EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

January 7, 2014

Bring on the next Frank Reich

Country has gone overboard saluting Colts quarterback Luck

On Pro Football
Hector Longo

---- — FOXBORO – I want to admit I was wrong.

A few days ago I classified Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck as the next “Drew Bledsoe.”

My insinuation was that Luck is a fine passer, at times, at best. Just like our Bledsoe, who amassed lots and lots of yards (44,611), but not a lot of success (a record of 63-60 here in New England).

After seeing Luck and the Colts come back from 28 points down to beat the Kansas City Chiefs (38-10) – earning Indy a Saturday night date at Patriots Place in the AFC Divisional playoffs - I have to state, for the record, that I made a mistake.

Luck is not the next Bledsoe. Luck is actually the next Frank Reich.

To those of you “Generation Brady” types, Reich was the longtime Buffalo Bills backup to Jim Kelly, who once rallied his team past Warren Moon and the Houston Oilers in the AFC playoffs, after falling behind, 35-3. To this day, it is the biggest comeback (32 points) in NFL playoff history.

Saturday night’s Colt comeback was so similar, that yes, that I needed to make the correction.

How eerie was it, watching Andy Reid’s Kansas City Chiefs playing to lose, or in this case ... bleed out?

Reid sat there with a potential bandage at his disposal – his defense – and chose not use it. Instead, while staring at his huge offensive plays card as if a deer was staring at headlights, Reid allowed Luck to do what he does best -- throw the ball.

It was as if Luck was running a summer 7-on-7 drill, with no pass rush, no pressure, no pads and no problems.

Hey coach, one thought. As the guy was shredding your “prevent defense” and skips up and down the field, could you maybe try something else?

Nope. Reid’s defense stood on the ropes and absorbed a Manny Paquiao-like onslaught till the rib cage caved in.

Hey Andy, don’t feel bad. Houston’s Jack Pardee – 1-5 in the playoffs for his career – did the same thing back in January of 1993.

Somewhere, deep in his heart, Bill Belichick is at ease this week as he prepares his football team for Frank Reich’s revival.

Like Reich, Luck’s defense is limited. And Belichick chews up and spits out young quarterbacks like this for dinner. If you think Belichick plans on sitting in nickel-prevent for 30 minutes, you’re mistaken. The guy doesn’t play the same two defenses in a row, never mind using one for an entire half.

Luck, who has had a decent-at-best sophomore season in the NFL, buckles this week, badly. That’s the great news for Pats fans everywhere.

But all those NFL types who have this guy on a Hall of Fame track, please be ready to be humbled. Luck is limited. He makes too many bad decisions and throws balls up for grabs.

The difference between this coming Saturday night and last weekend is that the Patriots will undoubtedly snare those errant ball.

After the Luck and the Colts struggle, I do not want excuses about Lucl’s lack of weapons, defense or anything. Patriots quarterback Tom Brady’s most reliable target is an option quarterback from Kent State.

Colts wide receiver T.Y. Hilton looks like a 1980s version of Jerry Rice when compared to this Patriots receiving crew. And the immortal Colby Fleener, who like Luck attended Stanford University, might as well be Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez rolled into one, when measured against Michael Hoomanawanawui (nicknamed, of course, Hoo-man).

But back to Luck. Maybe, I’m way off. Perhaps, it was his performance in New England’s 59-24 stomping of this team in 2012, in which two of his interceptions were returned for touchdowns.

Saturday night, Belichick and a beleaguered Patriots defense are going to rattle the kid’s cage like it’s never been rattled before.

Somebody call the Hall of Fame. The Next Peyton Manning isn’t anything close to the last Peyton Manning. And we will see it with our own eyes on Saturday night.

You can email Hector Longo at hlongo@eagletribune.com.

All AFC teams are flawed With all the Andrew Luck talk aside, I still do feel deep in my heart that any one of the four remaining AFC entities has an equal chance to represent the conference in the Super Bowl. All four are flawed: Denver is the most talented team and the favorite. Its potential fatal flaw is its quarterback, Peyton Manning - with his 9-11 career playoff mark and his eight one-and-dones. New England has the top coach in the game, but remember, this QB is 7-7 in his last 14 postseason games. Also, the Pats have the most beaten-up roster. At some point, don't the losses of Wilfork, Mayo and the rest have to take their tolls? San Diego is arguably the hottest team in the bunch. Its defense decimated Cincinnati yesterday. Philip Rivers has the savvy and the arm, not to mention the guts. But, much like the 2006 Pats, who ran out of gas in the AFC title game at Indy, they face the formidable task of three potential road trips, covering 12,400 miles round trip in about two weeks. Finally, the Colts are the young hotshots with the gun-slinger, brash, resilient and fearing nobody. With no real run game, one threat on defense (Robert Mathis), and ex-Pat Darius Butler leading the secondary, things could unravel as quickly as they came together.