INDIANAPOLIS — Andrew Luck has been compared to Peyton Manning since it became clear the Indianapolis Colts would select him with the No. 1 pick in April’s draft.
Through every question about his well-chronicled predecessor, Luck has smiled and talked about his admiration for the NFL’s only four-time MVP. He’s also said, on more than one occasion, that it would be an honor to be mentioned in the same sentence as Manning.
How about this sentence? With three games remaining in the regular season, Andrew Luck has more passing yards as a rookie (3.792) than Peyton Manning had in 1998 (3,739).
In fact, Luck needs 259 yards to surpass Cam Newton’s all-time rookie passing record.
Luck has shied away from such talk all year. So I knew his likely answer when I asked him about passing Manning after Sunday’s 27-23 win against the Tennessee Titans.
“I’m glad we got the win,” Luck said. “Again, I don’t think I deserve to look back doing anything. It would be dishonest to my teammates, and I have to keep focus. I guess it’s good to get records. Good records, not interception records.”
That last bit was added almost as an aside, an example of the self-deprecation that has marked every one of the rookie’s meetings with the media.
It’s also an example, however, of what sets this Colts team apart.
You know it’s a special season when a game in which a team rallies from a 13-point halftime deficit and the quarterback takes a gaudy franchise record away from a bona fide icon barely moves the needle.
The absurd has become expected in Indianapolis this fall. With their ninth win Sunday, the Colts clinched a winning season just one year after finishing 2-14. They’re also the first team in the Super Bowl era to have a winning season with a rookie quarterback selected No. 1 overall.
And that quarterback deserves his share of the credit. He set a rookie record with his sixth game-winning drive and tied another with his fourth fourth-quarter comeback against the Titans.
But the beauty of this team is that nobody cares who gets the credit. Cassius Vaughn’s interception return for a touchdown gave Indianapolis its first lead in the third quarter Sunday. In the postgame locker room, he made certain to thank his defensive line for putting pressure on Titans quarterback Jake Locker and free safety Antoine Bethea for having his back and allowing him to jump the curl route.
Luck, meanwhile, said the defense deserves more than half the credit for the Colts’ current three-game winning streak.
When I asked wide receiver Donnie Avery last week why this team has such a knack for winning close games (it’s 8-1 in contests decided by one score or less), his answer was simple and telling.
“We don’t have any selfish players,” he said. “Everybody works for each other.”
All that work is adding up to the NFL’s story of the year.
George Bremer is a columnist for The Herald Bulletin in Anderson, Ind.