"His presence is felt every day in the facility," quarterback Andrew Luck said. "But to see him in the flesh, in the locker room, to hear him speak I think gave all the guys a boost."
Ailing head coach Chuck Pagano inspired. Andrew Luck delivered.
The Dolphins came into the Sunday's game with the NFL's best third down defense, but against the overall No.1 pick, they stood no chance.
Andrew Luck led the Colts to their third straight victory, beating the Dolphins 23-20. He surpassed Cam Newton's rookie-record with 433 yards to go with two touchdowns. He also tied a mark for being the second rookie to throw for 300 yards in four games that was set by, guess who? Peyton Manning.
After being diagnosed with leukemia on Sept. 26th, Pagano returned to Lucas Oil Stadium on Sunday, not as a sideline guru, but as a spectator. However, that didn't hinder Pagano from delivering emotional pre and post game speeches to his boys.
"I mentioned before the game that you guys were living in a vision and you weren't living in circumstances," Pagano said Sunday, after the victory. "You know where they had us in the beginning, every last one of them. But you refused to live in circumstances, and you decided consciously as a team and as a family to live in a vision. That's why you're already champions and well on your way."
Who saw any of this coming? After a dismal Peyton Manning-less season last year, the Colts were thought to be a serious work-in-progress as they turned the reigns over to Luck. Eight games into the season, the Colts have already won more than twice as many games this season as they did in all of last season. Now a serious contender for an AFC playoff berth, the combination of Pagano's inspiration and Luck's vast improvement from week to week continue to prove that Indy is the real deal.
The kid looks like a four or five year vet out there. He completed 13 of 16 on third down against the best third down team in the league.
No rookie is supposed to look that good on third down. Actually, one snapshot of Luck's greatness came on the last third down of the game.
Tied at 20, the Colts needed to get into kicker Adam Vinatieri's range as they sat at Miami's 45 yard-line. The next play looked disastrous from the start as Dolphins defensive standout Cameron Wake got his hands around Luck and proceeded to drag him to the turf until he miraculously threw a spiral to veteran receiver Reggie Wayne while crashing down to the turf with Wake in tow. That play ultimately led to a game-winning 43-yard field goal.
"His eyes are always downfield," said interim coach Bruce Arians. "He knows where his guys are, so if they're draped on him, he's strong enough and accurate enough to still get it to them. A couple of those were big-time plays near the end there."
Luck clearly has all of the tools to be one of the game's greats. Intelligence. Strength. A rocket arm. Pocket poise. Footwork. But most importantly, Reggie Wayne reminded us that Luck is "Fearless."
The Colts move to 5-3 while the Dolphins fall to a record of 4-4.
Zachary Hutton is the lead boxing writer and an NFL contributor for CraveOnline Sports. You can see what he's up to at his band's website myunclethewolf.com or also subscribe at Facebook.com/CraveOnlineSports.
Photo Credit: MSA/Icon SMI