After 14 memorable seasons that saw four MVP's, numerous passing records broken, 2 Super Bowl appearances, and 1 championship, Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts franchise found themselves at a crossroad.
Manning undoubtedly had the ability to play at a high level for at least another 3 years and his love for the game remained unchanged. However he was now 36-years-of-age, increasing in mileage, coming off of multiple neck surgeries, and with who many scouts proclaimed as one of the best quarterback prospects in years available in the fast approaching draft, keeping the aging Hall of Famer was seen as too much of a risk for owner Jim Irsay.
With the first pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, the Indianapolis Colts officially closed the book on the Manning era by selecting Sanford quarterback Andrew Luck. Luck made his preseason debut today in a 38-3 win over the Saint Louis Rams and needless to say: Colts fans have every reason to look forward to another decade of good football.
The Luck Era started off with a bang as his first ever NFL pass which initially began as a short dump off to running back Donald Brown, turned into a 63 yard touchdown to give Indianapolis an early 7-0 lead. Irsay took to Twitter to express his understandable excitement:
Historic beginning!!!!!!!!!!!!! The legend has begun!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
— Jim Irsay (@JimIrsay) August 12, 2012
And if Colts fans needed any more reason to begin being excited about what the future holds for their young franchise player, take a guess at who the last Indianapolis rookie quarterback to have his first NFL pass be a touchdown was:
so, that was a nice start for Andrew Luck. first pass is a 63 yd TD, just like Peyton in 1998. lightning does strike twice
— trey wingo (@wingoz) August 12, 2012
Luck's second series of the first quarter wasn't as explosive as the Colts went 3 and out, but on third down showed off his often downplayed athleticism by stepping up in the pocket and taking off for a solid 9 yard gain. The second quarter however was all Indianapolis, as the Colts would go on to score 14 of their 38 total points in that period alone. Luck engineered a textbook 7 play, 53 yard drive that was capped off by a 23 yard touchdown strike to wide receiver, Austin Collie.
After Saint Louis responded with a field goal that made the score 14-3, Luck jogged out onto the turf and marched his team right back down the field on a 13 play, 80 yard drive that culminated in a 1 yard dive for the score by running back Delone Carter. Twice Luck converted third downs with strong throws from the pocket, including a 32 yard completion to wide receiver Quan Cosby. That would be the end of Luck's afternoon, finishing 10 of 16 for 188 and 2 touchdowns with no interceptions.
Luck was everything we expected him to be today: he had a clear control of the offense, never became flustered, made good decisions with the ball, stood strong in the pocket, showed awareness in knowing when to escape the pocket and avoid the rush, and on the field carried himself with the swagger of an NFL veteran as opposed to a 22-year-old rookie. It may only be the preseason, but you don't need much to tell that something good is happening in Indianapolis.