FOXBOROUGH, Mass. - His comebacks have been a thing of beauty.
Youth and inexperience haven't hindered him in big-game moments -- at least so far. And in the face of apparently insurmountable odds, he repeatedly has found a way to lead his team from the brink of possible defeat.
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"He's obviously off to a great start in his career," New England quarterback Tom Brady said.
In only two seasons, Andrew Luck has proved he is a star on the rise. And just last week, he pulled off the improbable by leading the Colts to victory after falling behind by 28 points -- the second-biggest comeback in NFL playoff history.
Saturday night's AFC divisional-round game between the Patriots and Colts featured two of the league's best quarterbacks, and in some ways, it was age (Brady) vs. inexperience (Luck).
"He has definitely set the standard for success at the quarterback position," Luck said of Brady on a conference call. "The way he handles himself, watching from afar, the competitive nature and basically all the right things he does. Yeah, I guess he is a barometer and he is the standard."
Told that Luck said he grew up watching him and Peyton Manning play, Brady couldn't help but laugh. "Well, I still feel like I'm a young guy,'' he said. "I've been around for a few years and I got to watch Andrew play when he was at Stanford; I grew up out there. So I've always been a fan of his. He's really come into the NFL and done everything you could ask for out of a young quarterback."
Down three against Oakland in Week 1, Luck led the Colts on a game-winning 11-play, 80-yard drive. A few weeks later, Luck and the Colts scored 11 unanswered fourth-quarter points in a 34-28 win over Seattle. In Week 9, they came back from a 12-point deficit against the Texans. Then, of course, there was last week's 45-44 wild-card win over Andy Reid's Chiefs.
"He's able to compartmentalize," Colts coach Chuck Pagano said of Luck. "If it's a pick he's thrown or whatever, he does a great job of putting that behind him. He figures out where he made the mistake, and he's got recall. He's got probably what Tom has and what Peyton has and all the great ones have: the ability to identify things, put things behind him and move on."
And regardless of the outcome Saturday night, the Colts know their future is bright with Luck. And so does everyone else.
"[He's] a really complete player," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. "Great long-ball thrower. Very accurate. Has a good touch on short, intermediate passes. Reads defenses well. Does a good job checking plays at the line of scrimmage and making some of those adjustments. Active in the pocket. Hard guy to tackle. Hard guy to bring down. Good feet. Can scramble and run. Can scramble and buy time to throw. Has good vision down the field. Makes good decisions. There's not really any weaknesses to his game."
But unlike Brady, Luck still is a work in progress. He completed 29 of 45 passes for 443 yards against the Chiefs, the second-highest yardage total in franchise history for a playoff game. But he also matched his career high with three interceptions.
Brady, meanwhile, is the epitome of consistency. Despite myriad injuries, Brady and Belichick have managed to keep New England on the winning track.
"Well, it's really one week at a time, and right now, it's just trying to get ready to beat Indianapolis. It's not anything more than that," Belichick said matter-of-factly. "When it's over, [we] close the book on it and move on to the next team."
Of course, it's far easier to "move on" when Brady is behind center.
"My motivation is pretty simple," Brady said. "To be a professional athlete and to play at this high level with this level of competition, winning is the only thing that's important. That's one goal and one objective that I've had for a very long time."