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Sunday, September 9, 2012
Amid turnovers and loss, promise in Luck

By Scott Powers

CHICAGO -- Indianapolis Colts rookie quarterback Andrew Luck may someday think back on his NFL debut and joyfully recall his first play, his first completion, his first touchdown and all the other firsts of his career.

Andrew Luck
Andrew Luck passed for 309 yards yards but threw three interceptions in his NFL debut on Sunday.
But on Sunday and likely for the near future, Luck isn’t going to smile when he remembers his first NFL experiences. All he can think about now is how his debut was marred by three interceptions, a fumble and a 41-21 loss to Chicago Bears.

“When you’re responsible for four turnovers, it’s hard to win, it’s hard to be productive as an offense,” said Luck, the No. 1 pick of the 2012 draft. “Three picks and a fumble for me, those are killers. Not too many fond memories of an opening loss.”

Luck couldn’t help but be narrow-minded when it came to his individual play. All he could see was the bad -- the turnovers and loss -- but his teammates, opponents and both head coaches saw the whole picture, which they believe included some good, too.

To go with his three interceptions and a fumble, Luck completed 23-of-45 passes for 309 yards and a touchdown, guided the Colts into the red zone four times against an experienced Bears’ defense and was noticeably more comfortable as the game progressed.


“I thought he handled himself really well today,” Colts coach Chuck Pagano said. “You saw him slide around, buy time in the pocket, step up and find guys down the field. ... For the most, there’s a lot of good things he did.”

Count Bears coach Lovie Smith among those impressed.

“There’s a reason why he was the first pick in the draft,” Smith said. “He had to play through some things. When they got behind, he kept showing up and making plays. He did a great job of being mobile in the pocket and finding different receivers. He’s definitely going to win a lot of games.”

If he gets to that point, it will be some distance from where he started. At the beginning of Sunday’s game, Luck had to convince himself he could still accomplish the quarterback basics.

With all the hype surrounding Luck, it’s easy to forget he was still a 22-year-old rookie (he turns 23 on Wednesday).

“Definitely a little anxious, some butterflies,” Luck said of Sunday’s opening plays. “It takes sort of that first play, ‘OK, I remember how to take a snap. I can hand off the ball, good, or throw the ball.’ After that first play, you realize this is football, what I’ve been practicing for in training camp and go from there.”

Going from there was full of lessons. For one, he learned not to assume when it comes to officiating. On a play in the second quarter, Luck believed the Bears were offsides and he had a free play to launch the ball downfield. Luck targeted Donnie Avery 30 yards on the right sideline, underthrew the ball and was intercepted by Tim Jennings. Luck soon discovered there was no flag.

Luck said he couldn’t remember a time in his career when he misread a penalty call and threw an interception.

“I realize I should never assume anything in this league, and it was a bad ball as well,” Luck said. “It was underthrown. I think it was a chance for a touchdown if it’s a good throw, which it isn’t.”

Colts wide receiver Reggie Wayne, who had nine catches for 135 yards, said patience is key with the young quarterback.

“Even late in his career, turnovers are going to happen,” Wayne said. “You can’t sit back and dwell on it. We knew going in we were going to have some negative plays. We got to put that behind us and keep moving.

“We know what we have [in Luck]. We know what type of player he is going to be. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Sit back and watch and enjoy.”