Next Gen Stats: Andrew Luck's big night lifts Colts

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By any reasonable measure, any possible test of worth; Andrew Luck was utterly dominant in the Colts' Monday Night Football win over the New York Jets. Showing no ill-effects of a concussion that caused him to miss their Thanksgiving night loss to the Steelers, Luck led his team to needed win.

Luck completed 23 of his 29 pass attempts and threw four touchdown passes to vault his team past the moribund Jets. The boat race was on early, as the Colts built a quick 14-point lead while running just 11 plays in their first two drives. In what felt like the blink of an eye, unless you were one of the miserable Jets fans in the stadium that the broadcast insisted on panning to at every chance, the Colts were up 34-3 on the home team heading into the final 15 minutes of the game. Andrew Luck's night was done at the dawn of the fourth quarter, a sign of a gratitude and triumph from the franchise he once again thrusted to victory.

With this win, the Colts leveled off their record to the .500 mark at the close of Week 13. Heading into the final four weeks of the NFL season, there are now three teams with a 6-6 record clawing at the top of the AFC South. The Colts swept the Tennessee Titans this year, and while they dropped their Week 6 game to the Houston Texans, they'll host the rematch this coming Sunday.

Flawed roster or not, the Indianapolis Colts are in prime positon to take home the AFC South crown come Week 17. It's a feat they have not accomplished since winning the division in back-to-back years in 2013 and 2014. In many ways, despite the ease of this victory, their defeat of the Jets tonight reminded us exactly what kind of team the Colts need to be.

In order to be a contender, they need Andrew Luck to be a dominant, game-changing All-Pro quarterback. On nights like tonight where he dials in and puts on a show, they're tough to slow down before they barrel you over.

Luck demonstrated pristine balance as a passer tonight. His 7.6 average intended air yards showed that he was able to function in the short areas of the field. Luck's passes within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage were accurate and precise. Two of his touchdowns came in the red zone, where he managed to knife the ball into tight windows for six points.

However, where Luck truly shined tonight was in his attempts to push the ball downfield. Luck posted a perfect passer rating on his throws that traveled 10 or more yards in the air tonight. While he's the sixth quarterback this season to accomplish that feat, he's also the only one of the six to also complete 100 percent of those passes.

In another demonstration of what made Luck's performance so special was his use of an ancillary player. Yes, T.Y. Hilton led the way with 146 yards of 10 targets, and Donte Moncrief chipped in with his weekly required red-zone touchdown, but it was Dwayne Allen who emerged as the surprising star of the night.

A player many have held out high hopes for since he was drafted alongside Luck in 2012, Allen is in the midst of another up-and-down, injury-marred season. He had not found the end zone since Week 5 or gone over 50 receiving yards since Week 1. Allen crushed both marks tonight, hauling in all four of his targets for 72 yards and a whopping three touchdowns.

Much of Allen's success can be attributed to his quarterback's ability to locate him in the perfect spot. Allen had an average of 5.6 yards of separation on his four targets, which was the third highest-mark among tight ends who saw three or more targets in Week 13.

Lastly, in a true display of how Luck transcends his surroundings, he had one of his best games under pressure.

Next Gen Stats' pressure metric measures how close the nearest pass rusher was to the quarterback at the time of throw or sack. Entering Week 13, the Colts protection unit allowed the nearest pass rusher to be only 2.26 yards away from Luck on pass plays, which was the worst mark in the NFL. While his line improved a bit tonight, their pressure allowed metric still checked in at 2.69 yards of distance, which was below the Week 13 average of 2.9.

Entering this game Luck had attempted 149 passes with a pass rusher less than two yards away from him at the time of throw. That was far and away was the most among starting quarterbacks, despite Luck missing a game. Kirk Cousins was the next highest with 136.

In Weeks 1-11, Luck had a 53 percent completion rate and a 76.2 passer rating on throws with a pass rusher less than two yards away from him. Tonight, he was simply masterful in the face of pressure. Luck completed six of his eight passes with a rusher less than two yards away from him for a 76 yards and a touchdown, good for a 143.8 passer rating. You can't possibly quarterback under duress any better than that.

While the Colts have positioned themselves to reclaim the top spot in the mediocre AFC South once again, this game reminded us what they'll need to get there. The Colts got a perfect Andrew Luck performance in an effort to blowout the fast-sinking 3-9 Jets. However, they'll likely need to see that same hero to emerge at their team's head in order to finish the job.

Tonight Andrew Luck picked apart the Jets short and deep, got ancillary players involved and did all of this under consistent pressure. Not many quarterbacks put the team on their back like Luck when he's at the height of his powers. The Colts will need at least a few more of those games to just get into the dance, and then multiple encores should they end up in the postseason.

Matt Harmon a writer/editor for NFL.com, and the creator of #ReceptionPerception, who you can follow on Twitter @MattHarmon_BYB or like on Facebook.

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