INDIANAPOLIS – The Indianapolis first-team offense had a productive evening against Cleveland that could have been even better, but it staked the team to a 17-0 lead in a contest that ended 27-6.
Andrew Luck conducted a 46-yard scoring drive to open the game, guiding the Colts to the Cleveland 20 for an Adam Vinatieri 32-yard field goal.
Two possessions later, Luck completed all five attempts on a march that spanned 66 yards, and he had a hand in almost every step.
His five connections gained 52 yards, and Luck scrambled twice for 12 yards. The payoff was his three-yard toss to fullback Stanley Havili with 6:51 gone in the second quarter.
The sticking point in the evening was the next three possessions where Indianapolis started at the Cleveland 35, its 38 and its 26 without scoring on any chance.
Luck was intercepted deep in Browns territory on that first drive, and a final two-minute chance to end the half did not reach midfield.
The offense made halftime adjustments and zipped 47 yards to open the second half, with Luck teaming with a wide-open T.Y. Hilton for an eight-yard scoring pass before exiting for the evening.
"T.Y. was the farthest inside receiver," said Luck. "I told him it was probably the easiest touchdown catch he'll have. We'll take it."
Starting strongly, Luck was 16-of-25 for 164 yards and two scores and a 92.8 rating that counted the interception.
"I think he started this game nine-for-10," said Chuck Pagano. "He seems so comfortable out there. He's got great command of that huddle, great command of the offense. He's running way too much, I know that."
The first touchdown drive was a textbook march by Luck. Once he evaded pressure with a sixth-sense and gained a half dozen yards. He found Reggie Wayne (seven receptions, 79 yards) and Darrius Heyward-Bey (three receptions, 33 yards) twice each, then found Havili for only the third touchdown pass to a fullback by Indianapolis since 2003.
Luck hit six different receivers, including Hilton for a touchdown for the third straight game, while rushing four times for 20 yards. He was sacked once and hurried at times.
"We have to do a better job of keeping him clean, but that's another dimension people have to contend with," said Pagano. "He has the ability to extend plays and create. I think he's way ahead (of last year)."
Said Luck of the night, "Some good, some bad, (but) definitely a step in the right direction. It's always good to win at home and defend our turf.
"We wanted to come out strong in the third quarter. We know coming out strong can do so much for the second half of a game. Our first time to play in the third quarter as a unit, we wanted to come out strong. It went well and set the tone for the rest of the half."
Luck and Wayne collaborated 106 times in 2012, with the veteran target being a favorite for the rookie quarterback.
They operated in perfect sync over the first 30 minutes, converting first downs and opening passing lanes for other receivers.
"Reggie has such a great feel for football, whether he's outside and running routes with some press corner, or inside finding that hole in the zone, or creating separation in man," said Luck. "I think he has a God-given sense for how to get open.
"As a quarterback, it's great to see. He's always in the right spot. He's always running away from his man, or sitting (in a) zone, doing the right thing. He does a good job of getting open."
Indianapolis was missing starting tight ends Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener, while starting left tackle Anthony Castonzo left early with a sprained MCL will mean an MRI.
Despite rushing for 149 yards, Pagano says the ground game needs work and is trending into shape.
"It's still a work in progress. We popped a few at the end," said Pagano. "We popped some big runs, which was something we were looking to do. It's going to be a work in progress, but we're going to get better each week. I feel good about the direction it's going right now."
The Colts, 2-1, close preseason next Thursday in Cincinnati.