Luck sharp as Colts beat Rams 38-3

Colts quarterback Andrew Luck celebrates after throwing a touchdown pass against the Rams in the first half Sunday in Indianapolis. St. Louis lost 38-3.

Colts quarterback Andrew Luck celebrates after throwing a touchdown pass against the Rams in the first half Sunday in Indianapolis. St. Louis lost 38-3. Photo by The Associated Press.

INDIANAPOLIS — Andrew Luck knows life in the NFL can’t be this easy for a rookie.

The No. 1 overall draft pick threw his first NFL pass for a long touchdown, just like Peyton Manning in 1998, then led Indianapolis to two more touchdowns. Luck one-upped his predecessor by winning Sunday’s preseason opener 38-3 over St. Louis — Indy’s first preseason-opening win since 1994.

“To get a win, get in the game and put some drives together is great,” Luck said. “But I realize, and the guys in the locker room realize, it’s a preseason game and things will be different as the season goes along.”

Luck might have the toughest job in football this season — replacing Manning, the longtime face of Indy’s franchise.

But he showed everyone Sunday he can do whatever is asked.

Colts coaches wanted the man billed as the most polished NFL rookie since Manning to take 20-25 snaps. He got 24.

They wanted to keep him upright, and though Luck hit the ground twice, he was not sacked.

They wanted him to show his command of the offense, and in less than one half, Luck seemed to have Manning’s playbook down pat, from the perfect baseball slide to rushing his team to the line of scrimmage so the Rams couldn’t challenge a catch on the sideline.

The rookie quarterback wound up 10-of-16 for 188 yards with two TD passes and a quarterback rating of 142.6. Three of the incompletions were drops, two were throwaways, and only one pass, the deep out rookie T.Y. Hilton barely caught on the sideline, came close to being picked off. It was the most lopsided preseason win for the Colts since a 35-0 rout of Washington in 1966.

“I know we picked him up off the turf a couple times, but he’s a big, strong, athletic guy and he can take a hit. We don’t want him taking too many, but to see him perform the way he did and do the things that he did under pressure, I thought he handled it well,” new Colts coach Chuck Pagano said.

After everything the Colts endured during the run up to drafting Luck — the injury to Manning, an 0-13 start in 2011, the release of many fan favorites including Manning during a tumultuous offseason — Luck quickly turned the page on the past with a start fans may never forget.

With the rookie quarterback under pressure on his first play, Luck calmly stepped forward and dumped the ball off to Brown, who darted up the field with blockers in front, then cut from right to left and outran the defense to the end zone. Luck pumped his fist in the air and jogged to the sideline with a broad smile across his face.

Longtime Colts fans had seen it before. Back in ’98, Manning’s first pass was an 8-yard route to Marvin Harrison, who took the ball and sprinted to the end zone for a 48-yard score.

“I think (quarterbacks coach) Clyde (Chirstensen) told me that about a week ago,” Luck said, laughing. “I guess it’s coincidence. Funny, huh?”

Certainly not to the Rams, who pressured Luck most of the day, yet couldn’t force him into mistakes, get him on the ground or find a way to reach the end zone.

The Rams’ offense moved the ball on its first two series, under Sam Bradford, but stalled. St. Louis did get a 37-yard field goal when Kellen Clemens was running the offense.

Otherwise, it was a daylong struggle for Jeff Fisher’s new team.

“It’s kind of an unusual game because the offense puts a drive together and then, bang, they’re back on the field one play later because we gave up a touchdown,” the Rams’ coach said. “Then you’re trying to catch up with plays for your defense and then you can’t stop them and then you can’t get the plays for your offense. We tried to get as many plays as we could on tape and we’ll move on.”

Bradford, the No. 1 overall pick in 2010 and the Offensive Rookie of the Year, was 7-of-9 for 57 yards and recovered his own fumble. Clemens was 4-of-6 for 18 yards.

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