BALTIMORE – Andrew Luck was harried and hurried in his first career playoff appearance as the Indianapolis Colts unlikely run came to a disappointing end.
Chuck Paganos 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 didnt, 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 couldnt 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, thats whats 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.
Lewis, who announced last week he would retire after Baltimores 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 didnt take advantage of them, and a lot of credit goes to the Baltimore defense.
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 Paganos absence, missed the game after being hospitalized for an undisclosed illness.
After the game, Pagano said Arians would remain hospitalized in Baltimore overnight for observation and likely rejoin the Colts in Indianapolis today.
Just precautionary, Pagano said. I think every test theyve done on Bruce came back negative. Hes in good shape. Hell be back with us (Monday).
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 couldnt 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.