November 18, 2012

NFL: Pats get 1st look at Luck

BY HOWARD ULMAN AP Sports Writer

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Three weeks before Tom Brady made his first NFL start, Andrew Luck turned 12.

click image to enlarge

ANDREW LUCK

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Colts at Patriots
When:
4:25 p.m. today
TV: CBS

On the field before the opening kickoff of that game on Sept. 30, 2001, the young Patriot met the opposing quarterback for the first time.

"I was out there warming up for the game and he came over and he said, 'Hey Tom, I'm Peyton,' " Brady recalled.

New England won that home game over Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts, 44-13. On Sunday, Brady will be the experienced star when the Patriots face the Colts again, this time with rookie Luck at quarterback.

And Luck may not get a warm greeting when he takes the field at Gillette Stadium. Brady said he's not sure he'll introduce himself.

"I don't know. We'll see," he said. "Usually I don't go out too early anymore. I tend to just keep to myself."

If he does that to get in a competitive frame of mind, it makes sense in a game that should be tougher than the Patriots could have imagined when the season began. They were 13-3 last year and reached the Super Bowl, while the Colts were 2-14 with a variety of mediocre quarterbacks filling in for Manning, sidelined all last season after several neck surgeries.

After the season, Manning signed with the Denver Broncos. The Colts made Luck the first pick of the NFL draft and he's having a much better rookie season than both Brady, who threw just three passes in 2000, and Manning, who started all 16 games when the Colts went 3-13 in 1998.

"As a rookie, I was like fourth-string and eating nachos before the game in the stands," said Brady, now in his 13th season. "There wasn't much of me thinking of playing."

Luck tried to learn from Brady and Manning by watching the Patriots and Colts play each other through the years.

"As a young quarterback growing up, I took the opportunity to watch the sort of benchmarks of quarterback play," Luck said. "There were some great playoff games at both stadiums. I think Gillette had grass a while back so it got fairly muddy sometimes late in the year."

The field has artificial turf now and the teams are heading into the latter part of the season on a roll. The Colts have won their last four games, the Patriots their last three, and both are 6-3.

"It's a big game, obviously, a huge game," Luck said. "In the AFC, (the) two teams that are up there, in terms of the standings right now. So it'll definitely be exciting."

The Colts have made a swift turnaround. They already have four more wins than they had all last season and have a legitimate shot at a playoff berth.

"I'm definitely impressed," Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker said. "Obviously, you would figure it would be a rebuilding type deal for the Colts and it's not that way at all. They're playing some really good ball with a lot of young players and then they have some veterans, too, who really kind of step up for them in crunch time."

Luck's 2,631 yards passing are the most by a rookie through his first nine games. He set an NFL rookie record with 433 yards through the air in a 23-20 win over the Miami Dolphins two weeks ago. And one more game of more than 300 yards will be his fifth, breaking Manning's NFL rookie mark.

There's a decent chance of that happening Sunday.

The Patriots have allowed that many in five of their nine games. Only four teams have given up more yards passing than the Patriots, who have been especially vulnerable to the big play. They're hoping to get help from newcomer Aqib Talib, obtained in a trade with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

(Continued on page 2)

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