Andrew Luck apologized.
At halftime of what would be a 41-17 blowout of the Tennessee Titans Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium, the quarterback told his Indianapolis Colts teammates he was sorry for his “terrible” interception late in the second quarter.
That’s Luck. It doesn’t matter if he’s off to the best start of his three-year NFL career. He doesn’t even know how many touchdown passes he’s thrown in four games — a league-leading 13 — nor does he care.
It’s about winning and not letting his teammates down. That’s why the Colts so deeply admire No. 12.
Luck threw three of his four TD passes in the second half as the Colts pulled away from a 10-point halftime lead to demolish the visiting Titans, whose No. 2-ranked pass defense surrendered 393 yards to the apologetic quarterback.
“He’s constantly apologizing on the sidelines,” said Colts left offensive tackle Anthony Castonzo. “It’s like, ’Dude, relax. You’re alright. Nobody is holding it against you.’”
Castonzo loved what his quarterback did after throwing the football directly to linebacker Wesley Woodyard in the final minute of the first half. Luck sprinted in to help make the tackle. He’s known for doing that, and has said if he’s responsible for the mistake, he needs to be the first guy down the field to try to tackle the interceptor.
“He gets upset,” Castonzo said, smiling. “He’ll take the blame himself when he doesn’t need to more than he’ll put the blame on other people, which is a great teammate.
He’s also a uniquely talented teammate who has tied his career best with four TD passes in back-to-back weeks. He’s also spread the ball around to nine different pass catchers in each of the last two weeks. As a result, the Colts have dominated AFC South Division foes Jacksonville and Tennessee by a combined 85-34. It’s the first time they’ve scored 40-plus points in back-to-back games since the Peyton Manning era in 2004.
The Colts have scored 136 points. By day’s end, that could lead the league.
But on an afternoon when Luck completed 29-of-41 passes and with four TD throws to different targets, he will tell you the only statistic of any value is the win-loss record, which shows the Colts at 2-2.
“We’re all doing it for each other,” said defensive end Cory Redding, who had a sack for a defense that had three of them as well as three turnovers. “Yeah, we know he’s going to run up the record books, but it ain’t about that. It’s about wins.”
Luck’s interception in his own end gave the Titans a chance to seize some short-lived hope as they scored a touchdown 28 seconds later, with just 13 seconds remaining before halftime, to reduce the deficit to 20-10. Luck called it, “a terrible throw, a terrible decision by me, especially in a two-minute (offense), backed up with the lead like that.”
“That’s the kind of guy he is,” Redding said. “That’s why we love him so much. He’s such a competitor. Out of all the stats he did today, he’s more upset about that INT because you want to be great, man. It’s about greatness. That’s awesome.”
True to form, Luck never gives himself credit and praises teammates. He was glad Reggie Wayne, in his 200th career game for the Colts, caught a 28-yard scoring pass. He gushed about punter/kickoff specialist Pat McAfee for a successful onside kick after the Colts had taken a 7-0 lead in the first quarter. He actually called McAfee “a stud.” What quarterback says that about a punter?
Asked if he cared about how many TD passes he’s thrown, Luck said, “I do not.”
What makes life grand as the Colts feast on AFC South foes is how Luck can use so many weapons when he surveys the field to throw. Eight of the nine pass catchers had at least two receptions. Wayne, running back Ahmad Bradshaw and tight ends Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener reached the end zone.
“Great group, top to bottom,” Luck said. “I think you can stack them up versus any team in the league and I’m confident that our guys are very, very good.”
Backup quarterback Matt Hasselbeck has been in the NFL 16 seasons, the last two with Luck. He couldn’t resist cracking a joke about his friend.
“Maybe he got a concussion and he needs to sit out practice this week,” Hasselbeck said with a smile. “I’m kidding.
“He’s just trying to score. He doesn’t care (about his stats). I think it’s true about our team, too, like our receivers aren’t all caught up with who got touchdowns and who didn’t. You need to be unselfish to be successful.”
Hasselbeck said every player in the Colts locker room is good about being his own worst critic, especially Luck.
“He kind of apologized to everybody and said, ‘Hey, we’ll get it back,’” Hasselbeck said of the halftime apology. “No one lost faith in him. No one ever does. He’s still a young quarterback who’s playing great football as he’s learning to be one of the best in the game.”Phillip B. Wilson can be found on Twitter (@pwilson24), Facebook and Google+.