Colts fans may never fully get over losing Peyton Manning. If Andrew Luck keeps playing like he did in Sunday's preseason opener, though, it will be a lot easier for everyone to move on.
Luck's debut in an Indianapolis uniform opened in spectacular fashion: On his first snap, Luck faked a handoff to Donald Brown, then tossed a screen pass that Brown turned into a 63-yard touchdown. And to the delight of an energetic home crowd, Luck just kept right on rolling against St. Louis' defense in Sunday's preseason game.
By the time he was replaced by backup Drew Stanton just prior to halftime (Indianapolis went on to win, 38-3), Luck had 10 completions, 188 yards passing, two touchdowns and a rapidly growing amount of hype surrounding him. Colts owner Jim Irsay even got caught up in the excitement after Luck's quick-strike TD to Brown:
Historic beginning!!!!!!!!!!!!! The legend has begun!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
— Jim Irsay (@JimIrsay) August 12, 2012
Luck won't have the benefit of playing against the Rams' defense each week -- St. Louis finished 26th in points allowed last year and faces some growing pains under new head coach Jeff Fisher -- but he took full advantage of that matchup Saturday. While the opening touchdown was a thrilling moment (which the Colts fans celebrated with an extended standing ovation), Luck's work from then out was even more impressive.
Of the six incompletions that Luck threw, three came on drops by Indianapolis receivers and two were throwaways by Luck to avoid a sack. His second TD came on a 23-yard strike to Austin Collie, just four plays after Luck kept Indianapolis drive alive by firing a 3rd-and-3 fastball to T.Y. Hilton over the outstretched arms of cornerback Janoris Jenkins. Luck later set up the Colts' third score when he dropped a beautiful 32-yard pass in over the middle of the field to Quan Cosby.
If there was one worry for the Colts' first-team offense, it came from some breakdowns in pass protection. But even that allowed Luck to show off his skill-set. One of those two throwaway incompletions came when St. Louis had three defenders, including a blindside blitzer, come clean into the backfield; Luck sensed the pressure, spun out of the pocket, outraced that trio of pass-rushers and tossed the ball harmlessly out of bounds.
All in all, things could not have gone any better for Andrew Luck in his Indianapolis debut, as the Colts took a 21-3 lead to the half.
The next challenge, both for Luck and the Colts, will be maintaining that momentum into next week's game at Pittsburgh. Simply by virtue of being picked No. 1 overall in the draft, Luck carries lofty expectations with him into the season -- and his situation is even more pressure-packed because he is replacing Manning. Sunday's showcase will convince more than one or two Colts fans that they're well on their way back to contention with Luck under center.
That may well be the case, too, but Luck still figures to have the ups and downs that come with being a rookie in the NFL. Things won't always be as easy as he made them look Sunday.