There was only one question surrounding Andrew Luck in the 2012 NFL draft: Would he go at No. 1 or No. 2?
That in mind, there was little reason for Patriots head coach Bill Belichick to do a lot of scouting on the former Stanford quarterback. Belichick knew his team wasn't taking a quarterback in the first round, and even if it did, New England's first pick came at 21 overall. So he didn't really study Luck.
But he could see why Indianapolis did.
"I think some of the things that we know about him coming out, certainly, he's a good kid, he has a big arm, can make all the throws," Belichick said. "Very athletic, good movement in the pocket, smart, handles the offense well. They do a lot of checking, changing plays, things like that, and you can see him handle the offensive team in those situations, as well as at the end of the game in tight situations where he's got to make that situational play -- he's done a good job in all of those games."
The Colts went 2-14 last year with Peyton Manning sidelined and a messy rotation of replacement quarterbacks filling in. This year the Colts are 6-3 and Luck has a lot to do with it.
Indianapolis actually has a top-5 offense in the league with 387.3 yards per game. Luck has passed for over 300 yards four times, including a 433-yard, rookie record-breaking performance. His touchdown-to-interception ratio is positive at 10-to-9.
And his team rides into Gillette Stadium Sunday on a four-game winning streak.
"Indianapolis, offensively, is doing a phenomenal job," New England's defensive coordinator Matt Patricia said Tuesday. "You can tell Andrew Luck is really grasping what they're trying to do and interim coach Bruce Arians has done a great job of getting him in the right situations. They have some excellent players around him; obviously, Reggie Wayne is one of the best receivers in the NFL."
Perhaps most impressive -- beyond the arm, the athleticism, the smarts -- is the toughness.
Wayne, a 12-year NFL veteran, has called Luck "fearless." It was after the Colts beat Miami. Actually, it was after the rookie executed a bruising fourth quarter drive that got Adam Vinatieri in field goal range to break the game's tie and beat Miami.
That day Luck went 30 for 48, threw zero picks, and completed 13 of 16 third-down passes. Miami had, at the time, the NFL's best third-down defense.
"He has progressed throughout the year and I would say he's playing at a very high level right now from an offensive standpoint," Patricia continued. "So certainly, you understand he has the title of a rookie, but we're well into the season here and he's played quite a few games in the NFL. He's done a good job of putting them in good situations to win football games."
It's harder to not notice.
Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels isn't preparing to work against Luck the way the defense is, but he understands the efforts of opposing offenses. And as someone who has seen Indianapolis several times over the years, he can certainly appreciate what Luck is doing in Manning's wake.
"I think he deserves a lot of credit because I know thats not an easy thing to do with a rookie quarterback or as a rookie quarterback in order to get in there and handle all of the different things that you see on a weekly basis in the NFL and be productive and win games," McDaniels said.
"I think the most important thing is hes really handled some tough, difficult situations in close games and played really big in those situations and helped this team to victory. So, Ive got a ton of respect for him, got a ton of respect for their whole team and this will be a great challenge for us this week."