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Incredible beginning for Luck

– You saw this coming the way Mike Tyson saw Buster Douglas coming. Which is to say, not so much.

Five up and three down at the halfway mark for your Indianapolis Colts? Andrew Luck even better than the stat nerds guessed?

Never figured on that as the Colts head for Jacksonville tonight.

Never figured on a playoff chase and a three-game winning streak and some actual respect, not with the head coach fighting leukemia and a construction site for an offensive line, and a bunch of kids everywhere.

So how are you doing this, Bruce Arians?

“We’re playing hard,” said Arians, who’s filling in for Chuck Pagano as head coach. “We have a lot of guys who have bought into the system.”

And Andrew Luck? Hasn’t it been a bit like drafting Superman and then finding out that, hey, look, he’s got X-ray vision, too?

And here’s where it gets interesting.

“Not yet,” says Arians, when asked if Luck has, indeed, exceeded expectations. “We’re not in the playoffs yet.”

And there it is, the secret to everything: As high as the bar was set for Luck coming in, and as easily as he’s cleared it so far, both he and the Colts consider it a constantly moving target.

First there is Arians, who, a day after Luck set an NFL rookie record for most passing yards in a game said, in essence, “Show me more.” And there’s Luck himself, who, on the same day, gave himself a mid-term grade of C for his rookie season.

“I think a perfect grade would be if you won every game, didn’t have any incompletions, no interceptions,” said Luck this week, shortly before becoming another Colt – there are around 30 now – to shave his head in solidarity with Pagano. “So we’ll keep working until we get to there.”

Some people seem to think he’s already on the exit ramp to “there.” The numbers (2,404 yards, 10 touchdowns) are one reason, but there are others: The methodical way Luck works through his progressions, and his ability to find a wealth of receivers – five Colts have caught 21 balls or more so far this season – in a crowded pocket, and the way he extends plays.

“Of the guys I’ve had, he’s the furthest along at this time,” says Arians, who also had Ben Roethlisberger and Peyton Manning. “He’s doing more, and we’re asking him to do more.”

“He’s made some unbelievable throws, especially on the run,” adds Reggie Wayne, who has caught 61 passes in eight games.

Luck says he’s getting better at “situational football,” but he’s got miles to go yet. And in the meantime, he’ll insist, hey, hardly any of this is happening because of him.

“I think our O-line does a great job of continuing to fight even if they get beat, giving the quarterback a chance, or myself a chance, to get the ball out,” Luck says. “The receivers do a great job of seeing me under duress and maybe adjusting their routes to accommodate that. Credit to those guys.”

And to that focus-on-getting-better-every-day mentality that’s has instilled.

“Is (Luck) playing perfect?” Arians said this week. “No. We don’t have anybody playing perfect.(But) it doesn’t take perfect to win. Just play hard and good things will happen.”

Or in Luck’s case: Really good things.

Colts

At Jacksonville
When: 8:20 p.m. today
TV: NFL Network
Radio: 92.3 FM, 102.7 FM, 1190 AM
Ben Smith has been covering sports in Fort Wayne since 1986. His columns appear four times a week. He can be reached by email at bensmith@jg.net; phone, 461-8736; or fax 461-8648.

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