The second time around is usually easier if you are a rookie quarterback in the National Football League, especially when you are facing a team for the second time in a season.
In his initial meeting with the Tennessee Titans on Oct. 28, Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck completed 26-of-38 passes for 297 yards with a touchdown and an interception. The Colts rallied for a 19-13 overtime victory at Nashville's LP Field.
A slightly more experienced Luck will see the Titans again Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium.
“It’s always easier when you have yourself to evaluate. You’ve played a team and you see yourself and your own offense out there watching them,” interim coach/offensive coordinator Bruce Arians said this week.
“The game should slow down, especially third down and red zone, the two most difficult areas. You’ve seen what they do, they haven’t changed that much. You should be able to perform better the second time you play them.”
Luck was informed of his coach's comments.
“I think it’s different [facing a team for a second time]. It’s interesting,” he said. “You go back and watch the game before, see okay, they really beat us up in this area or maybe we had a little success here. Hopefully we’ll correct the mistakes we made last time and get better.”
That proved to be the case earlier this season when the Colts played Jacksonville. In his first go-around with the Jaguars, Luck connected on 22-of-46 passes for 313 yards, two touchdowns and an interception in a 22-17 loss at home on Sept. 23.
Seven weeks later, on Oct. 8, he completed 18-of-26 passes for 227 yards with no touchdowns and an interception in a 27-10 win.
Arians and Luck hope for continued success on Sunday. A sweep of the Titans would help Indianapolis in its continued quest to earn of the AFC's two wild-card playoff berths.
The win at Tennessee went a long way in helping to establish the Colts' confidence at a key point in the season.
“It was a huge, huge step for our football team confidence-wise to finally win on the road [against Tennessee]. To win in overtime and take the drive down for a touchdown with that young offense and to run the ball and be able to run the ball down there in that phase of the game,” the Indianapolis assistant said.
“That was a huge boost to our football team and it was a nice little springboard to string some wins together.”
• Same route as Manning — Arians said this week that he sees Luck going through much of the same kind of game-by-game maturation process that Peyton Manning did as a rookie.
“Oh there was no doubt. There were so many interceptions the first time through[ [the AFC East for Manning] and then very few the second time through,” he explained.
“I think he got his first two-minute drive winner against the [New York] Jets the second time around, if I recall correctly. Those phases of the game, those situational football phases should be easier for [Luck] the second time through the division.”
• Not replacing a legend — If there's been one constant theme that the Colts management and coaching staff have been trying to tell Luck, it's that he doesn't have to worry or concern himself with comparisons to the four-time NFL Most Valuable Player.
“No, I don’t think he’s trying to. I think he’s just trying to be the best quarterback he can be every day and be himself and that’s plenty good enough,” Arians said. “We talked about it way back in the early stages [of spring workouts and training camp].
“[Luck is] so well grounded and mature that he knows you earn those things, you don’t replace people. You just be yourself and all that stuff will take care of itself in time. Just don’t try to do too much.”
• Much to play for — With an 8-4 record and a chance of earn the fifth or sixth seeds for the AFC playoffs, the Colts have four games remaining in the regular season to accomplish their goals.
“That’s the fun part because if you stick with the process, you can reach them. If you start looking at the final goal, you’ll probably get beat. You’ve got to, like I say every week [and] it gets boring,[but] you’ve got to respect the process,” Arians said.
“As long as we continue on that path weekly, we’ll play well on Sunday and have a chance to win and come back and do it again and then add them all up at the end.”
• Injury list — Sitting out of practice Thursday were safety Tom Zbikowski (knee), running back Donald Brown (ankle), offensive guard Joe Reitz (head), and safety Antoine Bethea (neck). Offensive tackle Winston Justice (head) saw limited work.
Defensive end Cory Redding (amkle) and Luck (knee) each fully participated in the practice. Outside linebackers Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis each had the day off to rest up.