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Shutdown Corner

Colts’ surprising and successful season ends with wild-card loss

Frank Schwab
Shutdown Corner

Indianapolis' season-ending loss at Baltimore summed up its regular season.

There was a scary health issue with a coach. There were signs that this Colts team wasn't quite as good as its regular-season record. And there were other signs that the future is very bright, especially because of the franchise quarterback.

Since finishing the season with a first-round playoff loss is something the Colts would have signed up for in August, the way the season ended can't be too disappointing.

[Also: Pack quickly turn attention to 49ers challenge]

The day started with offensive coordinator Bruce Arians being taken to the hospital with an illness. The Colts announced during the game via CBS' broadcast that Arians was doing fine, but being without their play-caller had to be a reason Indianapolis never got into the end zone against the Ravens. Even though the team was well schooled in dealing with adversity after all Chuck Pagano went through this season.

The game showed that the Colts still have some ways to go. They gave up 419 yards and Baltimore would have scored more if not for some mistakes. Baltimore was the better team, but that's not a huge surprise. Indianapolis was an 11-5 team that was outscored by 30 points in the regular season. Football Outsiders ranked the Colts 25th in DVOA, the worst ranked team in more than two decades of their rankings to win at least 10 games. This wasn't a dominating Colts team, but it was still a successful season.

[Also: Arian Foster steps up big in Texans wild-card win]

The Colts' first order of business will be to get quarterback Andrew Luck more help. The Ravens punished him. It didn't seem like Baltimore end Paul Kruger was blocked the whole game. The Colts receivers had some miserable drops, including on Luck's last pass when running back Vick Ballard dropped a probable first-down throw on fourth and 5. Luck did OK in his first playoff start, completing 28-of-54 passes for 288 yards. It could have been better if his teammates played better. Luck's fourth-quarter interception wasn't very good (although his tackle showed off his impressive athletic ability), but he's going to improve, too.

There's time for the Colts to take some major steps forward. The Colts picked first overall last April and they weren't one player away from being a contender. General manager Ryan Grigson had a good draft, and goes into this offseason with a tremendous amount of salary-cap room. Some huge holes can and will be filled.

The Colts may be better next season but not have as good of a record. It will be hard to replicate its success in close games. But that's OK. This season was a good start. With Luck as the centerpiece the Colts will be back in the playoffs again soon, and they're likely to have a much better chance to win a game when they return.

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