Andrew Luck, the prince who replaced the king, takes center stage this weekend after staging one of the NFL's greatest playoff history. Before taking on the New England Patriots, he took a few minutes to hang with the Media Guy.MEDIA GUY: What do you think about this Patriots defense and what can you take from last year’s game and your experience, or is that all by the boards at this point?
ANDREW LUCK: I think obviously the game has no bearing on this year, but I do think there is merit in going back and watching it and seeing certain things. I think it’s a great way to re-familiarize yourself with what Coach [Bill] Belichick does, but we put way more stock in the film from this year and what they’ve done. It’s a phenomenal defense – they get after the quarterback and have studs all around.
MG: What are some of the things that stand out from last year’s game?
AL: Yeah, you know I thought it was one tough, tough defense. I don’t want to dwell too much on last year. They do a great job of forcing turnovers, getting to the quarterback. We know it’s going to be a dogfight.
MG: Schemes don’t necessarily change too much with teams from year to year. Do you think that you are more mentally prepared to handle the scheme of the Patriots this year than you were last year?
AL: Yeah, I think so. I think I’ve improved. I am nowhere near perfect, but I think I’ve improved. They do such a great job of disguising and making everything look the same and then lo and behold it was different and, shoot, you did something stupid. So, I do feel like I’m better equipped to handle this.
MG: I know it’s not really about you versus Tom Brady this weekend, but as a young quarterback in his second season, is it tough not to use the accomplishments and the arc of Brady’s career as something to strive towards?
AL: He has definitely set the standard for success at the quarterback position. The way he handles himself, watching from afar, the competitive nature and basically all the right things he does. Yeah, I guess he is a barometer and he is the standard.
MG: Have you sat down with Deion Branch yet and picked his brain?
AL: It’s been a quick morning. I definitely will pick his brain. He is going to be a great addition to our team, but I haven’t had a chance to sit down. We’ve been rolling in and out of meetings.
MG: Have you worked out with him at all?
AL: I haven’t yet.
MG: Speed and athleticism is great, but can you talk about the growth of T.Y. Hilton as a wide receiver versus an athlete?
AL: Yeah, I mean phenomenal. I think everyone knows he’s a great athlete. It’s awesome to see him do so well this year because he’s worked at his craft so hard through the offseason through last year and this year. He’s always in Reggie [Wayne]’s ear about how to get open, what tricks of the trade to use. So, he’s a special football player, he works every day to get better and deserves all the success he gets.
MG: I think you’re 14-2 in games decided by seven points of loss, and the vast majority of those games have been fourth quarter comebacks. What would you attribute the success to in those close contests?
AL: I think of it as more of a team statistic. Ever since I’ve been a part of this team guys have played hard for 60 minutes. I know in most of those games the defense has made an unbelievable stop or forced a turnover or the special teams makes a huge play or [kicker Adam Vinatieri] Vinny kicks a huge field goal to win it or you get a big momentum changing special teams play and offensively we manage to put some decent drives together. I think Coach [Chuck] Pagano and the attitude he sets is to play hard for 60 minutes and overtime if necessary, and we all buy into that.
MG: I know you enjoyed the victory last weekend, but how quickly did the conversation turn to, ‘Hey, we can’t keep falling behind like this in games?’
AL: We understand we can’t survive our mistakes forever, especially against a good, quality playoff football team. So, we’ll work at limiting those mistakes and then hopefully giving ourselves a fighting chance.
MG: One of the things that you and Tom Brady have done this year is to adjust to a lot of different personnel around you. What’s been the most challenging aspect of that for you, and how have you been able to overcome it?
AL: I think it is a challenge in different phases, but it is a great opportunity for everybody to come in, and guys have made the most of their opportunity, whether it’s wide outs or linemen or whoever it may be. I understand that it’s sort of the climate of the NFL and injuries are a terrible thing, but they do happen. We’ve been very fortunate, I think, to have great guys step up into those roles, whether it’s been for the whole season, or for a game, or for a quarter or whatever it may be. Everybody prepares like a starter and the next man up theme is a bit unfortunate, but it is real and it is part of the locker room.
MG: How about for you personally - has it helped knowing that you can adjust to all these changing parts?
AL: I haven’t really thought about it like that. I figure it’s part of being a professional – making sure you do your job no matter the circumstances surrounding it. [Quarterbacks Coach] Clyde Christianson and [Offensive Coordinator] Pep Hamilton have done a great job of making sure we all go out there feeling comfortable and no one is going out there feeling out of their element or unable to handle the load that’s given to them. So, I think a lot of credit [goes] to Pep for making it all work.”
MG: Does it help that your offense is fluid? Bill Belichick said that it’s really a game plan type of offense based on what he’s seen, in that it can change from game to game.
AL: Yeah I think it does. I think Pep has really done great job of giving us our best shot each week based on personnel and everything else. We go in feeling like we have a fighting chance to win each game if we can limit our mistakes. So, it’s been good.
MG: You’ve had a league low number of penalties and you only had 14 turnovers this year. Is it a point of emphasis going against a team like New England that sort of craves winning those turnover battles?
AL: Yeah, you know it’s an emphasis every week, and that’s something Coach Pagano has talked about from day one. Along with running the football and stopping the run, it’s turnover margin that he preaches day-in and day-out. We took that to heart this year and managed to do a decent job. Obviously we weren’t great at it last week, but we know we can’t do that when we play the Patriots.
MG: Do you come back to that a little more after last week’s outing?
AL: Oh yeah, you know you’re definitely aware of it, absolutely. They do such a great job. I think they’re plus-nine throughout the season. They do a great job, from what I understand, if you turn the ball over offensively they do a great job of getting points like that, obviously with a great quarterback. We definitely have to come back to it.
MG: How much of the success that you’ve had in the no-huddle is attributable to the fact that you know the guys around you a little bit better? How much is timing and how much is just a schematic thing?
AL: That’s a good question. I don’t know if I could put a percentage on everything, but it’s worked at certain times, at big times. Also the other tempos of offense have worked for us, so I think it’s great to have all those options.
MG: I know you didn’t want to throw the interceptions last week, but I know on two of them you came right back and led the team to a touchdown. Could you speak to your ability to even the score so to speak?
AL: I think you’ve got to have a short memory. When you playing with guys who trust you and you trust them it’s a lot easier to go on the field and right your wrong or atone for your sins, if you will. So, I think like any competitor you want to go out there and rectify it. I’m glad we could.
MG: The Patriots defense took another hit this week when they lost another starter. What do you see form this defense that you’re preparing for?
AL: They’re going to be tough. It’s going to be physical. They do a great job of disrupting timing and rhythm. They’re relentless and they’re well coached. They’re rarely out of position, so we know we’re going to have our hands full.