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Andrew Luck learns ‘fast’ in NFL debut

Colts quarterback Andrew Luck fumbles ball as he tries pass third quarter Chicago Bears 41-21 wover Indianapolis Colts Sunday September

Colts quarterback Andrew Luck fumbles the ball as he tries to pass in the third quarter of the Chicago Bears 41-21 win over the Indianapolis Colts Sunday September 9, 2012 at Soldier Field. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

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If Andrew Luck thought the preseason was fast, then Sunday’s game was unfolding at warp speed in a blur of navy blue jerseys, especially early on.

The Colts current and future face of the franchise eventually adjusted to the unaccustomed speed. Peyton Manning’s heir apparent was overwhelmed early, when pressure from the Bears defensive front had him hopping around as if his shoes were aflame. By the end of the half, he was coolly leading his offense into field-goal range in a two-minute drill.

Of course, by that time, the Bears had a comfortable 10-point lead that would bloat to 20 midway through the third quarter of a 41-21 win at Soldier Field on Sunday.

“It definitely was kicked up another notch, especially against a defense with Lance Briggs, Julius Peppers, Henry Melton and [Brian] Urlacher,” Luck said. “They have a lot of speed out there. They’re a fast team. There was a noticeable difference.”

Luck completed 23 of 45 passes for 309 yards with one touchdown, three interceptions and a fumble, which isn’t that unlike the debut of another former Colts quarterback. Manning threw for 302 yards and also had three interceptions and one touchdown in his first NFL game.

Debuts are never easy and the Bears did all they could to make Luck’s miserable. They sacked him three times, although two came during slop time. They forced him to rush passes. His jittery receivers and running backs dropped numerous passes. He didn’t help himself with inaccurate passes.

Julius Peppers inadvertently punched him in the throat late in the first quarter. How that for a welcome to the NFL moment?

“He kept his poise no matter what the situation was,” said veteran receiver Reggie Wayne, who caught nine passes for 135 yards while serving as Luck’s security blanket. “He had some tough times. Guys were in his face. He dropped balls. We as an offense have to help him out. We have to help make him look good. If not, it’s going to be ugly out there.”

Wayne was open down the right sideline when Luck threw a pass he could get away with in college but not in the NFL. He threw the ball so high Tim Jennings had time to leap in front to make the first of his two interceptions. Luck thought Israel Idonije was was offsides, so he assumed it was a free play.

“I should never assume anything in this league,” he said. “It was a bad ball as well. It was underthrown.”

He was trying to thread the ball to Wayne in the end zone between two defenders in the third quarter when a diving Jennings deflected it to safety Chris Conte, who returned to interception 35 yards, providing him with yet another lesson: There’s no room for error when throwing into tight spots.

His final interception was the result of a bad throw in the final moments.

“I do not have too many fond memories of [this] opening loss,” he said.

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