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Justin A. Cohn

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Colts QBs shine in debut

Andrew Luck and Chandler Harnish wowed in the Colts' 38-3 preseason win. Video by, Justin A. Cohn

Associated Press
Colts quarterback Andrew Luck completed 10 of 16 passes for 188 yards and two TDs in a preseason win against St. Louis on Sunday in Indianapolis.

Stellar debut for Colts’ Luck

– At 1:45 p.m. Sunday, the Andrew Luck era officially began with his first play for the Colts.

Twelve seconds later, running back Donald Brown was in the end zone, people were laughing and cheering (even in the press box) at Lucas Oil Stadium and sighs of relief were felt by Colts fans everywhere.

“It was the easiest touchdown pass I’ll ever throw,” Luck said.

It won’t always be this easy, but it looked as though Luck could become a star in the NFL after a 38-3 victory over the St. Louis Rams.

The rookie quarterback from Stanford, picked first in April’s draft, has the difficult task of replacing four-time MVP Peyton Manning and will make plenty of mistakes this season. That’s what happens with rookie quarterbacks when they play from Day 1, even if they are Manning (26 touchdowns, 28 interceptions in 1998).

There haven’t been many rookie quarterbacks to start right away – we presume Luck will be the opening-day starter Sept. 9 at Chicago – and Luck will have a tough time re-creating then what he did Sunday in the misleading world of preseason.

In the last 22 years, there have been only 33 quarterbacks taken in the first 10 picks of the draft, and only 21 of those started at least eight games as a rookie. Of that group, you can argue that only Manning, Palmer, Drew Bledsoe, Kerry Collins and Matt Ryan turned into championship-caliber quarterbacks, and they all struggled early.

Add that on to the complexity of the Colts – who have new coaches, new systems and players who don’t know each other’s tendencies – and Luck will go through the grater this season.

But one couldn’t help but be at least a little amazed Sunday, even if it was against St. Louis, which, like Indianapolis, was 2-14 last season.

Luck completed 10 of 16 passes for 188 yards – three of his passes were dropped – and had two touchdowns, guiding the Colts to a 21-3 lead before he was replaced in the second quarter by Drew Stanton.

“You couldn’t script out a better day,” Colts coach Chuck Pagano said. “We gave up a couple first downs early, but we got a stop and for us to get out there and have that (Luck to Brown) touchdown happen, it made for a great start.”

On that play, Luck dumped a screen pass to Brown, who dashed through a seam for a 63-yard touchdown.

“It was mentioned to me the other day that Peyton Manning’s first preseason pass ever was for a touchdown. When I watched it happen today, I was like, ‘Oh, my gosh, this is too ironic,’ ” said rookie quarterback Chandler Harnish, a Norwell graduate who completed all three of his passes in the fourth quarter for 52 yards, including a 33-yard touchdown pass to Jeremy Ross.

“It’s easy to see that this guy (Luck) is going to have a heck of a career, and it’s awesome for me because I get this opportunity to learn from him and watch what he does. He makes me better.”

Luck completed five of his first six passes for 113 yards, including a 23-yard touchdown pass to Austin Collie. On Luck’s third and final drive, a precise 32-yard pass up the middle to Quan Cosby set up a Delone Carter touchdown.

Luck exhibited poise, arm strength and a rapport with his receivers, much more than Curtis Painter, Kerry Collins or Dan Orlovsky had last season.

We haven’t seen enough for fans to feel secure, but it was enough to start purging 2011’s ugly memories.

Justin A. Cohn is a writer for The Journal Gazette and has been covering sports in Fort Wayne since 1997. He can be reached by email; phone, 461-8429; or fax 461-8648.