Andrew Luck's faith in his receivers despite drops tightens bond

HOUSTON -- It would have been understandable if Indianapolis Colts receiver Zach Pascal was nervous when he made his way to the sideline early in the second quarter of Sunday's 24-21 win in Houston.

The Colts went from being stagnant on offense to rolling along until Pascal dropped an Andrew Luck pass that ended up being intercepted at Houston's 30-yard line to end what looked like a promising drive.

One of the first people to approach Pascal after the drop was Luck.

"He came up to me and said, 'I'm coming back to you. I'm coming back to you. Don't worry about it,'" Pascal said.

For as talented, physically tough and as smart as Luck is, another of the many strong attributes he has is that his belief and trust in teammates never wavers no matter how many times they might have failed him. It would be easy to understand if Luck lost some trust in his offensive line for playing a part in the number of times he has been sacked or for as many times as his receivers have dropped what should have been an easy catch. Three of Luck's 13 interceptions this season were a result of dropped passes.

Luck doesn't publicly criticize his teammates, and the quarterback has the confidence to go right back to them after they make a glaring mistake.

"It's a non-judgmental group of guys," Luck said. "Shoot, I've had my fair share of balls in the dirt and balls in the wrong place, but you learn on our team you've just got to keep chipping away, chipping away and trust. Trust is a huge part of this game."

Luck followed suit with what he told Pascal by going back to him. Pascal had a 28-yard reception two possessions later and then had what ended up being the game-winning 12-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter.

"That was good," Colts coach Frank Reich said. "Those [drops] are hard early, especially against a defense like that and a couple of them were on third down. Keep playing, keep believing. Credit Andrew. He keeps throwing. Keeps throwing it to the open guy and believing and having confidence in the players to make plays."

This isn't a new thing for Luck. He always has been this way. Partially because he has had no choice but to go back to his skill position players because of the injuries they have had to deal with to players, such as tight end Jack Doyle and even receiver T.Y. Hilton -- two of Luck's favorite targets.

"It's that trust and that's why he's a good leader, because he will never allow it to get in your head and be mentally down," said Pascal, who finished with five receptions for 68 yards. "He'll always come back to you ... and keep you in the game."

Eric Ebron has been Luck's favorite touchdown target this season, with a franchise record for tight ends with 12. But Ebron, too, has dealt with some ugly drops this season. He had a glaring one against New England in Week 5 and then two more Sunday, including one on third down.

But there he was with a 23-yard reception and a 14-yard TD catch four plays after the 23-yarder.

"I let [Luck] down twice," Ebron said. "It was me trying to make a play. It was me being stupid. Andrew has trust in me and I have trust in him. I beat myself up over those two stupid mistakes, but when guys drop the ball he'll be the first one to tell you, 'I'll never quit on you.' It keeps the confidence in the receiver [that] even when you are having a tough couple of plays, Andrew will never quit on you."

Luck will have to continue to rely on his skill position players not named Hilton the rest of the season, as the Colts continue to remain in the mix for a playoff spot in the AFC.

"As a quarterback you have to have faith in your guys," receiver Chester Rogers said. "If you lose faith in your guys over one drop -- it's bad. Andrew isn't like that. He's going to trust -- and come back to you. We make sure we stay ready."