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Ben Smith

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Colts quarterback Andrew Luck will make his home debut today against Minnesota.

Stop Luck-Manning comparisons

Luck threw for 309 yards with a touchdown and three interceptions last week against Chicago.

– So here’s the afternoon Andrew Luck will have today, as he plays his first NFL home game in which live ammunition will be used:

He’ll go 21 of 33, or thereabouts.

Put up 188 yards, or thereabouts.

Throw one touchdown pass. Throw three more picks. And his passer rating will be 51.1.

Those are the numbers Peyton Manning put up in his second professional game, and since we’ve apparently decided that Luck is Manning’s absolute doppelganger, those become Luck’s numbers, too. No. 12 is No. 18; No. 18 is No. 12. Clearly that’s the narrative here.

I say we do Andrew Luck an enormous favor, in that case.

I say we change the narrative.

I say comparisons are fine and maybe even this case inevitable, but at some point they also become a burden, and Luck has enough of those already. He’s a kid playing on a team of kids behind an offensive line that, at this point anyway, is a lot closer to being the Seven Blocks of Linguini than the House of Pancakes. So he’s carrying enough weight without the ghost of Peyton hopping aboard every week, too.

To be sure, he’s brought a lot of this on himself. His demeanor is decidedly Peyton-like, calm and measured and not prone to overreaction. He’s got the same sort of laser focus everyone saw in Manning right from the hop. And even though he was responsible for four turnovers against the Bears last week, they were products of an ongoing learning process, not mistakes of judgment.

He made the right throws. He just didn’t always execute them right.

Here’s the thing: They were his throws, not No. 18’s. And he’ll learn from them his way, on his own schedule, same as any other young quarterback. And, of course, not the same.

Case in point: The deep sideline throw to Donnie Avery last week that resulted in one of his three interceptions.

He underthrew it by the smallest of increments, so small that at Stanford it would likely have gone for six. Sunday, however, it was a turnover.

“Don’t underthrow those guys,” Colts offensive coordinator Bruce Arians said last week. “Those are good lessons learned.”

And Luck will learn them. Already, for instance, he says he’s more comfortable with the game-week routine, more in touch with how to manage his time.

“It’s nice to sort of go through the routine the second time and know this is what’s going to happen on a Tuesday, this is what’s going to happen on a Wednesday, he said last week. “Then just knowing (the) speed of a regular-season game, got that out of the way. Now I don’t have to worry about the unknowns of playing your first … game.”

No, he doesn’t. And he’s home this week in Lucas Oil, playing in front of knowledgeable and supportive fans. And he’s facing a Vikings “D” that’s similar in scheme, if not execution, to the Bears’ defense he saw too much of last week.

“Yes, there is some similar stuff,” Luck says. “It’s not like you’re going up against a completely new style this week, so I guess that is nice.”

And, yes, that does sound like something you know who would say. But you know what?

Sounds a lot more like Andrew Luck.

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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