Indianapolis Colts  

 

Andrew Luck highly impressive in Indianapolis Colts debut

INDIANAPOLIS -- His day done, Reggie Wayne was standing on the sidelines, watching the rest of the Indianapolis Colts' first-team offense march down the field. Before he knew it, the action was coming right toward him.

With 5:22 left in the second quarter of his much-anticipated debut, quarterback Andrew Luck had spun away from a rusher, rolled to his left and found no one open. As Luck looked up, the veteran Wayne raised his arms high to the opened roof, only to watch the ball sail far over them and into the bench area.

"I put my hands up to tell him to throw it to me," Wayne said afterward. "I was saying throw it away."

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Wayne paused.

"I'm sure I didn't have to do that," the longtime Colts star continued, "I'm sure he knew to do that anyway. He's pretty good at making decisions. He's going to be special."

The highlights of the Colts' 38-3 win over the Rams in their preseason debut will be playing on a loop for days. How Luck's first pass went 63 yards for an ear-splitting touchdown to running back Donald Brown. How his mobility led him to dodge countless blitzers, especially on his nine-yard run. How he threaded the needle perfectly in finding Quan Crosby on a 32-yarder to set up the final score. How he finished 10 of 16 for 188 yards with two touchdown passes and a 142.7 passer rating on 24 snaps.

"If you could script it, you probably couldn't script it any better," Colts coach Chuck Pagano said.

His play is to be celebrated, even after a preseason game. It was a welcome sight for Colts fans yearning for the next Peyton Manning after a woeful 2-14 season that resulted in an organizational housecleaning.

Yet the lasting impression from the first game played by the NFL's No. 1 pick has nothing to do with his physical talents.

It's about what stood out to Rams coach Jeff Fisher on the opposing sideline.

"The guy's got that sense," Fisher said.

That sense is what will help Luck lead a mostly young, undermanned, naïve team that boasts 63 players taking part in their first Colts training camp. That sense is what spurred Luck to throw that pass over Wayne's head and live to fight another down, one of two throwaways. That same sense is what helped Luck spot Austin Collie open for a split second in the end zone, taking advantage of a coverage bust. And yes, that same sense helped Luck zone out the noise, the expectations, the hype for his opening game, and simply focus.

In the end, he was poised and calm, looking just as he did in high school and in college. New stage, only it felt the same. It was what his father Oliver Luck had predicted a day earlier.

"I think that he's taking sort of the same approach to training camp and the OTAs that he was able to participate, he's taken the same approach that he did in college," Oliver Luck told NFL.com on Saturday. "Pretty matter-of-fact. I think he's one of these guys that believes there's no substitute for hard work, getting reps and all that, trying to learn as much as he can. I think he's a pretty quick learner, which is good. At the end of the day, football's football. ... I think he'll take it fairly matter of fact."

Oliver Luck was an NFL backup quarterback, and he joked that preseason games were a big deal for him. He would actually play. For his son, at least going forward, they won't be. The goals are simply to win every play, and do it the right way.

"Obviously, as a quarterback, you realize the end game is scoring points," the elder Luck said. "So, that's going to be important as well."

It's mostly how his son did it that stands out.

Andrew Luck admitted he was nervous beforehand, and he fought off "butterflies."

"That's something that I've always had before a football game," Luck said. "After the first play it tends to go away."

After this one, of course they did.

On Luck's opening snap, under pressure from the Rams active front, he fed a perfect screen pass through traffic to Brown, who turned and found space. Sixty-three yards later, Luck's first pass in front of an NFL audience went for a touchdown that sent the 64,133 in the Lucas Oil Stadium seats into delirium.

The immediate tweet by Colts owner Jim Irsay said it all: "Historic beginning!!!!!!!!!!!!! The legend has begun!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

Luck took a much more reserved approach.

"Easiest touchdown pass I'll ever have in my life," Luck said.

On first-and-10 from the Rams' 23-yard line two drives later, Luck spotted the coverage bust and lofted a perfect rainbow to Austin Collie to make it 14-0. Luck showed his mettle on the final scoring drive, a 13-play march that saw his receivers have three drops. All Luck did was evade a rush and hit Collie for 12 yards on third-and-10, just one play after Collie let one slip.

Luck didn't get rattled. He didn't hold it against his receivers. He simply found the open guy, even if it happened to be the same guy.

"He's a composed individual," Collie said. "Unfortunately in that series, there were a lot of drops. He wasn't afraid to go back to those who didn't make the play on the one previous. He's a special talent. We got a long way to go, but he's special."

It's early, and no one is satisfied. You wouldn't expect them to be. But the early returns are as positive as possible -- mostly because of Luck's mind, not just his arm.

"One of Andrew's biggest assets is his intelligence," said Colts rookie tight end Coby Fleener, a former Stanford teammate of Luck's. "Obviously, he's a freak of nature, and I'm thankful he's not playing tight end for us. But his smarts, it's just remarkable. ... You have high expectations for the guy, and he manages to exceed them every time."

Follow Ian Rapoport on Twitter @RapSheet.

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