Andrew Luck was sacked five times on Sunday by the Jacksonville Jaguars defense. That would be a reason to panic for any other team in the NFL but the Indianapolis Colts. Seeing a quarterback run for his life becomes a normal occurrence when a team has the worst offensive line in the league.
Black and green jerseys swarmed Luck on every play like flies at a barbeque. The fact that he still managed to throw 234 passing yards and two touchdowns with only one interception was nothing short of amazing. A normal quarterback would have folded under the circumstances, but Luck stood valiantly in the fire and gave his team a chance to win the game. Another dropped pass from tight end Dwayne Allen sealed the teamâ€™s fate late in the fourth quarter.
One lasting image from the game is Jaguars rookie defensive end Yannick Ngakoue blowing past the offensive line and landing a hit so hard that he actually dislodged the helmet from Luckâ€™s head. It was a perfect summary of the entire game. The offensive line play was anemic against a defense that had yet to find its stride.
â€śIâ€™ve seen greater resistance in water,â€ť CBS NFL analyst Bart Scott said, when talking about the Colts offensive line.
The team played without starting right guard Denzelle Good and right tackle Joe Reitz. Three rookiesâ€”Center Ryan Kelly, right tackle Joe Haeg and right guard Austin Blytheâ€”lined up along the offensive front on Sunday, and the Jaguarsâ€™ defensive unit took full advantage. They were bigger, stronger and faster.
The Colts were held to only 92 yards of total offense in the first half.
Running back Frank Gore quietly moved into 10th place on the NFLâ€™s all-time rushing list after another decent outing. If Luck is given a pass behind a makeshift offensive line, then a 33-year-old running back certainly deserves one as well. Gore ran for 68 yards and one touchdown, which is as good as it gets for a team that has gone 53-consecutive games without a 100-yard rusher.
â€śItâ€™s not a matter of effort. Our guys played their tails off,â€ť Colts head coach Chuck Pagano said after the game. â€śWeâ€™ve got some young guys out there that are learning on the run, but you canâ€™t have the penalties that we had, you canâ€™t extend drives because of that. Youâ€™ve got to make plays. When itâ€™s your turn to make a play, youâ€™ve got to make plays to extend drives. We gave ourselves another opportunity to pull it out, but we canâ€™t live and play football like this.â€ť
The Coltsâ€™ offensive line is currently ranked dead last so far this season. The unit has given up more quarterback sacks and hits than any other team in the league. Luck, who is already playing with a sore shoulder, is in for a long season if things donâ€™t improve.
Good and Reitz were both out with back injuries, but they are expected to be back at some point. That should at least alleviate some of the stress on the offensive front. The continued growth and development of Kelly is also something to watch. Indyâ€™s coaching staff has been considerably high on the first round draft pick out of Alabama throughout training camp. He has obviously struggled at times, but there is still reason to be optimistic.
In any case, all of the negativity surrounding Luckâ€™s $140 million contract seems a bit unwarranted at this point. He has been sacked 15 times in four games. Any elite quarterback that is subjected to that kind of beating deserves to be paid in full.