New England quarterback Tom Brady this week praised nearly everything about Indianapolis quarterback Andrew Luck.
On Thursday, Pats defenders said they also admire the guy they’re hoping to stop.
“He’s a leader, he’s everything you want in a football player, and especially to be a quarterback,” nose tackle Vince Wilfork said ahead of Sunday night’s showdown between the two first-place teams. “He’s a complete quarterback. He’s going to be a great one at this level.”
Actually, Luck’s already arrived.
Luck leads the league with 3,085 yards passing and has thrown 26 touchdowns, second only to Denver’s Peyton Manning, his predecessor in Indianapolis (6-3).
So it could be fitting that the Patriots’ 14th-ranked passing defense will try to slow down one of the hottest quarterbacks in the league only two weeks after containing the other, holding Manning to a season low two touchdown passes in a 41-23 thrashing of the Broncos.
Patriots linebacker Dont’a Hightower said Manning and Luck are both smart.
“I’m not saying he’s as smart as Peyton, but he doesn’t make a lot of mistakes,” Hightower said. “He’s definitely developing to be one of the better quarterbacks in the league.”
Fresh off a bye week, New England (7-2) knows exactly how difficult it will be to limit an explosive Colts offense that leads the league in yards per game (451.2) and passing plays of 20 yards or more (48).
It all starts with Luck, who set a franchise record last week with his seventh straight 300-yard game. Not even Manning has done that.
But it’s not always Luck’s arm doing the damage.
He may have only 129 yards rushing on the season, ranking near the middle of the pack for quarterbacks running the ball, but Luck’s legs are responsible for keeping plays alive, allowing him to escape the pocket and afford his receivers time to find open space.
“I think people don’t realize, he hurts you with his legs. He extends plays and receivers are getting open when he extends plays,” said Patriots Pro Bowl cornerback Darrelle Revis. “That’s one of the things that I think’s hidden, that people don’t understand in his game, is he scrambles and extends plays.”
Having a pair of talented receivers in T.Y. Hilton and Reggie Wayne, and two big tight ends in Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener probably provides Luck with plenty of comfort as he heaves the ball downfield.
“He’s very accurate down the field and he’s got some great guys to throw the ball to,” Hightower said.
While he already has surpassed his touchdown total from his first two seasons (23), Luck also has tossed nine interceptions in nine games this year, as many as he threw all of last season.