Luck's comeback season gives Colts momentum heading into bye

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Andrew Luck’s health was Indianapolis’ biggest question the past two years.

Halfway through his comeback season, the star quarterback looks like his old self and the numbers suggest he’s actually playing better.

Luck’s strong return has helped the Colts win back-to-back games for the first time in nearly two years and they head into the bye weekend full of momentum and plenty of hope.

“He made some incredible plays. I mean some incredible plays, conversions on third downs, plays that he shouldn’t make, plays that normal quarterbacks don’t make,” first-year coach Frank Reich said, describing Luck’s impressive game Sunday at Oakland.

Many wondered if Luck could ever regain the form that had many calling him the league’s best young quarterback before Indy took him with the No. 1 overall draft pick in 2012.

He exceeded the hype by leading the Colts to playoff appearances in each of his first three seasons and earning Pro Bowl selections all three years, too.

Then came the injuries and the losses. Luck hurt his right shoulder early in the 2015 season and wound up missing nine games — the last seven with a lacerated kidney. He sat out one game in 2016 with a concussion and missed the entire 2017 season after having surgery for a partially torn labrum in his throwing shoulder.

But he’s answered the critics with a solid first half.

Indy (3-5) needs one more win to match last season’s victory total and faces the second-easiest schedule over the second half. They’re two games out of the AFC South lead with five division games remaining and Luck getting even stronger.

He is 225 of 342 with 2,187 yards, 23 touchdowns — a pace to set career highs in each category including completion rate (65.8 percent). He’s also flirting with the best rating of his career at 96.2. He had a 96.4 in 2016.

Numbers only tell part of the tale, though.

Luck has done it despite losing top receiver T.Y. Hilton for two games with a hamstring injury, Pro Bowl tight end Jack Doyle for five games with an injured hip and five different starting lineups on the offensive line.

“You’re returning from an injury, you’re learning a new system, you’ve got T.Y. Hilton and some receivers hurt and you’re breaking in some new linemen — it’s not going to be as easy as people think,” Raiders coach Jon Gruden said before last weekend’s game. “I’ve got a lot of respect for what he has done in this league and what his capabilities are.”

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