This was the season of Andrew Luck. This was to be the year that the Indianapolis Colts marched to the Super Bowl under their incumbent quarterback. Instead the Colts were forced to start a 40-year-old quarterback who was in the hospital for a bacterial infection. Matt Hasselbeck has started the last two games for the Colts, despite being ill.
The Colts are getting better results from Hasselbeck than Luck. With victories over the Texans and the Jaguars, Hasselbeck’s play at quarterback has been nothing less than stellar. In the two wins, Matt has completed 48 of 76 passes for 495 yards and three touchdowns. His passer rating is a more than acceptable 95.0 percent. The Colts quarterback is completing his passes at a 60 percent clip.
On the other hand, Andrew Luck hasn’t been so lucky. In his starts for the Colts, the quarterback has completed 65 of 116 passes for 753 yards. The yardage looks impressive, but he has thrown seven interceptions. Luck is also 1-2 in those starts. The Colts have started Hasselbeck and received better results. So far, Luck’s understudy has won both his starts, has a better passer rating (95.0 to 65.1), and better touchdown to interception ratio.
The Colts’ offense is getting better under Hasselbeck. That could be because Luck played against teams with a tougher defense. Luck’s games were against the Buffalo Bills, New York Jets, and Tennessee Titans. Hasselbeck had the pleasure of giving the Colts victories over the Texans and Jacksonville Jaguars. There’s no quarterback controversy, but there is room for improvement in Luck’s play.
According to the IndyStar, the Colts’ offense is more productive under Hasselbeck. He knows his limitations and won’t take a big risk, if a play isn’t available. He’s been in the league 17 years. He’s a thinker who will take what the defense is giving him. If that means it takes two five-yard passes instead of one 10-yard pass for a first down, Hasselbeck will take it.
Luck is a gunslinger who will take chances. But behind the Colts’ mediocre offensive line there isn’t much time for decision-making. Having no time has caused Luck to chuck the ball downfield, rather than have the luxury of checking down to tight ends and backs. Having no time to throw has helped Luck achieve the 65.1 passer rating. That mark is the worst of his career with the Colts.
Meanwhile, the Colts’ offensive production under Hasselbeck has steadily gotten better. After filling in for Luck and rallying the Colts over the Jaguars, the team looks balanced. The play calls determined by a thinking quarterback have been game winners. Hasselbeck’s low-key style matches the blocking ability of the Colts’ line. His ability to look strong in the pocket and utilize the weapons around him has made the team better.
That doesn’t mean Hasselbeck should start the rest of the year. But it does mean that the Colts offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton should consider the reasons for the offense being more productive. Two games aren’t enough to make a big difference. But in a league that demands instant results, the Colts need to pay better attention to what their backup quarterback is doing.
The defense isn’t as sharp. The Colts secondary got burned at the end of the first half. Hoyer threw a 42-yard Hail Mary against a 3-8 Colts defense for a touchdown. The Texans threw for 362 yards. Those are things which must be addressed, before the Colts can claim the division championship.
Luck is expected to return soon. The Colts play a huge game against the New England Patriots next Sunday. But if Hasselbeck continues to improve and bring the team along with him, there’s no reason to rush him back.
[Photos by John Grieshop, Ronald Martinez, John Levy / Getty Images]