INDIANAPOLIS --Capitalizing on his longest playing time of the preseason, Andrew Luck got off to a torrid start Saturday night and set the tone for the Colts' 27-6 triumph over the Cleveland Browns.
On a lovely night with the Lucas Oil Stadium roof open, Luck completed nine of his first 10 passes, driving the Colts to a 10-0 lead in the first half. He started the second half and promptly led Indy on another scoring drive, giving the home team a 17-0 lead when he connected with T.Y. Hilton on an 8-yard touchdown pass.
Luck then retired to the sideline with 164 passing yards on 16-of-25 with a pair of touchdowns and an interception. Coach Chuck Pagano said afterward that Luck appears to be well ahead of where he was at this time in 2012, his rookie season.
"He just seems really comfortable," Pagano said. "He has great command of that huddle and great command of the offense."
For Luck, who played after halftime for the first time this preseason, the third-down touchdown to Hilton seemed as important as anything that happened.
"We wanted to come out strong in the third quarter," Luck said. "We know coming out strong can do so much for the second half of a game. And this being our first time to play (together as a first unit) in the third quarter, we wanted to come out strong. I thought it went well."
The Colts rolled up 26 first downs to Cleveland's 13. Indy held the advantage in time of possession, 32:58 to 27:02. Thanks largely to the early boost from Luck, the Colts also outgained the visitors, 364 yards to 270.
But as solidly as the Colts' offense performed, the defense matched and even surpassed it at times. The Indy defenders held the visitors without a touchdown and scored one of their own when Larry Asante returned an interception 48 yards in the fourth quarter.
Luck, perhaps, said it best about the defensive play of the Colts.
"They've been opportunistic," the quarterback said. "They're a pain in the butt to go against in training camp, and it's nice to see them go against someone else. The old adage is iron sharpens iron, and we like to think we're both making each other better when we practice. Getting to watch them play is fun."
The Colts held Cleveland to a 5-of-16 conversion rate on third downs. The Browns netted just 59 rushing yards.
The victory, which Pagano termed as "very satisfying," lifted Indianapolis to 2-1 in the preseason. Cleveland is also 2-1.
FIRST QUARTER (8:52 remaining)
The Colts jumped on the scoreboard first after Kerwynn Williams set them up with nice field position with a 39-yard return of the opening kickoff. Quarterback Andrew Luck completed a pair of passes early in the drive, moving the team 23 yards. A 15-yard run by Vick Ballard pushed Indy farther into Cleveland territory. The drive stalled when Luck twice had to scramble out of pass formations, and Adam Vinatieri connected on a 32-yard field goal. Colts 3, Browns 0.
SECOND QUARTER (8:09 remaining)
Luck went back to work to push the Colts into the end zone. The Indy quarterback hit all five of his pass attempts for 52 yards, including a 3-yard touchdown to Stanley Havili. Luck also scrambled twice for 12 yards. Vinatieri added the extra point.Colts 10, Browns 0.
THIRD QUARTER (11:12 remaining)
Marshay Green's 38-yard punt return provided the Colts with field position at the Cleveland 47. A 22-yard run by Donald Brown and a 15-yard pass completion from Luck to Havili dented the Browns defense. Luck hit T.Y. Hilton for an 8-yard completion that was good for the TD. Vinatieri made the extra point. Colts 17, Browns 0.
THIRD QUARTER (7:16 remaining)
Three passes for important first downs by Brandon Weeden led Cleveland to its first points. Weeden hit Josh Gordon for eight yards, Josh Cooper for nine and Owen Marecic for 15. The Cleveland push stalled at the Colts' 32-yard line and Shayne Graham booted a 50-yard field goal. Colts 17, Browns 3.
THIRD QUARTER (1:15 remaining)
Matt Hasselbeck took over for Luck and helped the Colts pad their lead. Hasselbeck provided the big play of a 51-yard drive, completing a 28-yard pass to Griff Whalen. A pass interference penalty against the Browns aided Indy's cause. Vinatieri kicked a 25-yard field goal.Colts 20, Browns 3.
FOURTH QUARTER (4:33 remaining)
With Jason Campbell at quarterback, the Browns pushed inside the Colts' 20 before the Indy defense stiffened. Campbell's passes to Dominique Croom for 25 yards and Cordell Roberson for 18 were the big plays. Graham hit a 44-yard field goal. Colts 20, Browns 6.
FOURTH QUARTER (4:33 remaining)
The Colts' defense got into the scoring act as Larry Asante intercepted a Brian Hoyer pass and returned it 48 yards for a score. That big defensive play came shortly after the Browns recovered their onside kick. Brandon McManus added Indy's extra point.Colts 27, Browns 6.