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Colts' Luck wants to make most of 1st playoff game

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Colts' Luck wants to make most of 1st playoff game

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) Andrew Luck spent his rookie season dealing with the harsh realities of the NFL.

The hand-picked successor to Peyton Manning took the hard knocks with a smile, dusted himself off and emerged as the tough, talented competitor Indianapolis coaches and scouts expected when they drafted him with the No. 1 overall pick.

``We know how tough he is from a mental perspective. He's going to study. He's going to prepare. We know that,'' coach Chuck Pagano said Wednesday. ``He's unflappable, nothing bothers him.''

Not the 41 sacks, not the late hits, not the dropped balls, not even the 18 interceptions. Luck has adjusted.

Despite completing less than 50 percent of his passes over the past three weeks, he has avoided throwing an interception in any of those games. He heads into his playoff debut with five wins in his last six games and a season-long streak of 105 consecutive passes without a pick - the kind of numbers Luck has been striving for all season.

``I guess it was a sore spot for the offense,'' Luck said. ``I know a lot of games, I felt like those interceptions, fumbles really killed any momentum we had or killed our chance to win. It's something you focus on as a quarterback, limiting turnovers. I wish maybe it could have come a little sooner but glad to stay away from the interceptions the last few weeks.''

If Luck had cut down the turnovers in October or November, perhaps the Colts (11-5) would have taken the AFC South title and had a first-round bye instead of a wild-card round date in Baltimore (10-6) on Sunday.

But Indy can't quibble with what has been one of the league's most remarkable rookie seasons.

Luck won more games than any quarterback taken No. 1 in football's modern draft era. He tied an NFL record by leading Indianapolis to seven fourth-quarter wins. He presided over a nine-game turnaround from 2011 on a team that many expected to be the league's worst, finished with the league's best record (9-1) in one-possession games and broke the franchise record for rushing touchdowns by a quarterback (five).

He also threw more passes (627) and for more yards (4,374) than any first-year quarterback in league history while breaking the single-game rookie record for yards passing (433) and falling 15 completions short of Sam Bradford's rookie mark for completions (354 to 339). Luck finished third all-time among rookies in TD passes (23), trailing only Peyton Manning and Russell Wilson (each with 26), and had a better quarterback rating (76.5) than Manning (71.2) or John Unitas (74.0) in their rookie seasons.

And Luck did all that with six receivers who had never lined up with the Colts until September, despite the pressure of replacing Manning and during a season in which his offensive coordinator spent 12 weeks as the interim head coach before returning last week.

Luck never allowed any of that stuff to sidetrack him.

``Ever since the first day I saw him, he's been a leader. He doesn't really get razzled or get nervous or anxious or stuff like that,'' right tackle Winston Justice said. ``Did he grow some? Maybe, but I didn't really see it. He's been a good player since the first day he got here.''

Still, Luck's completion percentage is just 54.1, largely because the Colts have taken so many chances down the field. He threw the third-most interceptions in the league (18) and lost five fumbles, too, mistakes Luck took personally.

But if quarterbacks are judged simply by wins and losses, Luck is already among the league's best.

Only four quarterbacks - Manning, Tom Brady, Matt Ryan and Matt Schaub - won more games than the two-time Heisman Trophy runner-up this season. Only two others, Wilson and Aaron Rodgers, matched Luck's win total. Luck has beaten three playoff teams (Minnesota, Green Bay and Houston) and like Joe Flacco, Mark Sanchez and T.J. Yates over the last several years, will try to prove Sunday that rookie quarterbacks can win on the road in the playoffs.

``My advice would be go about your business as you always would on a normal week. It's obviously gotten you to the point that you're in the playoffs and playing to get to another week,'' Flacco told a group of Indy reporters during a conference call Wednesday. ``If it got you that far, then you're obviously doing something right, so you should try to continue that. You shouldn't try anything crazy just because it's playoff time.''

Instead, Luck would rather show the football world he's grown up in his first NFL season and emerged as the steady leader of the league's biggest surprise team.

``He's playing right now like he's been in the league three or four years. This won't faze him one bit,'' Pagano said. ``He gets his blinders on, he gets locked in and he's as focused as anybody in preparation and at practice.''

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Ravens experimenting with getting Joe Flacco and Lamar Jackson on field at same time

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Ravens experimenting with getting Joe Flacco and Lamar Jackson on field at same time

Since drafting Lamar Jackson, the Ravens have made it clear that Joe Flacco is their starter. That doesn't mean they're not experimenting with having them both on the field at the same time, however. 

During this week's minicamp, the team has been lining Jackson up at multiple positions. 

"Gosh, I sure like him out there helping us," coach John Harbaugh said of Jackson during Tuesday's minicamp, via ESPN.com.

"If you put two quarterbacks on the field at once, what options does it create for our offense? That's what we're trying to figure out."

While at Louisville, Jackson rushed for 4,132 yards and 50 touchdowns in three seasons. That's more rushing yards than No. 2 overall pick Saquon Barkley. That unique skill set could be the creative options the Ravens are looking for. 

While at the NFL Combine, however, Jackson refused to workout at any other position than QB. 

"I have a lot of fun seeing what they come up with and what they're going to come up with next," Jackson said. "We'll see where it goes. You have to use your good players."

The Ravens are already viewing Jackson as one of those 'good players.' 

"Once he gets out of the pocket, it's like watching a young Michael Vick," LB C.J. Mosley said after minicamp practice. "It's amazing to watch. When you're defending him, you just have to act like you're tagging off -- you don't want to be on the highlight reel."

Harbaugh has alluded to the fact that the rookie will be active on game days, just exactly how they get the most out of him is what's in play.

"There's a lot of considerations that go into that," Harbaugh said of using two QBs at the once. "Everybody has an opinion. I've read a few. You want to find a way to get the most out of all your guys."

While Flacco isn't the fasted QB in the league, he has shown glimpses of running ability in the past. Figuring out how to utilize Flacco when Jackson is under center is where things will get interesting.

Interesting - as long as it works - is what Ravens fans have been searching for over the last several seasons. 

"Joe has to be able to do other things if [Jackson is] throwing the ball," Harbaugh said. "It gets the creative juices flowing for our offensive coaches, and they've worked hard on that."

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Ravens D-coordinator Don Martindale puts personal stamp on unit

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Ravens D-coordinator Don Martindale puts personal stamp on unit

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- There are no dreary work days for Don Martindale, who has overwhelmingly embraced his new role as defensive coordinator of the Baltimore Ravens.

After serving for five seasons as the team's linebackers coach, Martindale was promoted to coordinator in January after Dean Pees left the post.

Enthusiastic doesn't even begin to describe Martindale's attitude about being in charge of the defense.

"Ever since we've made this transition, it's been a joy to just come through those gates every day. I love it," Martindale said after Wednesday's mandatory minicamp practice.

This isn't the first time Martindale has been put in charge of molding a defense. In 2010, he watched over a unit in Denver that was the worst in the NFL in both yards and points allowed per game.

Given a second chance, the 55-year-old Martindale is putting together a defense that will rely heavily on the instinct of several of its most proven players, most notably safety Eric Weddle and linebackers Terrell Suggs and C.J. Mosley.

"He's just putting his personal fix on our defense and expanding it, giving the guys confidence to play fast," Weddle said. "The idea is to do what's best for the defense, not what's best the individual."

Martindale called Mosley "the quarterback" of a fluid unit that can make a snap-change from drop-back coverage to an all-out blitz. In that regard, Mosley believes this defense is superior to the one that in 2017 yielded 18.9 points per game, sixth-best in the NFL.

"The way we're able to use our core guys, put them in different spots and do some of the same things just from different positions, it's more creative, I would say, than where we were last year," Mosley said.

Baltimore coach John Harbaugh promoted Martindale rather than go outside the organization because he wanted to extend his vision of a defense that has evolved since his arrival in 2008.

"All we're doing is forwarding John's plan," Martindale said. "We're remodeling the package. It's still Ravens football, it's still Ravens defense, but we've streamlined it. It's the elegant simplicity. Guys are playing really fast."

Asked for his take on Martindale's defense, Ravens offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg replied, "They're fast and they're furious."

Sure, things might be different once the pads go on at training camp, but at this point, Martindale's boss likes what he sees.

"We're doing a lot of neat things on defense, things that are really good," Harbaugh said. "More than ever, we're putting it on our players to make decisions in real time."

Martindale has a new title, but old habits die hard.

"For the most part, it's been the same," Mosley said. "He always comes in and says, `I have to lead the linebacker room,' and sits down and gets to talking like he's back at linebacker coach."

Told of Mosley's disclosure, Martindale smiled and said, "I've been trying to stay out of there, but you can't help but go in. That's home. I have a good time in the secondary room as well."

And just about everywhere else.

"Where we're going with this thing is really exciting to me," Martindale said, "and I know it's exciting to the players."

In other training camp news, cornerback Jimmy Smith was a surprise participant at practice, going through a light regimen of individual drills just six months after tearing his left Achilles tendon.

"I don't know if Jimmy's like half Wolverine, but he's healed up in half the time of regular human beings," Weddle said, referring to the amazing recuperative powers of the Marvel super hero.

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