Colts plan to build off dra­matic turn­around

In­di­anapo­lis came back from 1-5 start to win wild-card game

Tulsa World - - Sports - By Michael Marot

IN­DI­ANAPO­LIS — The In­di­anapo­lis Colts kept in­sist­ing An­drew Luck would play bet­ter after shoul­der surgery. He did.

Frank Re­ich ac­knowl­edged some his best work came in a backup role. Ap­par­ently, It still does.

A healthy Luck 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,” 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.”

That could be bad news for a team that seemed to defy the odds at ev­ery turn.

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 Re­ich, the of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor for the Su­per Bowl cham­pion Ea­gles, his sec­ond choice.

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. of

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.

“You won­der as a first time head coach, what is this re­ally go­ing to be like? I just couldn't have imag­ined in my wildest dreams how this year was,” Re­ich said.

Luck had the best over­all sea­son of his ca­reer, throw­ing for nearly 4,600 yards and 39 touch­downs. He was sacked a league-low 18 times, one sea­son after the Colts al­lowed a league­high 56 sacks.

Re­ich knows the ex­pec­ta­tions will in­crease next sea­son and he prom­ises to be ready.

“We had an op­por­tu­nity to learn so many les­sons this year,” he said. “I think han­dling suc­cess and high ex­pec­ta­tions is al­ways more dif­fi­cult but I be­lieve in the guys, the play­ers, the lead­ers to get that done.”

AJ MAST/AP

In­di­anapo­lis quar­ter­back An­drew Luck speaks to the me­dia Sun­day. The Colts ended their sea­son with a loss Satur­day.

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