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#1 02.09.2019 10:37:04

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NASHVILLE Josh Ferguson Jersey , Tenn. — Entering the 2018-19 regular season the Indianapolis Colts weren’t very fond of the number 32 and the word rebuild. That’s what media and football spectators coined the Colts. A team that found itself with a huge question-mark at quarterback and several other positions. With all those concerns, Indianapolis was labeled No. 32. 32 as in the 32nd ranked team in the preseason rankings. The Colts head coach knew it wasn’t a rebuild and he knew he had a group of guys that is better than the No. 32 label. Fast forward 17 weeks, Reich was right. “I never thought it was a rebuild,” Reich said to reporters after the Week 17 win over the Tennessee Titans. “Chris (Ballard) and I would talk, he had the perspective at the end that we talked about building. We talked about building. We talked about where we were at, and goals that we had. I took myself out of that equation from the beginning. I just wanted to say one thing up front that I’ve got one thing on my mind, and that’s to win this year, and that’s what our expectation is.”The expectation came to fruition when the Colts earned their 10th win of the season, knocking the Titans out of the playoffs with a 33-17 win. That victory capped off a 2018 regular season in which Indianapolis won nine of its last 10 games. That doesn’t happen over night, and the 32nd ranked team in the league wouldn’t be able to achieve such a feat. The Colts did, and they were motivated. “We have the players to do it,” Reich said. “We don’t want to hear everything about what everybody said about the roster. We were ranked 32nd in all preseason polls. We talked about that, and then we were ranked 32nd after the draft with that draft we had. I like where we’re at.” Whenever Luck is 100 percent healthy, the Colts have a chance to win each game. With Luck finding his old self again, the Colts needed other roster members to step-up to relieve some pressure off the franchise quarterback.Chris Ballard did that, finding players such Quenton Nelson, Eric Ebron, Dontrelle Inman, Mark Glowinski, Nyheim Hines, Tyquan Lewis, Braden Smith T.J. Green Color Rush Jersey , Malik Hooker, and so forth. Ballard’s campaign started off on a bumpy road, as the Colts won just five games in 22 attempts. That had the Indianapolis fan base concerned about their new general manager. Those yells and whispers are forgotten as Ballard’s roster build has the Colts primed for a playoff run outside of this season. “I can’t say enough about Chris (Ballard) and everything he’s done to make this happen,” Reich said. “The emphasis on character, the draft that we had, the leadership that we’re getting from the guys in the draft – not just great players, but strong players. Obviously, Chris (Ballard) is at the forefront of that.”Even at 1-5, the Colts knew they had a chance for something special. With close losses to the Cincinnati Bengals, Philadelphia Eagles, and Houston Texans, the guys in the locker room stuck together like glue.The glue never wore off, which made the win over the Titans in Week 17 that much more special.“We’re excited,” Luck said. “I’m so proud of the guys on this team. I sincerely love being on this team. I really enjoy those guys in the locker room, the coaches, the help, everybody. It’s a great group of guys. You can’t do it without a strong locker room. You can’t. It’s what this league’s about. Coach put a great group together. Frank (Reich) leading the charge, awesome. We’ve been in playoff mode for a long time now, we really have and honestly, I think that helps. It helps us when we are in a so called ‘win and in’ situation. Things don’t change this weekend now; it’s the same. Excited, very happy, certainly proud to be a Colt.” The Colts became the second team in the history of the National Football League to clinch a playoff berth despite starting 1-5. Don’t tell Luck that this group isn’t special. “I’ll be honest when you’re in the weeds of it and you’re in it https://www.coltsfanshop.com/Matthias-Farley-Jersey , it’s hard to sort of step back and appreciate it. I know for my personality, at least it is. Frank (Reich) mentioned something about maybe being the second team in NFL history to do what we’ve done and that’s great. That’s awesome. We’re just excited to have another opportunity to go play again. I guess to answer your question, it’s a little hard to step back and look at it from that perspective now.” Next up, Houston. INDIANAPOLIS 鈥?The Indianapolis Colts kept insisting Andrew Luck would play better after shoulder surgery.He did.Frank Reich acknowledged some of 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.The odd sequence included Reich inheriting a defensive coordinator in Matt Eberflus, whom he didn't know much about and who 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 mid-October.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."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. "The guys in this building, the guys in that locker room, the coaches and players, they just exceeded any of my wildest expectations."Everyone else's, too.Luck had the best overall season of his career, throwing for nearly 4 Christine Michael Sr Jersey ,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.Meanwhile, Marlon Mack fought off injuries to finish with five 100-yard games 鈥?the most by a Colts running back in more than a decade.Eric Ebron finally delivered on the first-round promise the Detroit Lions saw in 2014 by catching 13 touchdowns to lead the league's tight ends and earning his first Pro Bowl selection."It was a helluva time, a helluva season," center Ryan Kelly said. "Guys were fighting for each other and it was just a good time."But Reich's favorite might have been watching the rookies develop.Quenton Nelson and Braden Smith were rock solid at left guard and right tackle, and linebacker Darius Leonard led the league in tackles with a franchise-record 163. Nelson and Leonard became the first rookie teammates to earn first-team All-Pro honors since Dick Butkus and Gale Sayers achieved the feat in 1965.Now, with Luck heading into his first healthy offseason in four years, a veteran coach and proven players, Reich knows the expectations will increase next season. He promises to be ready."We had an opportunity to learn so many lessons this year," he said. "We lost four or five and then won 10 or 11. So we've had a taste of that. 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."NOTES: Kelly wouldn't rule out having surgery on his injured left knee but described the procedure as minor. … Pro Bowl tight end Jack Doyle said he spent two days in the hospital after suffering a season-ending kidney injury in late-November. Doyle told reporters he was feeling "pretty good," though he's still recovering. … Kicker Adam Vinatieri hopes to return for his 24th season after missing the shortest field goal of his career Saturday. He broke the NFL's career scoring record this season and now has 2,600 points. … Indy signed tight end Billy Brown, cornerback Jalen Collins, offensive linemen Antonio Garcia and De'Ondre Wesley, receivers Krishawn Hogan and Steve Ishmael, quarterback Phillip Walker and defensive linemen DeShawn Williams and Anthony Winbush to futures contracts Sunday.100View Gallery Gallery:View from the sidelines: NFL cheerleaders 2018Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports | Raj Mehta

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