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Colts, Luck find way to hold off Minnesota 23-20
By MICHAEL MAROT
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) Minnesota gave Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts too many chances Sunday.
Eventually, the No. 1 draft pick made the Vikings pay.
Indy's new quarterback threw two touchdown passes, moved the Colts 45 yards in 23 seconds on their final drive and even got the Vikings to jump offside with 13 seconds left in the game to set up a 53-yard field goal from Adam Vinatieri for a 23-20 victory - Luck's first career win.
"To get a win, was something I really wanted for this team," he said after making his home debut. "For me personally, I didn't want it looming over us for the next game."
Sunday's victory shows how much has changed in the past year, since the Colts (1-1) were dealing with an 0-13 start and months of questions about going winless.
This year's completely revamped team won't have to contend with any part of that.
The biggest change, of course, is at quarterback where Luck has replaced the longtime face of the franchise, Peyton Manning. Around the stadium there was a mixture of the new No. 12 jerseys and the old No. 18 jerseys, though at the end of the day, everyone was applauding Luck's composure.
In his home debut, Luck looked solid, not spectacular, going 20 of 31 for 224 yards. He did not throw an interception, was sacked twice despite having three starting offensive linemen out the entire second half and he did something Manning couldn't during his rookie season: win in September. Manning opened his career 0-4, including two losses at home before finally beating Ryan Leaf and the San Diego Chargers for his first career win on Oct. 4, 1998.
But this game had as much to do with the Vikings errors as it did with Luck's success.
"We did some things today that really hurt us. We hurt ourselves," Minnesota coach Leslie Frazier said. `We've got to figure it out. We've got to learn from it and not let it happen going forward. We really shot ourselves in the foot a few different times."
Luck did his part, though, by repeatedly outsmarting the veterans.
He burned Minnesota's zone defense for a 30-yard TD pass to Reggie Wayne with 7 seconds left in the first half.
He led the Colts 53 yards for a field goal to open the second half on a drive that used using up 7:54 and was extended by a roughing the kicker penalty on fourth-and-5 and again when Jared Allen was called for a personal foul after tackling Luck out of bounds.
Then, after Minnesota (1-1) tied the score at 20 with 31 seconds left in the game, Luck evaded the Vikings pressure and threw 20-yard completions to Donnie Avery and Wayne before getting the offside call that took the ball from the Minnesota 40 to the Vikings 35.
"It's just amazing that the guy's able to go out there and do the things he does as a rookie," Colts coach Chuck Pagano said after getting his first career win.
Sure, Luck made a few miscues - such as taking the 17-yard sack on third-and-5 with 3:00 to play. Or spiking the ball when the clock was already stopped just before Vinatieri came onto the field for his winning kick.
But Luck never let those minor mistakes get under his skin.
"I guess some people were under the impression that the clock was going to run, so I guess we looked a little foolish killing the clock when it was already stopped ," he said, laughing as he explained why he spiked the ball with 12 seconds to play. "Oh well."
Still, the Vikings had chances.
After settling for two field goals in the first 54 minutes, quarterback Christian Ponder rallied the Vikings late and got the big break he needed when defensive end Cory Redding batted his fourth-down pass up into the air. Kyle Rudolph got his hands on the ball, too, tipping it up again and toward teammate Stephen Burton, who hung onto the ball for a 7-yard TD. That made it 20-13 with 5:07 to play.
Ponder was 27 of 35 for 245 yards with two TDs, but was sacked four times. Percy Harvin caught 12 passes for 104 yards.
And following that big third-down sack on Luck and Pat McAfee's worst punt of the day, Minnesota took over at the Indy 47 with 2:29 to play. The Vikings finally tied the score and appeared headed to overtime when Rudolph hung on for the 6-yard TD reception with 31 seconds left.
"You want to score and the defense has to go out there and hold in that situation," Frazier said. "That's our league. In that situation where we were, we needed to get the ball in the end zone and we got to go out and play defense."
But that gave Luck another chance to win it - and Minnesota another chance to break down - and behind Luck, the Colts took advantage again.
"When you win tight games like this, it builds confidence," Vinatieri said. "You have to win at home. Our crowd was great and loud and you have to win those games at home."
NOTES: Avery tied his career high with nine receptions. He also had 111 yards. ... Colts center Samson Satele left the game in the third quarter with an undisclosed knee injury. Right tackle Winston Justice and left guard Joe Reitz (knee) were inactive. ... During one stretch Sunday, the Colts ran 31 plays, compared with four for the Vikings - including a kneel-down at the end of the first half. ... The Colts have won all three home games (two in preseason) this year, but have lost all three on road. ... Blair Walsh has made all six of his field-goal attempts in his first two games including a 51-yarder to open Sunday's scoring.
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Updated September 17, 2012