A 29-23 victory over the lowly Chicago Bears in Week 5 may have kept the Indianapolis Colts afloat another week at 2-3. However, all's not well in Indy.
Though Andrew Luck had an impressive stat line against the Bears -- 28 of 39 for 322 yards and two touchdowns -- he was also sacked five times, adding to his now NFL-leading sack total of 20. He's also been hit an additional 40 times.
Protection has been a big issue for Luck during his five seasons in the NFL, during which he's been sacked 135 times. There's a lot of blame to go around, much of which centers on the inability of general manager Ryan Grigson to staff the Colts roster with more talented players. Last week, Grigson placed the blame on Luck's contract for limiting the team in its ability to spend money.
Last week, former star receiver Reggie Wayne criticized the front office and the state of the Colts, a hefty enough condemnation that Grigson and head coach Chuck Pagano had to emphasize that they're "100 percent on the same page". Unfortunately, both are likely out if the Colts can't right the ship.
To his credit, Luck isn't shy about accepting the blame.
"I don't think the sacks are necessarily indicative of how well our offensive line is playing," Luck said this week. "You can probably blame me for holding the ball too long. It is that clock developing in the game. Maybe the clock is a little different for each play, but yeah you do develop a clock."
And he's not wrong. According to ESPN, Luck has an average release time of 2.81 seconds on his throws, which is below the NFL average of 2.48 seconds. And that's slower than where Luck was in 2014, when he was averaging 2.68 seconds, though he led the league with 20 touchdowns on passes that took longer than the league average to throw.
The receiving corps has remained a constant over that period (aside from losing tight end Coby Fleener, who wasn't a significant enough of a target to really account for that difference). That means the issue is a combination of Luck and the offensive line.
One example Luck and offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski could look toward is Ben Roethlisberger and Todd Haley in Pittsburgh. Prior to Haley's arrival in 2012, Roethlisberger was notorious for holding onto the ball for long periods and trying to extend the play for making a throw. Though Big Ben still welcomes contact more than some passers because of his size and scrambling ability, Roethlisberger's release time has improved, along with the Steelers offensive line. So far this season, Roethlisberger has only been sacked nine times, with four coming in the loss to the Eagles.
Unfortunately, mechanical issues and improving the offensive line play aren't overnight tasks, so in the meantime Chudzinski will have to focus on short-developing plays that get the ball out of Luck's hands quickly. Luck has already taken more sacks than the 15 he took in seven games last year before he was shut down due to injury.
If the Colts' outlook looks dire now, try playing out another season without their franchise quarterback.