichick said. "Big kid, good arm, can make all the throws, very athletic, good movement in the pocket, handles the offense well -- they do a lot of checking and changing plays and you can see him handling the offensive team in those situations, as well as end of the game-type situations where he's got to make good situational plays and decisions.

"He's done a good job in all of those things."

This is a big week for defensive coordinator Matt Patricia, who has the unenviable task of trying to develop a game plan to stop Luck after his own team nearly got beat by Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Buffalo Bills.

"Indianapolis offensively is doing a phenomenal job," Patricia said. "You can really tell Andrew Luck is grasping what they're trying to do and obviously coach (Bruce) Arians is doing a great job of getting him in the right situations.

"They have some excellent players around him. Obviously Reggie Wayne is one of the best wide receivers in the NFL. He has progressed throughout the year and I would say he's playing at a very high level right now from an offensive standpoint."

With Wayne enjoying a comeback season, Luck making big plays and Donnie Avery developing into a solid No. 2 option, the Colts have become a serious playoff contender after finishing with the league's worst record last year.

"I certainly understand that he has the title of a rookie, but we're well into the season and he's played quite a few games in the NFL," Patricia said of Luck. "He's doing a good job of really handling that offense and running that offense and putting them in good situations to win football games. I think that's what you want to get out of your quarterback."

Luck's success also says a lot about what Arians has done in an interim role as Indianapolis' head coach. Chuck Pagano is currently battling leukemia, so Arians has taken over -- no easy task considering he's working with a rookie quarterback.

In the past, Belichick would be able to come up with a game plan capable of throwing a rookie out of rhythm, but he no longer has the personnel capable of making anyone feel uncomfortable in the pocket, whether it's a rookie or a longtime veteran.

"Good players are good players, whether they're good players in their first year or good players in their 10th year," Belichick said. "Sometimes the younger guys are in some respects more dangerous than an experienced guy because they are more aggressive and they don't worry about as many things. I don't know. I think that obviously Luck is playing very well and I think we're very concerned about his skills and his playmaking ability and his poise and his production.

"I think we need to play better in all three phases of the game, so that's our emphasis. I think we need to improve in every area so that's what we're going to try to do."
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