INDIANAPOLIS –In a perfect football world, Andrew Luck would be addressing media today about playing in the AFC Championship game.
Instead, Saturday's 43-22 loss to New England left him exposed to the finality of a harsh setback.
"When you lose in the playoffs, it is very abrupt," said a clean-shaven Luck. "I'm wondering what to do. I feel like a lost puppy.
"I think everybody probably feels the same way, look forward to a great offseason and hopefully get over that hump."
For Luck, it was a second sojourn into the post-season, with this year's victory over Kansas City putting Indianapolis a step beyond where it reached his rookie season.
The quest, though, ended two steps from the club's ultimate goal, leaving Luck feeling both numb and stung.
"A little bit of both. I don't know if that's a contradiction," said Luck. "Numbing in the sense that you're in a bit of a daze, you don't know what to do. Stinging because when you start thinking about it, you get a little angry thinking about what you maybe could have done.
"That's sports. The better team won that day."
With a combined 54-19 starting record in the last five years, Luck has experienced many more highs that setbacks.
That he felt both on consecutive playoff Saturday's – four TD passes and one scoring run against Kansas City in a 45-44 win; four interceptions at New England – means he has made the Colts relevant after joining a team that was 2-14 in 2011.
Indianapolis has failed to reach the Super Bowl in 11 of its last 13 playoff appearances since 1999, but having two straight berths under his command puts Luck among eight others who have quarterbacked teams to the playoffs consecutively to open a career since 1966.
"I watched it very quickly just to sort of get it going," said Luck of Saturday's game tape. "I'm sure I'll watch it two, three, four more times, I know I will. I'll watch it today (Monday).
"I wanted to watch it just to start that process of getting over it, really use it as a learning tool, just like any tape, win or loss. (You) look at your mistakes, figure out how you can fix them, look at what we did well and figure out how we can keep doing that."
Chuck Pagano said teams feel greater disappointment when losses occur deeper in the playoffs. He is certain Luck will find the right way to counteract a loss in the divisional round.
"He'll dissect the two playoff games," said Pagano. "We talk about the margin for error in the playoffs starts to shrink. Everything gets magnified tenfold because it is a one-and-done tournament. That doesn't mean you get away from your fundamentals and techniques. You don't press (or) put any more pressure on yourself.
"He is his own worst critic, very hard on himself. At the same time, he can move on. He can put things behind him. He's not one to beat himself up. He's one of the best I've ever seen as far as having amnesia."
Pagano pointed out the off-season program starts on April 21 and that training camp already is only 29 weeks away.
The most important thing is to get away, re-charge batteries and re-acquaint with family and loved ones.
"I'll definitely take some time off," said Luck. "Probably really start working out heavy when March comes around and get prepared for OTAs. I realized last year, you get a little antsy sitting around and you end up working out earlier than you said you would."
Mondays are better suited for the first day of game preparation rather than the second day of the off-season. With a number of veteran free agents and with the typical roster changes that occur, players were observing a landscape that will look different in April.
"You look around and the harsh truth is not every face you see will be back," said Luck. "You build relationships with a lot of guys. I don't think you try to think about it too much.
"We're on the right track. Coach Pagano does a great job. It all starts up top with him. (We're) blessed to have great players in this locker room. We'll work tirelessly until we can get that Super Bowl."