Bears

...although Luck's rookie season is done

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...although Luck's rookie season is done

From Comcast SportsNetBALTIMORE (AP) -- Andrew Luck was harried and hurried in his first career playoff appearance as the Indianapolis Colts' unlikely run came to a disappointing end.Chuck Pagano's emotional return to Baltimore also ended with a thud as the Colts fell 24-9 to the Baltimore Ravens in an AFC wild-card game Sunday."The Ravens made plays when they needed to and we didn't," Luck said. "Field goals in the red zone killed us. Some bad balls by me killed us. ... I wish we could have done better."After improving from 2-14 to 11-5 with No. 1 overall draft pick Luck running their high-octane offense, the Colts couldn't even score a touchdown against the Ravens, who advanced to the conference semifinals against Denver next weekend.But Pagano chose to emphasize the improvements the Colts made in a season filled with adversity, rather than dwell on the way it ended."The foundation is set, and we said we were going to build one on rock and not on sand," Pagano said. "You weather storms like this and you learn from times like this. This disappointment and the feelings they all have right now, that's what's going to propel us to 2013 and motivate us to come back and work even harder."One key moving forward will be Luck, who reached the playoffs as a rookie.Luck was 28 for 54 for 288 yards and an interception, but was often under pressure and forced to scramble by a Ravens defense energized by the return of linebacker Ray Lewis from a torn triceps."My only focus was to come in and get my team a win. Nothing else was planned," the 37-year-old Lewis said. "It's one of those things, when you recap it all and try to say what is one of your greatest moments. I knew how it started, but I never knew how it would end here in Baltimore. To go the way it did today, I wouldn't change nothing."Lewis, who announced earlier this week he would retire after Baltimore's playoff run, was playing the final home game of his 17-year career."We still had opportunities," said Luck, who was sacked three times. "We still put ourselves in positions to score and didn't take advantage of them, and a lot of credit goes to the Baltimore defense. What a great, great unit. I wish we could have capitalized on a couple of those drives, but we didn't."Pagano, the former Ravens defensive coordinator who missed 12 Colts games this season while undergoing treatment for leukemia, coached his first playoff game. But offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, who had a 9-3 record coaching in Pagano's absence, missed the game after being hospitalized for an undisclosed illness, leaving play-calling duties to quarterbacks coach Clyde Christensen.After the game, Pagano said Arians would remain hospitalized in Baltimore overnight for observation and likely rejoin the Colts in Indianapolis on Monday."Just precautionary," Pagano said. "I think every test they've done on Bruce came back negative. He's in good shape. ... He'll be back with us tomorrow."Indianapolis had won five of its final six games to clinch a wild-card berth, and moved the ball during the first half, but had to settle for a pair of field goals by Adam Vinatieri and trailed 10-6 at halftime."As good as that defense is, it's hard to go on sustained drives," Pagano said. "We moved the ball, we did some things. But we weren't able to get some chunk plays."Luck completed 13 of 23 passes for 143 yards in the first half, and a 15-play drive in the third quarter stalled at the Baltimore 8-yard line, with Vinatieri kicking his third field goal.Vinatieri pushed a 40-yard field-goal attempt wide right early in the fourth quarter. He was previously 10 of 11 between 40 and 49 yards this season."In games like this," Vinatieri said, "you have to make them all."The Ravens followed up Vinatieri's miss -- his first after 18 successful kicks against the Ravens -- Baltimore retaliated with a five-play, 70-yard drive that ended with a touchdown pass from Joe Flacco to Anquan Boldin.Until that point, even with an offense that couldn't manage a touchdown, it was still a one-score game."It's always come down to a one-score game, a 10-point deficit, and this team has always been able to overcome that for many weeks," Pagano said. "Sitting on the sideline and looking in everybody's eyes, the faith and belief was still there that we were going to get the job done."Owner Jim Irsay said the Colts' future is promising."This year was incredible," he said. "It was special and unique in so many ways. It was one of the most special seasons in Colts history and probably in NFL history. I couldn't have imagined how this season would have played out. We had a coach fighting for his life, we reorganized, won 11 games and went to the playoffs. ... To say that our future is bright is an understatement."Boldin set a franchise record with 145 yards receiving, including the clinching touchdown, setting up the showdown with the Broncos. Denver beat Baltimore 34-17 three weeks ago."It's huge for us," Boldin said. "It's huge for this city, they've supported us this entire year and they expect a lot from us. In return, we want to give it to them."Sunday's victory also enhanced the Ravens' success rate in opening playoff games. Flacco has won at least one postseason game in all five of his pro seasons, the only quarterback to do it in the Super Bowl era.Baltimore overcame the first two lost fumbles of the season by Ray Rice, too, as John Harbaugh became the first head coach with wins in his first five playoff campaigns.

Under Center Podcast: Warren Sharp describes what 2020 Bears will look like

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USA TODAY

Under Center Podcast: Warren Sharp describes what 2020 Bears will look like

As they prepare for the season, it's time to start looking in depth at what the Bears could look like in 2020.

JJ Stankevitz and Cam Ellis are joined by one of the smartest minds in football media, Warren Sharp of Sharp Football Analysis, to discuss and predict what the Bears look like in 2020. The group discusses the QB competition, will the Bears defense improve or regress, and what should Matt Nagy do in terms of his scheme this year.

(2:40) - Nick Foles should be the starter in 2020

(7:45) - Matt Nagy needs to be more predictable in play calling

(15:30) - Have the Bears used and embraced analytics

Click to download the MyTeams App for the latest Bears news and analysis.

(22:10) - How easy is the Bears schedule and what will be their record at the end of the season?

(31:00) - Why you should watch the Bears in 2020

Listen here or below.

Under Center Podcast

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Blackhawks’ Kirby Dach emerging as star and living up to 'playoff performer' hype

Blackhawks’ Kirby Dach emerging as star and living up to 'playoff performer' hype

Ask anyone in Chicago who the standout of training camp 2.0 was and you'll hear one name: Kirby Dach.

“He has all the potential in the world,” Patrick Kane said. “He can be a top player in the league.”

“He’s got the potential to be a great player in this league and a great player for the Blackhawks for a long time," echoed Brent Seabrook.

Upon hearing this enormous praise from a pair of three-time Stanley Cup champions and joining the hype train myself, I couldn’t help but think: Are we putting unfair expectations on a kid who’s still only 19?

The answer: Nope. Because he can handle it.

Dach looks like a completely different player after finally having an “offseason” to recharge, both mentally and physically. And it’s showing in the postseason.

Click to download the MyTeams App for the latest Blackhawks news and analysis.

Through three games in the Stanley Cup Qualifiers, Dach has four points — all assists — and a team-best plus-4 rating; in total, he’s been on the ice for eight of the Blackhawks’ 13 goals so far. He became the first Blackhawks rookie to register at least one point in his first three postseason games since Eddie Olczyk in 1985. 

All those numbers are great, but here’s the eye-opener: Dach is averaging 20:21 of ice time in the postseason, which trails only Patrick Kane (22:21) among team forwards. He led all Blackhawks forwards with 23:21 of ice time in Wednesday’s Game 3 comeback win over the Edmonton Oilers, which was, by far, a career high for Dach, who averaged 14:16 of ice time during the regular season.

The Blackhawks are giving him an enormous amount of responsibility, whether it's top-six minutes at even strength, power-play time on the first unit and penalty kill reps. And Dach is handling it about as well as you could ask for.

"He loves responsibility and he thrives on it," head coach Jeremy Colliton said. "We knew, based on how he looked in training camp, that he was ready to take a bigger role here. He's been great. He's been as advertised."

Dach isn't just making an impact on the scoresheet, either. He's doing the little things right, too.

Olli Maatta scored the first goal in Game 3 after his shot from the point got past Oilers goaltender Mikko Koskinen, but that puck doesn't go in without the 6-foot-4, 197-pound Dach wreaking havoc in front of the net. Those plays don't go unnoticed inside the locker room.

"It shows that the coach trusts in your abilities to get a job done," Dach said of the added responsibility. "And as a player, it's a welcoming challenge. You want to be put in those situations and succeed in them."

One of the main reasons why the Blackhawks selected Dach third overall in 2019 was because of the way he elevated his game in the Western Hockey League playoffs. He was the engine for the Saskatoon Blades and the focal point for opponents yet thrived off the attention.

“He does all the things that can wow you, but then he does the other stuff, too," GM Stan Bowman said the day the Blackhawks drafted Dach. "He was great at stripping pucks, he was great at backchecking, he was great at the physical play when the series got pretty intense in the playoffs and it was clear they were targeting him. He not only took it, he gave it back. It was impressive to see him raise his game at a time of year when it matters most, which is playoff hockey.

"You watch the NHL playoffs and you see how intense it can be and then you look at the way he plays, and you can see that that game translates."

It sure does.

Whether he can be a big-time point producer in the NHL remains to be seen, but it's clear Dach is the kind of player whose game is better suited for the playoffs than the regular season. And we're seeing why.