Luck sees bright future after playoff loss
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Andrew Luck watched the game tape one more time
While it didn't change anything that happened in Saturday night's
frustrating playoff loss at New England, it did help Luck head into the
offseason with a bit of optimism.
The Colts, he figures, are off to a good start. If he can clean things
up in the postseason, well, the future looks even brighter for one of
the league's youngest teams.
"It's good motivation and it's a learning tool. I've got to look at it
as a learning tool," the newly clean-shaven Luck said after throwing
four interceptions last weekend and seven in the playoffs. "I think
offensively we got better. I think with guys coming back (from
injuries), hopefully we can keep taking steps forward. I think we
really improved as an offensive unit."
In two NFL seasons, Luck has presided over some historic feats. After
engineering a stunning nine-game turnaround, from 2-14 to 11-5 and a
return to the playoffs in 2012, he faced the challenge of a tougher
schedule. Luck made it look easy.
Indy won 11 regular-season games and this time captured its first AFC
South crown since the Peyton Manning era. Luck became only the third
Colts quarterback since John Unitas in 1971 to win a playoff game,
joining Manning and Jim Harbaugh.
It wasn't just that Luck and the Colts (12-6) went deeper into the
playoffs and pulled off the second-greatest comeback in postseason
history, rallying from a 28-point second-half deficit to beat Kansas
City 45-44. Indy beat also three teams — Denver, San Francisco and
Seattle — that are still playing.
The Colts did all that despite making a major change, going from a
vertical passing game to a power-running offense.
Luck threw fewer times for fewer yards, but his completion percentage
went up, his touchdown total remained steady (23) and the number of
sacks and interceptions each dropped by nine. He worked without having
his favorite target, Reggie Wayne, for the second half of the season;
and without his top two running backs, Vick Ballard and Ahmad Bradshaw,
his top tight end, Dwayne Allen, or left guard Donald Thomas since
Wayne, Allen, Ballard and Thomas all expected to be healthy for
training camp. Coach Chuck Pagano said Wayne is even ahead of schedule
on his recovery from a torn ACL in his right knee. The Colts are also
expecting more from running back Trent Richardson, the No. 3 pick in
2012 who was acquired in a September trade.
Pagano can't wait to see what the Colts will look like with all of
those guys on the field.
"If we go back to work and everybody gets 1-2 percent better at their
craft and what they do, and you combine all that ..." Pagano said,
pausing.. "Again, we didn't reach our ultimate goal. We're going to
keep chasing it. We always will. That will never change."
Plenty could change between now and September.
Seven players who started at New England are slated to become free
agents. That list includes running back Donald Brown, safety Antoine Bethea, cornerback Vontae Davis, punter Pat McAfee and kicker Adam Vinatieri. The Colts are expected to have roughly $31 million under the
salary cap, enough room to re-sign some of those key players and still
fill the defensive holes that allowed the Chiefs and Patriots to score
87 total points in the playoffs.
Offensively, they're likely to continue seeking help along the
offensive line to protect their franchise quarterback, and perhaps add
But if the Colts are going to attain their biggest goal — hoisting the
Lombardi Trophy — the most important piece may be Luck himself.
"I tried to start thinking about the season and all I can think about
is this past game against the Patriots and turning the ball over," he
said. "But I'm proud to be a part of this team. Proud to get to the
playoffs. But that wasn't our goal. We wanted to win a Super Bowl, just
like every other team out there. We'll work to do that this offseason."
Note: Pagano said four players who were injured Saturday — fullback
Stanley Havili, cornerbacks Darius Butler and Josh Gordy and offensive
lineman Hugh Thornton — were still being evaluated to see if they would
need offseason surgery. ... Indy also signed six players to
reserve-future contracts: guard Zach Allen, center Thomas Austin,
linebacker Alan Baxter, cornerback Marcus Burley, quarterback Chandler Harnish and tight end Martell Webb.
Luck Sees Bright Things Ahead
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