Pulling off a perfect play-action is a lost art form in the NFL, but if you have a player at the quarterback position that can pull it off, it makes it a valuable weapon for a team when they pull it off.
Luckily for the Colts, they have a player that has gotten nothing but better at pulling off the play-action the past few seasons, that being Andrew Luck.
The veteran QB is mentioned in an article by Sports Illustrated – The NFL’s Hidden Talents: Best play-action quarterbacks.
It’s not exactly a news flash that Andrew Luck does a lot of things really, really well on the field, but more should be said about his ability to beat defenses with play-action. It’s something he excelled at while he worked under Jim Harbaugh and David Shaw at Stanford, and when former Stanford offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton replaced Bruce Arians as Indy’s coordinator in 2013, it made sense that Luck’s play-action game would thrive. When Hamilton started working with Luck in 2011, Luck’s rate of snaps using play-action flew up to 28% from 22% the year before. His touchdowns off play-action doubled from eight to 16.
Luck ran play-action on 16.8% of his passing attempts in his rookie season of 2012 under Arians, with six touchdowns and two interceptions. That kicked up to 19.5% in 2013, with four touchdowns and no interceptions. But last season, Hamilton took off the training wheels, and Luck became by far the league’s best play-action quarterback. Including the postseason, Luck threw from play-action on 20.8% of his passing attempts (Alex Smith led the league at 31%, for context), with 13 touchdowns and one interception. Compare those totals to his 30 touchdowns and 19 picks on all other plays.
And given the sub-optimal nature of the Indianapolis run game in 2014, Luck proved what coaches already know: You don’t need a dominant ground game to put a defense on edge with play-action. Just the threat of the run is enough, even if that’s all you have.
This 73-yard touchdown to T.Y. Hilton in Week 12 against the Jaguars was a direct result of a play-fake to Trent Richardson, perhaps the least effective running back in the NFL. Still, Jags cornerback Dwayne Gratz was caught looking for a brief moment, and that’s all it took for Hilton to blow by him. When you have single-coverage responsibility on a guy with Hilton’s ability to accelerate, it’s best to focus on what’s in front of you.
It’s a solid article that talks in-depth about the lost art in the league, and while Luck is on the list for his ability to produce magic, fellow QB’s that make the list include: Philip Rivers of the Chargers, Russell Wilson of the Seahawks and Eli Manning of the NY Giants.