INDIANAPOLIS — After a debut lasting four possessions that produced three touchdowns — including a 63-yarder on his first NFL pass — Andrew Luck left the distinct impression he was more upset about his lone mistake than pleased by everything else.
After Luck connected with Quan Cosby on a 32-yard strike to the Rams’ 1-yard line, the Colts tried some trickery. Offensive lineman Joe Reitz reported as an eligible receiver, something the Rams apparently missed as he rambled uncovered into the end zone. But Luck’s pass sailed high, out of the reach of the 6-7 former college basketball center.
“I feel terrible about that one to Joe,” Luck said. “I told him I owe him about 20 steak dinners. Any time a lineman gets a chance to catch a touchdown, he deserves it and I didn’t hold up my end of the bargain. I apologized to him.”
No apologies necessary.
Luck’s debut, though unofficial, was nearly perfect. He completed 10 of 16 for 188 yards and two touchdowns, guiding the Colts to a 21-3 lead on their way to a 38-3 preseason blowout of the St. Louis Rams on Sunday in Lucas Oil Stadium.
Three of his incompletions were drops. Two were throw-aways while scrambling to avoid oncoming pass rushers. The only errant throw was to Reitz.
“He really is what we thought he was,” general manager Ryan Grigson said earlier in the week. “The one thing you can tell from his body language, how he reacts on the field, from how he does things, he’s his harshest critic.
“Nobody is going to be able to push his buttons as hard as he pushes his own buttons. That’s evident to me. He wants to be great. He absolutely hates incompletions. You can see it on his face. He wants to complete every pass and that’s good to see.”
Comparisons to Peyton Manning are inevitable for Luck, the second once-in-a-decade prospect to land in Indianapolis in 14 years. Both players project preternatural command of the huddle and system, and both use the combination of remarkable accuracy and deceptive arm strength to vault to the top of their respective drafts.
It’s obvious the mention of Manning makes Luck uncomfortable, not out of resentment but respect. He considers it a fool’s errand to compare any rookie with one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history.
“I try to come in here, keep my head down, do the best I can and work hard,” Luck said during training camp. “I know it’s terribly cliché but if I woke up every morning trying to compare myself to Peyton I think I’d go crazy. It helps me sleep at night, which is good.”
For a guy hoping to avoid comparisons, Luck can’t seem to help himself.
On his first pass Sunday afternoon, he tossed a short pass to running back Donald Brown, who burst up the middle and did most of the work on a 63-yard scoring play.
On Manning’s first preseason pass in 1998, he completed a short slant to Marvin Harrison, who did most of the work on a 48-yard scoring play.
“It’s probably the easiest touchdown pass I’ll ever have in my life, just a 3-yard pass to Donald and he does the rest of the work,” Luck said. “I guess coincidence; funny, huh?”
The Colts certainly were smiling. A revamped team from the top down — Grigson and coach Chuck Pagano also are newcomers, as are 63 players in their first training camp with the Colts — this first step was a nice, firm stride.
The offense produced 430 yards and tied its highest preseason point total since 1964. The defense limited the Rams to 215 yards and 15 first downs.
“We obviously put some points on the board but to put some drives together and convert some third downs on whoever was out there as an offensive unit was really good to see,” Luck said. “. . . I realize like all the guys in the locker room it’s a preseason game and let’s not get too excited about anything because no one goes back and looks at the preseason record for anything.”
Generally speaking, that is true. But for a game that didn’t count, this one could prove just as a memorable, and ultimately meaningful, as that other one 14 years ago.