Indianapolis Colts must fix Andrew Luck's protection

The magic carpet ride has come to a close for the Indianapolis Colts.

On NFL Network
NFL Replay will re-air the Baltimore Ravens' 24-9 victory over the Indianapolis Colts from Wild Card Weekend on Wednesday, Jan. 9 at 9 p.m. ET.

Sunday's 24-9 wild-card loss to the Baltimore Ravens was far from a disaster, but it crystalized the problems that have plagued the young Colts all season.

Rookie quarterback Andrew Luck was valiant in defeat, but he was battered by a Ravens defense that sacked him three times and badgered him all day.

Indianapolis dominated the time of possession and ran 87 plays to Baltimore's 56, but play-count and clock-chewing don't amount to much if you can't punch it in the end zone. Luck led the offense on a string of lengthy drives -- piling up 419 total yards and 25 first downs along the way -- but the Colts squeezed out just three field goals. The Ravens' defense -- tiring visibly as the game progressed -- won Sunday's battle in the red zone.

Colts offensive coordinator Bruce Ariansspent Sunday in the hospital, but the play-calling never was an issue against the Ravens. The Colts dialed up plenty of smart calls, but too many of those smart calls were snuffed out by a lack of protection around Luck.

No quarterback has been smacked around more than the rookie, and that theme dominated again Sunday. Luck repeatedly was knocked down in a perpetually collapsing pocket. That heat directly led to Luck's first-quarter fumble and the fourth-quarter pick that kept Indy from climbing back late.

The Colts did a remarkable job finding a pool of productive rookies in 2012. Their task this offseason is to build a legitimate line to ensure Luck is kept safe and afforded the chance to make more big plays in games such as this.

Follow Marc Sessler on Twitter @MarcSesslerNFL.

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