After taking a beating nearly every time he stepped on the field during his first few seasons, Luck is now having one of the best runs of his career, and it’s because of an offense that’s thriving under the leadership of new coach Frank Reich.
The Colts’ suddenly unstoppable offense put on a show in Indianapolis with a 38-10 blowout win over the Titans on Sunday. Although the Colts have been lighting up the scoreboard over the past few weeks, the scoring explosion was notable this week because it came against a Titans defense that went into the game giving up fewer points than any other team in the NFL.
The big thing that’s happening with the Colts offense is that Luck now has time to throw. The win over Tennessee marked the fifth straight game that Luck hasn’t been sacked. As a matter fact, Luck has gone 217 snaps without getting sacked, which is tied for the third-longest streak in NFL history.
The sack-free streak is happening for two reasons: The offensive line is playing better and Reich’s offense calls for quick throws, which makes it nearly impossible to get to the quarterback when everything’s clicking, and everything is definitely clicking.
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The bad news for opposing defenses is that when you give Luck time to throw, he’s going to do some damage and that’s exactly what he did against the Titans in a 297-yard performance that included three touchdown passes.
Luck has now thrown three or more touchdown passes in seven-straight games — which is tied for the third-longest streak of all-time — and it’s starting to look like he doesn’t have any weaknesses. When the season started, Luck was struggling with his deep ball; however, that doesn’t seem to be a problem anymore.
That 68-yard touchdown pass to T.Y. Hilton put the Colts up 17-0 in the second quarter, and by then, the rout was on. If you want to take the deep ball away, then Luck will just burn you with shorter passes. Basically, it seems like his shoulder is now 100 percent healed and every throw is back in his arsenal.
When he wasn’t throwing bombs to Hilton, he was showing off his perfect touch, like he did on this 14-yard touchdown to Hilton in the third quarter.
Luck was so good against the Titans that even his coach was somewhat amazed,
“Andrew was just unbelievable,” Reich said. “I mean every throw was with pinpoint accuracy.”
When the season started, Luck seemed a like a candidate for comeback player of the year. Eleven weeks later, not only does it seem like he has that award on lockdown, but much bigger things now seem possible. If Luck keeps playing the way he’s playing, he could put himself in the MVP conversation and more importantly, he could lead his team to a playoff berth, which seemed nearly impossible just five weeks ago when the Colts were sitting at 1-5.
Everyone in Indy seems pretty excited about what’s to come.
All right, let’s get to the rest of the grades.
Los Angeles Rams 54-51 over Kansas City
After playing nearly perfect football through the first 10 weeks of the season, Patrick Mahomes finally looked mortal against the Rams. Although Mahomes put up huge numbers (478 yards, six touchdowns), he was single-handedly responsible for turning the ball over five times (three interceptions, two lost fumbles) with two of those turnovers being returned for touchdowns by the Rams. Tyreek Hill also had a big game (215 receiving yards, two touchdowns), but like Mahomes, he made a couple of mistakes that he’d probably like to have back. In the fourth quarter alone, Hill cost the Chiefs some serious field position when he tried to return two different punts from inside his own two-yard line. Defensively, the Chiefs sacked Jared Goff five times and returned a fumble for a touchdown, but it wasn’t enough to overcome Mahomes’ five turnovers.
In an offensive shootout, it was the Rams defense that ended up stealing the show. Multiple defensive players came up clutch for the Rams, especially linebacker Samson Ebukam, who had a pick-six and a fumble return for a touchdown. Aaron Donald also came up big with two strip-sacks of Patrick Mahomes. Overall, the Rams defense forced five turnovers, including two interceptions of Mahomes that came in the game’s final 90 seconds. As for the Rams offense, Jared Goff came up big with 413 yards and four touchdown passes, including a game-winning 40-yard scoring pass to Gerald Everett that came with just 1:56 left to play.
Dallas 22-19 over Atlanta
If Ezekiel Elliott‘s back is a little sore after this game, it’s because he just carried the Cowboys to another win. The Dallas offense is at its best when it’s feeding Zeke the ball and Elliott got fed a lot in Atlanta. Elliot accounted for 201 of the Cowboys’ 323 offensive yards in the game. Elliott did most of his damage on the ground with 122 rushing yards and a touchdown, but he also added seven catches for 79 yards.
The Falcons offense moved up and down the field on the Cowboys, but they just couldn’t put the ball in the end zone, which has basically been a problem for Atlanta all season. The Falcons were held to just four field goals and didn’t get a touchdown until Julio Jones caught a 34-yard score with less than two minutes to play.
Pittsburgh 20-16 over Jacksonville
Ben Roethlisberger almost threw this game away before he was eventually able to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. After putting the Steelers in a 16-0 hole by throwing three interceptions in the first three quarters, Big Ben rebounded by accounting for three touchdowns over the final 17 minutes of the game. Not only did Roethlisberger throw a 78-yard touchdown pass to Antonio Brown, but he also able to score the game-winning touchdown on a one-yard run with just five seconds left. With Roethlisberger off the mark for most of the game, he got a lot help from Brown (117 yards, one touchdown) and JuJu Smith-Schuster (eight catches, 104 yards), who bailed him out multiple times with impressive catches.
The Jaguars took this game out of Blake Bortles‘ hands and put it in the hands of Leonard Fournette, and that strategy almost worked. In a game where the Jags ran 67 plays, they threw the ball only 18 times. They spent nearly every other play trying to run the ball down Pittsburgh’s throat, which worked to an extent, because Fournette finished with 28 carries for 95 yards and a touchdown. The biggest surprise was probably the fact that the Jags couldn’t hold a 16-0 lead after shutting down the Steelers’ offense for the first 43 minutes of the game. The blown lead by the Jags overshadowed a big game from Jalen Ramsey, who had two interceptions and led the team in tackles with eight.
New York Giants 38-35 over Tampa Bay
Just when you thought Tampa Bay’s starting quarterback situation couldn’t get any weirder, this game happened. Starter Ryan Fitzpatrick was benched in the third quarter after throwing three interceptions against the Giants, including a pick-six. That paved the way for Jameis Winston (12 of 16, 199 yards, two touchdowns) to come in and almost lead a miraculous comeback. The Bucs lost this game despite putting up more than 500 yards of offense (510), marking the fourth time this season that has happened, which is a new NFL record (the Lions did it three times in 2012).
The Giants’ once inept offense doesn’t look so inept anymore and a big reason for that is because of Saquon Barkley. The Giants rookie rushed for 142 yards and two touchdowns and even tacked on a short receiving touchdown for good measure. With Barkley running wild, that opened up things for Eli Manning, who completed 94.4 percent of his passes (17 of 18), which was the highest total of his 15-year career. The Giants defense picked off Ryan Fitzpatrick three times, but that’s not much to brag about, because everyone seems to pick off Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Houston 23-21 over Washington
The Texans defense made multiple big plays in this game and none of them were bigger than the 101-yard pick-six by Justin Reid in the second quarter. The Texans defense also had its way with the Redskins‘ depleted offensive line, racking up a combined five sacks on Alex Smith and Colt McCoy.
After watching Alex Smith go down with a devastating leg injury in the third quarter, Colt McCoy came in and almost led the Redskins to an improbable comeback. With the Redskins trailing 17-7, McCoy led two straight touchdown drives, which put Washington on top 21-20. The most impressive part of McCoy’s performance (54 passing yards and one touchdown, 35 rushing yards) that he nearly led the comeback despite the fact that he hadn’t thrown a pass in a regular season game since 2015. The problem for the Redskins is that injuries are slowly tearing apart their once promising season.
Indianapolis 38-10 over Tennessee
This game couldn’t have been any more of a disaster for the Titans. The most surprising part of this loss was the fact that Tennessee’s defense got torched for 38 points. Going into Week 11, the Titans were giving up just 18.6 points per game, which made them the top scoring defense in the NFL. Of course, things weren’t much better on offense for Tennessee. Marcus Mariota got sacked four times before getting knocked out of the game in the second half with an elbow injury. During his time on the field, Tennessee never really came close to scoring a touchdown as Mariota didn’t lead the Titans inside the Colts’ 20-yard line a single time.
It’s hard to say what was more impressive for the Colts in this game: Andrew Luck, their defense or their suddenly impenetrable offensive line. For the fifth game in a row, the Colts O-line didn’t give up a sack and Luck took advantage of that by throwing for 297 yards and three touchdowns. T.Y. Hilton also had a huge day with nine catches for 155 yards and two scores. Defensively, the Colts spent their harassing Marcus Mariota and Blaine Gabbert. The Colts picked off each quarterback once and sacked them a total of five times.
Baltimore 24-21 over Cincinnati
The Bengals defense continues to be a disaster. After giving up 500 yards in each of their past three games, they found a new way to be bad by surrendering 265 rushing yards to the Ravens. The performance marked just the second time since 1979 that Cincinnati has surrendered 265 or more yards on the ground. Overall, the Bengals surrendered 403 yards of offense and they’re still on pace to give up more yardage than any other defense in NFL history.
With Lamar Jackson starting the first game of his NFL career, the Ravens decided to stick to his strengths by having him run the ball, and then run it some more. As a matter of fact, Jackson’s 27 carries were the most of any quarterback in any game dating back to the AFL-NFL merger in 1970. Overall, Jackson ran for 117 yards, making him the first Ravens player this year to hit the 100-yard mark. The second Ravens player to hit that mark this year was Gus Edwards, who also hit the 100-yard mark against the Bengals with 115 yards on the ground. The Ravens 265-yard rushing total was their highest since 2011. Defensively, the Ravens shut down the Bengals rushing attack, holding Joe Mixon to just 14 yards on 12 carries.
Detroit 20-19 over Carolina
Every week in the NFL, there seems to be a kicker who costs his team a game, and this week, that kicker was Graham Gano. Not only did Gano miss an extra point, but he also missed a 34-yard field goal in the third quarter. Ron Rivera probably won’t admit it, but his decision to go for two after the Panthers scored with 1:07 left might have had to do with the fact that he had no faith in his kicker. Cam Newton threw for 357 yards and three touchdowns in a game where the Panthers never got going on the ground. Carolina totaled just 56 yards rushing, which is their lowest output of the season (Their previous low was 81 yards).
With Marvin Jones out due to an injury, Kenny Golladay exploded for 113 yards and a touchdown. Golladay’s 19-yard score came with just 5:13 left in the game and proved to be the game-winning touchdown for the Lions. Kerryon Johnson also had his way with the Panthers defense, averaging 5.8 yards per carry on 15 touches. In a game where specialists played a key role, punter Sam Martin came up big for the Lions by the pinning the Panthers inside their own 10-yard with three of his six punts.
Denver 23-22 over Los Angeles Chargers
Broncos running back Phillip Lindsay definitely wasn’t intimidated by the return of Joey Bosa. Even with the Chargers star back on the field, Lindsay still shredded L.A’s defense with 79 yards and two touchdowns on just 11 carries. Of course, the most clutch player in the game for Denver might have been Case Keenum. With the Broncos trailing 22-20 and just 1:51 left to play, Keenum completed five passes for 87 yards on a game-winning drive that ended with a 34-yard field goal from Brandon McManus. The Broncos defense was also impressive, sacking Philip Rivers three times and picking him off twice.
Philip Rivers had his worst performance of the season and it happened in a game where the Chargers couldn’t overcome his mistakes. For the first time all year, Rivers threw two interceptions in a game, with the biggest one coming in the third quarter. At the time, the Chargers were driving with a 19-7 lead, but the pick led to a Broncos touchdown just three plays later. The Chargers’ nightmare kicking woes also continued when Michael Badgley missed an extra point in the second half. Although it was Badgley’s first missed kick of the season, it was definitely a costly one.
Oakland 23-21 over Arizona
For the first time all season, the Raiders defense actually held an opponent under 300 yards. The Raiders held the Cardinals in check by shutting down Josh Rosen. Not only did the Raiders pick him off twice, but they limited Arizona to just 128 passing yards, marking the first time in three years that they held an opponent under 130 yards passing. The two interceptions were big because they led to 14 points for Oakland.
The Cardinals got David Johnson going, but not much else worked for them in this game. Johnson rushed for a season-high 137 yards, but that didn’t matter because the Cardinals couldn’t convert on third down (3 of 11) and they couldn’t hold on to the ball (two turnovers). Although Arizona’s defense sacked Derek Carr four times, it let the Raiders march straight down the field for a game-winning field goal in the game’s final two minutes.
New Orleans 48-7 over Philadelphia
When the Eagles go down, they go down in flames. Thanks to this game, Philadelphia now holds the record for largest loss by a defending Super Bowl champion. The Eagles got trounced on both sides of the ball. Offensively, Carson Wentz threw three interceptions and looked mostly confused anytime he was on the field. The Eagles totaled just 196 yards, which marks the first time in four years that they didn’t hit the 200-yard mark. On the other side of the ball, the Eagles got steamrolled for 546 yards.
Drew Brees has never won an MVP in his career, but that could change if he keeps playing the way he did on Sunday. Brees basically toyed with the Eagles defense in a game where he threw for 363 yards and four touchdowns. With the Eagles focusing on Michael Thomas, Brees decided to get Tre’Quan Smith involved. Smith caught 10 passes for 157 yards and a touchdown. Of course, Thomas also did some damage because he’s impossible to shut down. The Saints receiver caught four passes for 92 yards and a touchdown.
Chicago 25-20 over Minnesota
If the Vikings are paying Kirk Cousins $84 million to win big games, then they might want to ask for some of their money back after his performance on Sunday night. Cousins threw two interceptions, including a back-breaking pick-six in the fourth quarter that essentially iced the game for the Bears. Of course, Cousins didn’t have much help on offense. The Vikings kind of gave up on the run after falling behind: They finished the game with just 17 yards on 13 carries.
With first place in the NFC North on the line, the Bears dominated from start to finish. Defensively, Khalil Mack spent four quarters terrorizing the Vikings offense. During his time on the field, Mack forced a fumble, recovered a fumble and had a sack. Akiem Hicks was also dominant with one sack and five tackles for a loss. The biggest winner of the night might have been Cody Parkey, who was able to redeem himself after a four-miss performance last week. In this game, Parkey went 3-for-3 on field goals, including a 48-yarder with 2:48 left that basically iced the game for the Bears.