Another week of football, another impressive showing by either Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III. Big time, veteran-like play is becoming the norm for the league's prodigal duo from the 2012 NFL Draft. Luck and RGIII experienced different extremes in Week 5.
Luck led a last-minute scoring drive that ended with a Reggie Wayne touchdown to beat the visiting Green Bay Packers. This happened days after the Colts learned their head coach would miss most, if not all, of the season with a treatable form of leukemia. Beating the Packers in dramatic fashion makes a nice emotional crescendo to the Colts' week.
RGIII got a taste of the underside of life in the NFL. On his first scramble of a 24-17 loss to the Atlanta Falcons, Griffin got a hip to the head, on a perfectly legal hit from linebacker Sean Weatherspoon. He suffered a concussion.
Nothing lucky about it
The first half of the Colts' game had a familiar, expected look to it. The Packers sacked Luck four times in the first two quarters and took a 21-3 lead into the locker room at the half.
Indianapolis came out looking like a different team, one with a defense and capable pass protectors. All three of their third quarter possessions resulted in points, including a passing touchdown from Luck to tight end Dwayne Allen and a rushing touchdown from the quarterback himself.
Fast forward to the end of the fourth quarter, the two-minute warning. Indianapolis has a third-and-12 at the Green Bay 47-yard line. The blitz is on, with half a dozen green and white uniforms locked in on the quarterback. Clay Matthews engages. He has Luck in his clutches, but Luck isn't going down so easily. He takes a risk that would have ended the play for lesser quarterbacks, lowering the ball and moving to fire it off to Wayne 15 yards beyond the line of scrimmage.
He eludes Matthews for a moment and makes the throw.
Wayne does the only thing he can do. With Charles Woodson shadowing his every move, he makes a cut that gives him just enough room.
He makes the catch.
Luck uses his feet to pick up another seven yards on the Colts' next third down. It gives them a new set of downs at the four-yard line. He only needs one play.
It's back to Wayne on first-and-goal, and Luck hits him with a laser at about the two-yard line. Wayne is tackled, but in the process of going down, he extends himself, putting the ball through the plane of the goal line before his knee hits the turf. Touchdown.
You can go back through the Xs and Os of it, diagram the play and talk about the scheme fill-in head coach Bruce Arians used here. None of that matters. This drive succeeded on pure grit, from Luck's pass that shouldn't have happened to Wayne's dialing up the strength to get the ball right where it needed to be.
Related: NFL Debrief, Week 5
RGIII and growing pains
The Redskins' quarterback had his game-winning drive last week. He led his team into field goal range, stepping over his teammates' mistakes to put them in field goal range as the clock expired. In Week 5, Griffin didn't even get to finish the game, taken away to the locker room with what coaches called a "mild" concussion.
There are no degrees when it comes to a concussion.
With his play collapsed, he took it down the right side of the field. There, he had a surprise meeting with Weatherspoon's hip.
As sensational as RGIII has been, the hit and the injury raises the expected questions about his style of play. Griffin himself has been very clear that sacrificing his body for the sake of the team is merely an afterthought. The problem with that kind of thinking is that it risks leaving his team in a tough spot: stranded without their quarterback.
There's an easy temptation here to frame RGIII's injury on his style of play, the Michael Vick comparison. I think that's intellectually lazy. Cincinnati sacked him five times last week, and any week's injury report in the NFL includes a pocket passer or two. What's the point of drafting a player like RGIII if his team takes away some of his best plays?
Teams are looking to their rookies for big contributions, especially quarterbacks. Never has that been more obvious than this season. Mike Shanahan has to manage his young super star, educating him on when risks are acceptable and when they are not and the subtleties of NFL decision-making.
Rookie QB power rankings
1. Andrew Luck, Indianapolis - Well, this is kind of obvious, isn't it?
2. Ryan Tannehill, Miami - The Dolphins look like the second-best team in the AFC East these days. Tannehill finished the day 17-for-26 with 223 yards, no touchdowns and no interceptions. It's not a sexy line, but he kept the ball moving and has his team competing.
3. Brandon Weeden, Cleveland - Weeden helped give the Browns a 14-0 lead ... only to watch his team piss it away immediately thereafter. His 62-yard touchdown pass to Josh Gordon was fantastic, but his late interceptions left some scratching their heads.
4. RGIII, Washington - There wasn't much to grade about RGIII's performance prior to his third quarter injury. He was managing the game with a 10-for-15 line and 91 yards. No wonder he was desperate to move around a little.
5. Russell Wilson, Seattle - Is the era of good feelings over in Seattle? Do short people finally have reason to cry? The Panthers defense has been a wonderful elixir for quarterbacks. Wilson threw a season high 221 yards, completing 19-of-25 passes and throwing a touchdown. He also threw two picks.
6. Kirk Cousins, Washington - The Kirk Cousins era started out nicely with a deep touchdown to Santana Moss. Then came a pair of interceptions. Playing behind Washington line is a risky proposition in and of itself.