Claremore Daily Progress

Sports

January 14, 2014

NFL: Luck sees bright future after playoff loss

INDIANAPOLIS — Andrew Luck watched the game tape one more time Monday morning.

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 September.

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 another receiver.

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.''

 

1
Text Only
Sports
  • DSC_0016web.jpg District Champions!

    District champions ... Enough said!
    Claremore freshman forward Olivia Maulsby converted a game-winning header with 1:22 remaining to lead the No. 4-ranked Lady Zebras past No. 5 Skiatook, 2-1 Tuesday night in Metro Lakes Conference play at Lantow Field.

    April 23, 2014 3 Photos

  • DSC_0433web.jpg SOCCER: Bulldogs spoil ‘Senior Night’ for Zebras

    Claremore senior goalkeeper Sam Lillie made the most of his first and last varsity start Tuesday night against Skiatook on Senior Night at Lantow Field.
    For 40 minutes, Lillie was flawless in the goal, allowing only one goal and making several tenacious stops against the fiery Bulldogs.
    The second-half, however, told a different story as No. 3 Skiatook scored four goals and enjoyed a 5-0 win over the No. 15 Zebras.

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Berryhill’s White strikes out 17, tosses no-hitter over No. 1 Verdigris

    Top-ranked Class 3A Verdigris got White-washed by 4A No.3 Berryhill on Tuesday night.
    In a battle of 2013 state champions, Chiefs’ ace Nick White — a future Oklahoma State pitcher —  fired a no-hitter with 17 strikeouts, igniting a 5-0 victory over the Cardinals.

    April 23, 2014

  • Stilwell’s Lea signs with RSU men's basketball

    Rogers State University men's basketball head coach Justin Barkley announced the addition of standout center Matt Lea for the 2014-15 season.

    April 23, 2014

  • HANSLOVANweb.jpg SOCCER: No. 2 Lady Cards roll past Oologah

    Verdigris senior forward Caitlyn Hanslovan tallied another ‘hat trick’ in her illustrious Lady Cardinals soccer career Tuesday night at Oologah.
    The three goals by Hanslovan soared the second-ranked Lady Cardinals past Oologah, 5-0 in non-conference play at Mustangs Stadium.

    April 23, 2014 2 Photos

  • 5 Claremore HS tennis players earn all-conference

    The Claremore High School boys and girls varsity tennis programs had five players receive Metro Lakes all-conference recognition.

    April 23, 2014

  • SEC MEN'S BB: Johnson, Poythress returning to Kentucky

    Kentucky's frontcourt will bring back size and experience next season after freshman center Dakari Johnson and sophomore forward Alex Poythress announced they would return.

    April 23, 2014

  • NBA PLAYOFFS: Grizzlies look to keep home edge against Thunder

    The Grizzlies are happy to be back in Memphis, where they finished the regular season by winning a franchise-record 14 straight games.
    They brought home-court advantage with them.
    To guard Mike Conley, that ratchets up the pressure even more. It's time for the Grizzlies to protect the place they call the Grindhouse.

    April 23, 2014

  • NBA PLAYOFFS: Warriors, Clippers to meet in Oakland for Game 3

    Golden State Warriors coach Mark Jackson sat on the scorer's table at Oracle Arena on Wednesday morning. He gazed around the building and tried to envision what it will look and sound like when the Warriors host the Los Angeles Clippers for Game 3 of their first-round playoff series Thursday night.

    April 23, 2014

  • Arkansas' Beeks among SEC pitchers having banner season

    Now more than ever, the key to success in the Southeastern Conference is pitching.
    The league has the lowest ERA in the country, and aces abound as postseason play approaches next month.
    LSU's Aaron Nola (7-1, 0.88 ERA), Arkansas' Jalen Beeks (5-3, 1.49) and Mississippi's Chris Ellis (5-0, 1.72) are among those dominating almost every time they take the mound.

    April 23, 2014