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Colts' Luck gives himself mid-term grade of C

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Colts' Luck gives himself mid-term grade of C

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) Andrew Luck is a fine quarterback and a pretty tough critic.

Less than 24 hours after leading the Colts to their fifth win while breaking one rookie record and tying another, the No. 1 overall draft pick walked into the Colts' locker room Monday and promptly described himself as average. Really.

``A `C' is average, so I think I'd give myself a `C','' Luck said when asked for a grade.

Had Luck used a similar standard in the classroom, he might not have an architectural design degree from Stanford yet.

But there's nothing average about Luck's fast start.

After spending the previous two seasons being billed as the NFL's next big thing, the two-time Heisman Trophy runner-up has exceeded the hype over his first eight pro games.

He's already won three more games than Indy did last season with three veteran quarterbacks. On Sunday, against a good Miami defense, Luck broke Cam Newton's single-game record for yards passing (432) by throwing for 433 in a 23-20 victory. He also tied the rookie record set by his predecessor, Peyton Manning, for most 300-yard games in a season (four) and continues to maintain the pace for a historic season.

Through eight games, he is 190 of 336 for 2,404 yards with 10 touchdowns and eight interceptions. At this rate, he would shatter Sam Bradford's rookie marks for completions (354) and attempts (590) and Newton's record for yardage (4,051). With a slightly stronger second half, he may even challenge Manning's rookie record for TD passes (26) and he's still a long way from approaching Manning's first-year record for interceptions (28).

He's already beaten two of the other five rookie starters (Brandon Weeden and Ryan Tannehill) and has surprisingly pushed the Colts into the playoff discussion.

Numbers alone can't tell the tale. Despite being under heavy pressure, Luck has managed to elude defenders and even shake off Green Bay's Clay Matthews to make a key pass in a game-winning drive, and he's rallied the Colts to three fourth-quarter wins.

To teammates, Luck has been everything they expected - and more.

``That guy is mature far beyond his years,'' defensive end Fili Moala said. ``You can't say enough good things about him, from him as a human being to him as a football player to him as a teammate. He's the kind of guy you really want your kids to grow up and become. He's a professional, he does it with class and he'll be a good one for years to come.''

The toughest part of this season was supposed to be the endless comparisons to Manning. So far, Luck has had little trouble measuring up.

Manning has exactly the same amount of wins and yardage as Luck this season, though Denver's quarterback has thrown for twice as many touchdowns and leads the NFL with a quarterback rating of 108.6.

But Luck has had a better rookie season than Manning did.

Luck has thrown and completed more passes in his first eight games, has thrown for 531 more yards, completed a higher percentage of passes than Manning (56.5 percent to 55.1), thrown half as many interceptions (16 to eight), just one fewer touchdown (11 to 10) and has a better quarterback rating than Manning did at that time (79.0 to 64.5).

Of course, the game has changed over the last 14 years. There's now a bigger premium on passing, rookie quarterbacks play earlier and are expected to win earlier than they did then, too.

While some now contend Luck has more talent around him than Manning did then, they might forget that in '98, Manning had Hall of Fame running back Marshall Faulk, receiver Marvin Harrison, two veteran tight ends and two tackles who became longtime cornerstones in the Colts' offense.

Luck, in comparison, has relied primarily on the sure hands of Reggie Wayne; Donnie Avery, who is trying to come back from two lost seasons, an offensive line that is finally rounding into form and a large cast of other rookies.

He's also had to learn more than Manning did then. Interim coach and offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, Manning's position coach in '98, has said the Colts' didn't use the no-huddle offense extensively until Manning's second season. Luck is already running that this season.

``There are probably only a few throws he'd like to have back,'' said Arians, a 20-year NFL assistant. ``He's kept us in games. He's won games. The way he's played in the two-minute phase and now the no-huddle phase has been excellent. He's been dynamite on third down the last two games.''

Now can he keep it up? The second half of this season begins Thursday at Jacksonville (1-7).

Arians remembers that's when Manning really took off in 1998, and Luck knows there's plenty he can improve upon, too.

``The victories are what I judge things on. I think I've got to cut down on the turnovers and putting touchdowns on the board,'' Luck said. ``I think perfect would be to win every game, and not have any incompletions or interceptions.''

If that's the grading scale, good luck.

But Arians has no problem giving Luck an ``A.''

``That doesn't surprise me,'' Arians said with a chuckle when asked about Luck's own grade. ``He's comparing him to himself. I'm comparing him to all the other guys I've ever had.''

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Blue Jackets troll Capitals on Twitter after retaking lead in Metro Division

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Blue Jackets troll Capitals on Twitter after retaking lead in Metro Division

The Columbus Blue Jackets threw some serious shade at the Caps Tuesday night after their 7-2 blowout loss to the Predators.

The Jackets are now tied for the Metro lead after the Caps lost their third straight game, and they let them have it on Twitter.

That's a bold jab coming from the team that lost to the Caps in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs...

The GIF comes from Saturday night's overtime loss to the Jackets where Columbus celebrated Artemi Panarin's game-winner with Evgeny Kuznetsov's signature bird celly.

When asked about the copycat celebration last Saturday, Kuzy said, "That's fine. It's nice to get some people that think about me, same as in April last year.”

The Capitals meet the Blue Jackets again Feb. 12 where the only bird celly should come from Kuzy.

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Caps suffer third straight loss as they get rocked in Music City

Caps suffer third straight loss as they get rocked in Music City

The final score of a game can often be deceiving, but that was certainly not the case on Tuesday. The Capitals lost 7-2 to the Nashville Predators in a game every bit as one-sided as the score indicates. Viktor Arvidsson scored a hat trick and Nick Bonino added another two goals in a game that was well in hand before the end of the second period.

Here are three reasons the Caps lost.

Viktor Arvidsson

Arvidsson came into this game with 14 goals this season and 21 points in 23 games. He is one of the best players in the league that no one talks about and that was certainly on display in this game. He wasn’t a one trick pony either. His first goal came on the breakaway, his second was a deflection and his third was a shorthanded breakaway.

Arvidsson’s third goal

As one-sided as the game was, there was a moment in the second period when it looked like Washington was going to claw its way back into it. Down 3-0 in the second period, Nicklas Backstrom scored on the power play to make it 3-1. Less than five minutes later, T.J. Oshie drew a tripping call from Calle Jarnkrok. Suddenly it looked as if the Caps had a chance.

But once again, Washington had no answer for Arvidsson.

Backstrom tried to carry the puck into the offensive zone, but he was met and challenged by Arvidsson. Backstrom lost the puck and Arvidsson took off while Ryan Johansen grabbed the puck in the neutral zone. Johansen fed Arvidsson for the breakaway and he delivered the knockout punch.

Washington was eyeing a 3-2 game, but instead they suddenly found themselves down 4-1 and the rout was on.

Poor decisions

Give all the credit to Nashville for dominating this game, they dominated and deserved to win. Having said that, the Caps were clearly their own worst enemy in Nashville.

Tom Wilson carried the puck into the offensive zone in the first period. With no open passing lane, the only real option he had was to dump and chase or drive himself and pass back to the blue line. Instead, he forced a pass to Ovechkin who had to stop and reach back to grab the puck. He was also being covered by two players so it was no surprise when he turned the puck over. The resulting breakout led to a breakaway and Arvidsson’s first goal.

In the second period, Andre Burakovsky had the puck and looked like he had a lane to shoot or dive to the net. Instead, he pulled up and tried to cross the puck. The pass was easily picked off and Rocco Grimaldi was off in the other direction. He would finish off the play with a highlight-reel spin-o-rama goal, but it all started with a poor decision.

This game was full of those moments. Bad decision by the Caps and the puck was off in the other direction. The uglier the game got, the more Washington’s system and hockey sense went out the window. Two of Nashville’s goals came on the breakaway and one came on a two-on-one. Those type of odd-man breaks happen because of breakdowns.

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