Colts aim to build on his­toric turn­around

QB Luck, head coach Re­ich foster op­ti­mism

Albany Times Union - - SPORTS -

A healthy quar­ter­back and an op­por­tunis­tic first-year coach led the Colts on a his­toric mid­sea­son turn­around, end­ing with a play­off run and a glimpse into a po­ten­tially promis­ing fu­ture.

“We left our hearts on the field ev­ery game,” quar­ter­back An­drew Luck said Sun­day, a day af­ter a 31-13 elim­i­na­tion loss at Kansas City. “I know we all wished we played bet­ter yes­ter­day. It’s sad. We wanted this some­what mag­i­cal sea­son to con­tinue and we’ll use that to mo­ti­vate us.”

Most fig­ured the Colts hit rock bot­tom when Josh Mcdaniels backed out of a deal to be­come the Colts’ new coach while Luck con­tin­ued to re­hab his throw­ing shoul­der in early Fe­bru­ary. Gen­eral man­ager Chris Bal­lard wasted no time in mak­ing Frank Re­ich, the of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor for the Su­per Bowl cham­pion Ea­gles, his sec­ond choice.

The odd se­quence in­cluded Re­ich in­her­it­ing a de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor in Matt Eber­flus, who he didn’t know much about and was al­ready plot­ting a con­ver­sion from a 3-4 front to a 4-3. Re­ich fol­lowed the ad­vice of Bal­lard by keep­ing him in the same role and adding two more first-year co­or­di­na­tors to his staff.

To out­siders, it looked like a com­plete re­build.

But the Colts never bought into the per­cep­tion and de­liv­ered the kind of sea­son no­body thought pos­si­ble when they lost their fourth in a row in midoc­to­ber.

That’s when things changed. Luck rounded into form, the Colts de­vel­oped a bal­anced at­tack, their re­vamped of­fen­sive line be­came a vir­tual fortress and the oft-crit­i­cized de­fense sud­denly emerged as one of the league’s stingi­est units.

The Colts (11-7) won nine of their last 10 reg­u­lar-sea­son games to be­come the third team in league his­tory to make the post­sea­son af­ter start­ing 1-5, fol­lowed by a wild-card win at Hous­ton.

Luck threw for nearly 4,600 yards and 39 touch­downs while set­ting ca­reer highs in com­ple­tions, at­tempts and per­cent­age. He was sacked a league-low 18 times, one sea­son af­ter the Colts al­lowed a league-high 56 sacks. Of­fi­ci­at­ing his­tory: Sarah thomas is the first woman to work an nfl play­off game as an on-field of­fi­cial. thomas was the down judge in Sun­day’s di­vi­sional round game be­tween new eng­land and the Los An­ge­les Charg­ers. that’s a first, ac­cord­ing to the league’s twit­ter ac­count. thomas was hired in 2015 and was al­ready the league’s first fe­male full-time of­fi­cial. terri Valenti was the re­play of­fi­cial in Satur­day’s play­off game be­tween the Chiefs and Colts, also a first.

Obituary: mi­ami dol­phins guard Bob Kuechen­berg, a six-time Pro Bowl se­lec­tion and mem­ber of the only team to achieve a per­fect sea­son, has died at age 71. the for­mer notre dame stand­out spent his en­tire nfl ca­reer with the dol­phins from 1970 to 1983. He started ev­ery game for the team that went 17-0 in 1972, and started 16 games for the team that re­peated as Su­per Bowl cham­pi­ons in 1973.


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