Andrew Luck, Colts see inspiring season end with thud versus Chiefs

The Indianapolis Colts ended their season Saturday with a 31-13 playoff loss in Kansas City. The Colts finished the regular season 10-6. Here's a recap of the season and what's next:

Season grade: Above average. It's no longer strictly all about quarterback Andrew Luck for the Colts. The day he was hired, general manager Chris Ballard said he would not put together a team that relied on just one player. Ballard has lived up to that promise, as for the first time in Luck's seven NFL seasons it wasn't just about him. Special teams remained consistent. But the biggest difference is that the defense did its part under coordinator Matt Eberflus. The unit, which often failed to hold its end of the bargain early in Luck's career, was a strength by the second half of the season.

Season in review: Nobody knew what to expect from Luck after he missed last season and had been dealing with a shoulder injury for nearly three years. The Colts also had a first-year head coach, first-year offensive, defensive and special-teams coordinators and a relatively young roster. None of that mattered, as Luck silenced the critics and returned to form. He's arguably better than he has been at any point prior to his injury in 2015, as he was second in the NFL in touchdown passes (39) and posted a career high in completion percentage (67.3). A major part of the offensive success was due to having an offensive line to protect for Luck and open lanes for the running backs. The Colts had the fewest sacks allowed in the league (18). Head coach Frank Reich was able to keep the team together despite a 1-5 start and produce the most victories since the Colts won 11 in 2014. The foundation is set with Ballard, Reich, Luck and several building blocks, including linebacker Darius Leonard, defensive lineman Tyquan Lewis and guard Quenton Nelson, who was selected No. 6 overall in the 2018 draft.

He said it: "When you get a brand new head coach, one who has never been a head coach before, you kind of wonder how it's going to go. [Reich is] spot on, and ... they are headed in the right direction with Frank, Chris and the pieces they have already put on the roster and the pieces they will add going forward." -- Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri

Offseason questions

Will Ballard be a big spender during free agency? The Colts are projected to have an NFL high of $124 million in salary-cap space next offseason. Ballard has been pretty stingy when it comes to signing players during free agency, because his focus is to produce homegrown talent through the draft. He will likely be a little more open to spending, because he has started building through the draft and found some key players in Nelson, Leonard and running back Marlon Mack. But don't expect Ballard to treat free agency like it's Christmas. He looks for players still in the prime of their career who also have the right character to fit in the Colts locker room.

Can the Colts find a No. 2 wide receiver to go with T.Y. Hilton? The second-best receiver on the roster wasn't actually a wide receiver. It was tight end Eric Ebron. Finding a second wideout to complement Hilton has been an ongoing problem for years. The likes of Hakeem Nicks, Andre Johnson, Ryan Grant and Donte Moncrief have all tried and failed to be the No. 2 wide receiver. Ebron and fellow tight end Jack Doyle will remain key figures in the passing game, but it'll help the offense even more if there is a dependable second wideout to go with Hilton. Rookie Deon Cain, who has size, might be an option if he can bounce back from a torn ACL that cost him the 2018 season.