NFL

Luck takes baby steps in debut

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Greg Couch

Greg Couch has been a national columnist at AOL Fanhouse and The Sporting News and an award-winning columnist at the Chicago Sun-Times. He was featured twice in "Best American Sports Writing" and was recognized by the US Tennis Writers Association for best column writing and match coverage. He covers tennis on his personal blog. Follow him on Twitter.

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The most interesting thing about Andrew Luck’s NFL debut Sunday was RG3. Next most? The Bears’ mishandling of Brian Urlacher.

What was he even doing out there? Urlacher, that is. Not Luck.

Luck was fine for a first game. He threw for 309 yards, had three interceptions and a touchdown. He was good, he was bad. He knew what he was doing, he didn’t know. The Colts lost to the Bears 41-21.

You can point out how strikingly close those numbers were to Peyton Manning’s first game, also a loss, with the Colts. Here we go again?

Or, you can point to all the turnovers, the loss and the low passer rating, 52.9. Robert Griffin III was already the most exciting player in the league, leading Washington to an upset at New Orleans.

Usually in these 1-2 quarterback deals, one is great and one is a bust. Advantage Griffin?

Just ... slow ... down.

As a father, I can say that your kid first walks, you are sure he’ll be an Olympic sprinter or star running back. Then, he falls down. That’s what Luck did. He walked, he fell. Walked. Fell.

This first game barely meant anything, but we want instant meaning. Cam Newton was good right away last year, so maybe we can read things into the first baby steps now.

Now.

No, we can’t. And Newton was awful this Sunday, by the way.

Great quarterbacks have had terrible first games. Terrible quarterbacks have had great ones. Troy Aikman and Terry Bradshaw were disasters at first.

I went to plenty of games during John Elway’s rookie year. That year, we used to call him BIF, for Big Ignorant, well, whatever.

START THE SHOW

Every team brought its best to the field in NFL Week 1.

Luck can talk, too! Here were some of his first words as an NFL quarterback:

“When you are responsible for four turnovers, it’s hard to win. The three picks and a fumble were killers. Not too many fond memories of an opening loss.’’

Aaron Rodgers took years to develop. At one time, that was the model for bringing along a quarterback. Twitter waits for no one.

The Colts made things easy on Luck at first, with quick passes to avoid the Bears' rush. Then, they let him throw a few from the pocket, and his feet started jumping around. He’d recognize the time to step up in the pocket, though, then shot-put a pass 10 feet away from the mark. He threw a deep pass exactly the way a college quarterback would, floating it way too high. In the NFL, defensive backs can catch up to the play for an interception. That’s what happened on that play.

He had a great drive in the second quarter. He had another great drive, too, hitting receivers on the run. He forced passes. He got more comfortable as the game went on. He threw another interception.

EYE CANDY

We're not just watching the field on Sunday. NFL cheerleaders provide the perfect sideshow.

It’s going to be a long, rough year for Luck, and for the Colts, who continued the Suck for Luck campaign. It’s not just a new quarterback for the Colts, or the pressure for Luck to become another top QB for the franchise. From Johnny Unitas to Manning to Luck.

That’s the demand. But the entire Colts team was built around Manning, even the defense to some extent. Now, it starts all over from scratch.

“We can’t turn the ball over, can’t have sacks, can’t drop the ball,’’ said Colts receiver Reggie Wayne, who had 135 yards. “We can’t have negative plays. We have to keep getting better and help him (Luck) out.

“If we help him out, he’ll be able to show early that he’s an elite quarterback.’’

Luck was responsible for plenty of those mistakes himself, though his receivers couldn’t hang on to anything and his line wasn’t blocking much.

I guess it’s fun to see a potential superstar, a first-pick in the draft, and start projecting things. But the Colts will not matter this year.

The Bears might. While the history of the Colts franchise keeps replacing star quarterbacks, the Bears have yet to replace Sid Luckman, from 65, 70 years ago, when the game was played in black and white.

Jay Cutler was supposed to be it, but so far, no good. That’s not fair. He was good last year, just not great. He’s 29 now, and we’re still deciding on him.

LET'S GET NUTS!

NFL fans are a special breed, and they bring their own brand of craziness on game day.

The Bears have finally decided to give him things he needs, like a decent support staff and receivers who can get open and catch the ball. Mike Martz is out as offensive coordinator (thank God). And the Bears brought in Cutler’s favorites from his days in Denver: quarterbacks coach Jeremy Bates and receiver Brandon Marshall. They also drafted receiver Alshon Jeffery. With Martz gone, the tight ends are now able to help block, too.

Cutler had a good day, and this offense might actually do something Bears offenses never do: Move.

But the defense is living a little too high on its reputation. Urlacher, now 31, had knee surgery and might never be the same.

“You still have to respect him even if he is a little slower,’’ Wayne said. “You’re still not going to want to go across the middle and not know where he is.’’

Urlacher should have been in street clothes. The Bears were always going to beat the Colts, and they have a big game Thursday in Green Bay. There was no reason for Coach Lovie Smith to risk playing him two games in five days.

Well, RG3 is going to have his ups and down, too. He and Luck might go on to be an incredible rivalry. Or, they might be Matt Leinart and Vince Young.

I say Luck will be good one day. But he just took his first baby steps Sunday. Then he fell down. It happens.

Tagged: Bears, Broncos, Colts, Redskins, Panthers, Brian Urlacher, Peyton Manning, Jay Cutler, Cam Newton, Robert Griffin III, Andrew Luck

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