No sooner had the NFL debut of his newest franchise quarterback matched - bettered, actually - that of his previous franchise quarterback, the Indianapolis Colts' owner turned to his Twitter account.
“The legend has begun!!!!!!!!’’ Irsay wrote.
Yes, it has.
For at least one half, Andrew Luck was the real deal. The successor to Peyton Manning, Luck directed the Colts to a 21-3 halftime lead by running an efficient offense. He completed 10-of-16 passes for 188 yards with two touchdowns.
Then, the No. 1 overall pick in the April Draft found a place on the Colts' sideline and watched a 38-3 blowout unfold. Andrew Luck’s work was done, and it had been done very well.
As was the case with Manning in his exhibition debut in 1998, Luck served immediate notice of his arrival.
Luck’s first pass traveled about seven yards to running back Donald Brown on a screen. Brown did the rest, weaving through the Rams’ defense for a 63-yard touchdown.
“It was probably the easiest touchdown pass I’ll ever have in my life,’’ Luck said, smiling.
Manning’s first pass in the ’98 preseason opener at Seattle was a 48-yard touchdown pass to Marvin Harrison.
You want comparisons between the present and the past? Take that.
“Luck looked very impressive,’’ Colts cornerback Jerraud Powers said. “What gets me is for him to be so young as a rookie and his decision-making process. It seems like he’s been here before."
Powers added, “I expect the No. 1 pick to make every throw in the book, and he does. But how he (handles) the game and how he thinks ... that’s what is going to make him better than what people think.’’
Luck showed good touch on intermediate passes and stood tall in the pocket when his protection held up. On a 23-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Austin Collie, he scanned the field, patted the ball, then found Collie wide open inside the 10-yard line. At least twice Luck spun away from initial pressure and avoided sacks.
While Luck’s 10-of-16 might not appear off-the-charts good, his receivers dropped three passes. Twice, he threw the ball away. Once, he overthrew wide-open guard Joe Reitz in the end zone.
“I feel terrible about that to be honest,’’ Luck said of missing Reitz. “I told him I owe him about 20 steak dinners. Anytime 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 and if the situation presents itself again, I’ll put it in his belly. Or at least give him a chance to catch it.’’
No one ever will forget what Manning did for the city and the franchise.
But the transition to Luck was a needed step into the future. And there’s no down-playing the significance of Luck’s first NFL step.
“It’s great,’’ Colts coach Chuck Pagano said. “I mean, he’d be the first one to tell you that, when it’s live action and he doesn’t have the red jersey on ... he knew he was a target. I know we picked him up off the turf a couple of times, but he’s a big, strong, athletic guy and he can take a hit. To see him perform and do the things that he did under pressure ... (the Rams) got after him a little bit and I thought he handled it well.’’