Andrew Luck sure didn’t play like a rookie Sunday afternoon.
He looked like a new, younger version of Peyton Manning.
The Colts rookie threw two touchdown passes, took advantage of several key Minnesota penalties and marched Indianapolis 45 yards in 23 seconds to set up Adam Vinatieri for a 53-yard field goal with eight seconds left, which gave Indianapolis a 23-20 victory over Minnesota in Luck’s home debut.
"It’s just amazing that the guy’s able to go out there and do the things he does as a rookie," Colts coach Chuck Pagano said. "He certainly had to put the ball on them, and he did."
Many of those wearing No. 18 jerseys in Sunday’s crowd had probably forgotten it took Manning a little longer to win his first game. He started 0-4, including two home losses, before finally beating Ryan Leaf and the San Diego Chargers on Oct. 4, 1998.
Luck’s older teammates couldn’t be happier to get this early win, either, especially after last season’s 0-13 start spurred speculation about going winless for the regular season.
The No. 1 draft pick made sure it didn’t happen again. Indy’s new quarterback finished 20 of 31 for 224 yards on a solid, not spectacular day.
He played the entire second half without three starters on the offensive line, yet managed to move the Colts into field-goal position twice. Luck actually did his most impressive work eluding pass rushers and throwing on the run.
Time after time, he managed to escape trouble including twice on Indy’s winning drive, to complete passes. And when the Vikings made mistakes, he made them pay.
He got a field goal out of a roughing the kicker penalty and a personal foul call, penalties that kept one second-half drive alive, and when the Vikings blew a coverage just before halftime, Luck hooked up with Reggie Wayne for a 30-yard score.
The Vikings (1-1) were frustrated all afternoon.
"We were rushing him. He moved around a lot. It (stinks), missing sacks," Jared Allen said. "He did a good job. If the guy is not as mobile, we probably have six sacks.
Sure, Luck made a few miscues — such as taking the 17-yard sack on third-and-5 with three minutes to play. Or spiking the ball when the clock was already stopped just before Vinatieri came onto the field for his field goal.
But, like Manning, Luck didn’t let the miscues bother him.
"I guess some people were under the impression that the clock was going to run, so I guess we looked a little foolish killing the clock when it was already stopped ," Luck said, laughing as he explained why he spiked the ball with 12 seconds to play. "Oh well."
The Colts (1-1) have won three consecutive home games dating to last season and improved to 10-0 in home games against the Vikings.
After settling for two field goals in the first 54 minutes, quarterback Christian Ponder rallied the Vikings late and got the big break he needed when defensive end Cory Redding batted his fourth-down pass up into the air. Kyle Rudolph got his hands on the ball, too, tipping it up again and toward teammate Stephen Burton, who hung onto the ball for a 7-yard TD. That made it 20-13 with 5:07 to play.
Ponder was 27 of 35 for 245 yards with two TDs, but was sacked four times. Percy Harvin caught 12 passes for 104 yards.
"We had opportunities. We just didn’t capitalize on them," Adrian Peterson said after running 16 times for 60 yards and catching three passes for 20 yards.
The Vikings were just getting started, though.
Following the big third-down sack on Luck and a poor punt, Minnesota took over at the Indy 47 with 2:29 to play. The Vikings finally tied the score when Rudolph hung on for a 6-yard TD reception to tie the score with 31 seconds left.
"You want to score and the defense has to go out there and hold in that situation," coach Leslie Frazier said. "That’s our league. In that situation where we were, we needed to get the ball in the end zone and we got to go out and play defense."
But 31 seconds was too much time for Luck.
He started the last Colts’ series by rolling to the left and hooking up Donnie Avery for 20 yards. Then he stepped up in the pocket and threw to the right, a 20-yard strike to Wayne. Then he got the Vikings to jump offside, moving the ball to the Minnesota 35, and after the spike, Vinatieri lived up to his nickname as the best clutch kicker in league history.
"The kid’s got poise," Wayne said. "He’s got some winning in the blood."
Avery tied his career high with nine receptions. He also had 111 yards. … Colts center Samson Satele left the game in the third quarter with an undisclosed knee injury. Right tackle Winston Justice and left guard Joe Reitz (knee) were inactive. … During one stretch Sunday, the Colts ran 31 plays, compared with four for the Vikings — including a kneel down at the end of the first half. … Colts have won all three home games (two in preseason) this year, but has lost all three on road. … Blair Walsh has made all six of his field-goal attempts in his first two games including a 51-yarder to open Sunday’s scoring.