ANDERSON –Last Sunday was the first NFL playing day in the life of rookie Andrew Luck.
It was a day of achievement as he helped direct the Colts to a 38-3 victory over St. Louis. The next test in his maturation is a nationally-televised outing this Sunday in Pittsburgh.
In the gymnasium at Anderson University on Tuesday after a morning walk-through, Luck looked back at the Rams game while anticipating this week's test against the Steelers.
"I think just try and get better," said Luck, a notorious self-critic, of his 10-of-16, 188-yard and two-touchdown performance against St. Louis. "Obviously, it was nice to go out and play a game and do some good things, do some bad things. It will be much tougher on the road for our first road test. We'll see some different looks. We're just trying to get better."
The debut was one that was anticipated by the organization and fans alike. Luck did not disappoint from his opening snap – a 63-yard scoring pass – to his last snap – a handoff to running back Delone Carter for a one-yard scoring burst that gave Indianapolis a 21-3 bulge before the half.
As in training camp, Luck was smooth in the pocket, both delivering the ball and eluding rushers. It was an impressive performance that was noticed by others whose evaluations matter.
"He had command of the offense. (He was) very efficient as far as spreading the ball around. He did a great job of…controlling the safety with his eyes and finding open receivers," said Head Coach Chuck Pagano. "When things weren't there, he dumped the thing off and got into his checkdowns. He (hit) a couple of big plays and drove the team down the field. He did a great job that way. … He made great decisions.
"His poise, his excitement for the game," said Offensive Coordinator Bruce Arians of what caught his attention. "He was great on the sideline. Nothing surprises me about him anymore. I kind of expect it now, and I think it surprised other people. … It was a nice way to start."
Luck does not rely on the analysis of others. He dissects performances to find improvement areas.
"I think I could have avoided getting hit a couple times, just seeing the pressure and throwing a hot, or changing the protection," said Luck. "So that's something hopefully we will get better at, and just completing more balls. You can always get better."
Indianapolis scored touchdowns on three of the four possessions directed by Luck, taking a 21-3 lead that swelled to the final margin. In 63 offensive snaps, Indianapolis called pass plays 31 times, completing 23 for three scores. The Colts moved the chains for 23 first downs, nine via the rush – a total higher than was achieved in any game in 2011. The rush-pass mix was another success for the club last week.
"I think being able to be multi-dimensional is great for an offense. I think all the units really stress that," said Luck. "Whether it's first-, second- or third-string guys, (they) took it upon themselves to be able to run the ball in, be able to complete passes and move the chains."
The team last week did not spend much time game-planning for the Rams. Indianapolis typically ran plays it had in camp, though it did spend a few moments talking late in the week about tendencies of Jeff Fisher-coached teams in the past.
Luck knows this week's opponent will be different. He has a respect for the history of the franchise, and it is a history that has had success recently.
"Obviously, it's a different scheme than what St. Louis ran, so we have to familiarize ourselves with that," said Luck. "They're a great franchise, great history, great recent history, so it'll be a lot of fun and an honor to go out there and play.
"I realize every defense is good in the NFL, in my mind. But to have a chance to go against a great historical defense, a great franchise, with a great fan base, will be fun. … I'm happy it's only an hour drive for my parents to be able to get to the game, so that's probably what I'm happiest about."
As the team embarks on its first road game, it will be doing so with a different offensive line configuration than last week. Guard Mike McGlynn suffered a high ankle sprain and will not be in the lineup. Also, Carter and running back Mewelde Moore are nursing rib injuries and may not be available.
Luck knows it will be a different environment than Lucas Oil Stadium, which he termed, "a great stadium, a beautiful stadium, great energy." In preparing for Heinz Field, he can consult Arians and Moore, who are former Steelers, as well as Pagano, who was with four Ravens teams that played in the venue.
"It's the first road game, not knowing what to expect, so (I'm) trying to pick some of the veterans' minds to prepare for that," said Luck. "Preparing for the noise, crowd noise, silent counts, whatever that may be."
Luck will face a historically tough Steelers defense, and he believes his camp exposures to the Colts' own hybrid 3-4 defense will help.
"I think the game speeds are always different. Coach (Pagano) has done a great job here at practice of pushing us to get to that point, to that level, but it always kicks up a notch in a game," said Luck. "It was a sense of relief after the first couple of plays (last week), 'Okay, I can handle this speed a little bit.' So there's hope."