Luck's late-game magic dooms Oakland 21-17
Andrew Luck has mastered the art of the comeback.
He'd like to start making things easier on himself and the rest of the Indianapolis Colts.
Luck threw for two scores Sunday and scrambled 19 yards for the go-ahead touchdown with 5:20 left, giving the Colts a 21-17 victory over Oakland in the season opener.
Yes, Indy has seen this act before. A year ago, Luck set an NFL rookie record and tied the league's overall mark by leading the Colts to seven fourth-quarter comebacks. Sunday's victory gives Luck eight comeback wins in 12 career victories, a dangerous tack he would like to change.
''I guess the fans shouldn't leave early,'' he joked. ''I don't think any Colts fans ever do, which is one of the great things about playing here. We know it's tough to get wins in the National Football League. Obviously, you don't want it, you don't want to have to go down to the wire every game.''
He hopes things will be different next week against Miami.
But here are five reasons the Colts beat the Raiders.
1. LUCKY FEET: Andrew Luck is considered the prototype pocket passer - big arm, poised, willing to stand up under pressure. He also is sneaky athletic. At 6-foot-4, 239 pounds, he's big enough, fast enough and a good enough runner to play tight end. The Raiders found out the hard way Sunday. Early in the game, Oakland appeared to have Luck corralled for a sack, but he slithered away and ran 9 yards for a first down. The bigger problem came late. With the Colts facing third-and-4 from the Oakland 19, Luck saw the middle of the field open up and took off. He ran straight up the middle cut to his left and avoided a couple of Raiders to get into the end zone.
2. PRYOR PROBLEM: Nobody can quibble with most of Terrelle Pryor's numbers. He was 19 of 29 for 217 yards with one touchdown and one sack. He also ran 13 times for 112 yards to break Rich Gannon's franchise record for yards rushing by a quarterback (85). The problem: Two red-zone interceptions and the inability to avoid a late sack that forced Oakland into desperation mode. Afterward, Pryor blamed himself for the loss, saying he played awful. He didn't. He played like a quarterback making his second NFL start. Pryor was good enough to have the Raiders in the lead with 11:09 to play, and didn't flinch when a replay review took away what would have been the go-ahead touchdown on the last play of the third quarter. But if the Raiders are going to win consistently, Pryor has to eliminate the big mistakes.
3. DE-FENSE: Indy spent a lot of money to improve its defense, and the Colts got mixed results in the first real game. Oakland ran for 171 yards and had 372 yards in total offense. But the Colts were significantly better in some areas. They held the Raiders to 17 points. They were able to come up with two pick after finishing last season with 12. Darren McFadden, who the Colts were worried about, ran 17 times for 48 yards, a 2.8 yard average, and one TD. The biggest problems came when Pryor took off, something they'd like to clean up before next week's game and certainly need to fix before heading to San Francisco in Week 3.
4. SLOW START: With nine new defensive starters, it took a while for the Raiders to get in sync. The Colts took advantage. Luck drove the Colts 89 yards in 10 plays on the opening series, hooking up with Reggie Wayne on a beautiful looping 12-yard TD pass. After getting the ball back, Luck did it again, moving the Colts 69 yards in eight plays. He stood in against the oncoming rush and ended the drive with a perfect 20-yard TD pass to Dwayne Allen to make it 14-0. The Raiders played much better over the final 40 minutes but were forced to play catch-up most of the day. A better start, might have been enough to give the Raiders a surprise win.
5. REG-GIE, REG-GIE: The more things change in Indianapolis, the more Reggie Wayne remains the same. The venerable receiver caught nine passes for 96 yards and a score Sunday, numbers that seem routine these days. Whenever Luck needs an outlet receiver, Wayne seems to be open. And when he's not, he seems to open up the field for everyone else. On its final drive, Indy faced three third downs. Wayne made a crucial 9-yard catch to convert a third-and-2 with 7:43 left. And if you want to know why the middle of the field was so wide open for Luck's scoring run? Wayne probably had something to do with that, too.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org