Andrew Luck Is Back and Ready to Reclaim His Place in the MVP Race

Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck reacts following an NFL football game against the Tennessee Titans, Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018, in Indianapolis. Indianapolis won 38-10. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

Michael Conroy/Associated Press

The best pass from Sunday’s games came from one of the best stories in football. A story that’s been almost forgotten.

While we have all focused on the accuracy of Drew Brees, the explosiveness of Patrick Mahomes, the nuclear-powered scoring of the Rams and a hundred other stories, Colts quarterback Andrew Luck has steadily and quietly stormed his nerdy ass into the MVP race.

Midway through the second quarter Sunday, Luck showed why. Against a Titans team that entered Week 11 as one of the best defenses in football, Luck dropped back and saw receiver T.Y. Hilton had a step on cornerback Adoree’ Jackson. But it was only a step.

Luck then unleashed the football with such a beautiful arc it was almost hypnotic. It landed right on Hilton’s hip, and Hilton bounced off Jackson and ran in for a 68-yard touchdown and 16-0 lead. The Colts went on to win, 38-10.

A great play, yes, but it also represented something bigger. It was a symbol of where Luck is, and how far he’s come, after having lost all of last season to a shoulder injury. He’s traveled from a place where he was once a tackling dummy, a punchline for offensive line jokes. Speculation ran from doubts about whether he could throw deep anymore to fears he may never play again. Well, yeah, he’s playing again, and you bet he still can throw the deep ball.

While Luck, without question, deserves to be in the MVP conversation, it’s hard to imagine him winning. He just isn’t as much on the radar right now as the Rams’ stars or Mahomes or Brees. The Colts aren’t as flashy as those teams and, despite winning four straight games, are just 5-5.

Still, make no mistake, what Luck is doing now is one of the more incredible stories of this season or any other. Luck isn’t just throwing accurately, he’s producing huge numbers. He’s thrown for at least three touchdown passes in seven straight games. His 67.3 completion percentage is a career high. And against a Titans defense that had previously allowed just 16.8 points a game and had not given up three touchdown passes in a game all year, Luck connected on 23 of 29 attempts for 297 yards, three scores and a 143.8 passer rating.

Of course, Luck isn’t doing this alone.

Unlike Colts offensive lines of years past, Indy pass protectors have kept Andrew Luck upright for all but 10 plays in 2018.

Unlike Colts offensive lines of years past, Indy pass protectors have kept Andrew Luck upright for all but 10 plays in 2018.Bobby Ellis/Getty Images

Finally, it appears the Colts have a solid offensive line, one that has allowed Luck to be sacked only 10 times this season. (In his last full season, Luck was sacked 41 times.) Now we can see that when Luck doesn’t constantly get pulverized, he is as good as there is in football.

Luck also has the benefit of playing under new coach Frank Reich, who has long been considered one of the smartest people in the game by those who have followed his career from savvy backup quarterback to Eagles offensive coordinator to coach of the Colts.

Reich created an imaginative offense in Philadelphia and brought that same creativity to Indianapolis. Also, as he did in Philly, Reich has put a high value on protecting the quarterback, and according to the team, the Colts haven’t allowed a sack in 217 straight pass attempts. That’s five games, a streak that ties the 2010 Giants and 2008 Titans for the third-longest since 1982.

To really understand just how good Luck and the Colts offense have been, we have to remember how bad it was.

Seemingly on the run every time he dropped back, Luck was sacked more than 30 times per season over his first five years in the league. Then there was surgery on his throwing shoulder in 2017, and he didn’t recover in time to play. He even traveled to Europe to seek treatment for it.

But now the Colts have an offense that is thriving and fun again, after years of gloom and doubt.

With a healthy Luck and new coach Frank Reich's creative schemes, the Colts have the sixth-highest scoring offense in the NFL this season.

With a healthy Luck and new coach Frank Reich’s creative schemes, the Colts have the sixth-highest scoring offense in the NFL this season.Joe Robbins/Getty Images

And while those dark seasons have left some waiting for the bottom to fall out on Luck and the Colts again, this feels different. This feels like Luck is back to the Luck who was one of the most promising quarterbacks we’ve ever seen. The three-time Pro Bowler who was seen as one of the prototypes of the position. Consider that, according to the Colts, his 161 touchdown passes put him with Dan Marino (182) and Aaron Rodgers (160) as the only players in league history with 160 or more in their first 80 career games.

Yes, that pass to Hilton was gorgeous, but it was more than a simple pass. It was a statement.

Andrew Luck is back.

    

Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @mikefreemanNFL.

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APEC fails to reach consensus as US-China divide deepens

Wang Xiaolong, a senior economic official with China’s APEC delegation, said of the failure to agree on a joint statement that it was “not exactly a sticking point between any particular two countries”.

Most members affirmed their commitment to preserving the multilateral trading system and supported a robust and well-functioning WTO, he said.

“Frankly speaking, we are in a very early stage of those discussions and different countries have different ideas as to how to take that process forward,” Wang said.

One diplomat involved in the negotiations said tension between the U.S. and China, bubbling all week, erupted when the Chinese government’s top diplomat, Wang Yi, objected during a leaders’ retreat to two paragraphs in a draft document seen by Reuters.

One mentioned opposing “unfair trade practices” and reforming the WTO, while another concerned sustainable development.

“These two countries were pushing each other so much that the chair couldn’t see an option to bridge them,” said the diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“China was angered that the reference to WTO blamed a country for unfair trade practices.”

Pence said in a blunt speech on Saturday there would be no end to U.S. tariffs on $250 billion of Chinese goods until China changed its ways. On Sunday, as he left the PNG capital of Port Moresby, he listed U.S. differences with China.

“They begin with trade practices, with tariffs and quotas, forced technology transfers, the theft of intellectual property. It goes beyond that to freedom of navigation in the seas, concerns about human rights,” Pence told reporters.

Pence also took direct aim at Xi’s signature Belt and Road initiative, saying in his speech countries should not accept debt that compromised their sovereignty.

“We do not offer a constricting belt or a one-way road,” he said.

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Detroit considers new name for Ben Carson high school

A black conservative group is criticizing the Detroit Board of Education for its decision to consider renaming a school named after Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson.

The Detroit Free Press reports that the board voted 6-1 last week to seek a new name for the Benjamin Carson High School of Science and Medicine.

A black conservative group, Project 21, said in a news release Friday the decision was a “purely political act” that “ignores” the Detroit native’s accomplishments.

The school was named before Carson became President Donald Trump‘s HUD secretary. The neurosurgeon gained renown for successfully performing surgery to separate Siamese twins who were joined at the head.

Board member LaMar Lemmons has been among those advocating a change, citing opposition to Trump’s administration among Detroit residents.

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Information from: Detroit Free Press, http://www.freep.com

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Tijuana protesters chant ‘Out!’ at migrants camped in city

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Hundreds of Tijuana residents congregated around a monument in an affluent section of the city south of California on Sunday to protest the thousands of Central American migrants who have arrived via caravan in hopes of a new life in the U.S.

Tensions have built as nearly 3,000 migrants from the caravan poured into Tijuana in recent days after more than a month on the road, and with many more months ahead of them while they seek asylum. The federal government estimates the number of migrants could soon swell to 10,000.

U.S. border inspectors are processing only about 100 asylum claims a day at Tijuana’s main crossing to San Diego. Asylum seekers register their names in a tattered notebook managed by migrants themselves that had more than 3,000 names even before the caravan arrived.

On Sunday, displeased Tijuana residents waved Mexican flags, sang the Mexican national anthem and chanted “Out! Out!” in front of a statue of the Aztec ruler Cuauhtemoc, 1 mile (1.6 kilometers) from the U.S. border. They accused the migrants of being messy, ungrateful and a danger to Tijuana. They also complained about how the caravan forced its way into Mexico, calling it an “invasion.” And they voiced worries that their taxes might be spent to care for the group.

“We don’t want them in Tijuana,” protesters shouted.

Juana Rodriguez, a housewife, said the government needs to conduct background checks on the migrants to make sure they don’t have criminal records.

A woman who gave her name as Paloma lambasted the migrants, who she said came to Mexico in search of handouts. “Let their government take care of them,” she told video reporters covering the protest.

A block away, fewer than a dozen Tijuana residents stood with signs of support for the migrants. Keyla Zamarron, a 38-year-old teacher, said the protesters don’t represent her way of thinking as she held a sign saying: Childhood has no borders.

Most of the migrants who have reached Tijuana via caravan in recent days set out more than a month ago from Honduras, a country of 9 million people. Dozens of migrants in the caravan who have been interviewed by Associated Press reporters have said they left their country after death threats.

But the journey has been hard, and many have turned around.

Alden Rivera, the Honduran ambassador in Mexico, told the AP on Saturday that 1,800 Hondurans have returned to their country since the caravan first set out on Oct. 13, and that he hopes more will make that decision. “We want them to return to Honduras,” said Rivera.

Honduras has a murder rate of 43 per 100,000 residents, similar to U.S. cities like New Orleans and Detroit. In addition to violence, migrants in the caravan have mentioned poor economic prospects as a motivator for their departures. Per capita income hovers around $120 a month in Honduras, where the World Bank says two out of three people live in poverty.

The migrants’ expected long stay in Tijuana has raised concerns about the ability of the border city of more than 1.6 million people to handle the influx.

While many in Tijuana are sympathetic to the migrants’ plight and trying to assist, some locals have shouted insults, hurled rocks and even thrown punches at them. The cold reception contrasts sharply with the warmth that accompanied the migrants in southern Mexico, where residents of small towns greeted them with hot food, campsites and even live music.

Tijuana Mayor Juan Manuel Gastelum has called the migrants’ arrival an “avalanche” that the city is ill-prepared to handle, calculating that they will be in Tijuana for at least six months as they wait to file asylum claims. Gastelum has appealed to the federal government for more assistance to cope with the influx.

Mexico’s Interior Ministry said Saturday that the federal government was flying in food and blankets for the migrants in Tijuana.

Tijuana officials converted a municipal gymnasium and recreational complex into a shelter to keep migrants out of public spaces. The city’s privately run shelters have a maximum capacity of 700. The municipal complex can hold up to 3,000.

At the municipal shelter, Josue Caseres, 24, expressed dismay at the protests against the caravan. “We are fleeing violence,” said the entertainer from Santa Barbara, Honduras. “How can they think we are going to come here to be violent?”

Some from the caravan have diverted to other border cities, such as Mexicali, a few hours to the east of Tijuana.

Elsewhere on Sunday, a group of 200 migrants headed north from El Salvador, determined to also find safety in numbers to reach the U.S. Edwin Alexander Gomez, 20, told AP in San Salvador that he wants to work construction in New York, where he hears the wages are better and the city is safer.

U.S. President Donald Trump, who sought to make the caravan a campaign issue in the midterm elections, used Twitter on Sunday to voice support for the mayor of Tijuana and try to discourage the migrants from seeking entry to the U.S.

Trump wrote that like Tijuana, “the U.S. is ill-prepared for this invasion, and will not stand for it. They are causing crime and big problems in Mexico. Go home!”

He followed that tweet by writing: “Catch and Release is an obsolete term. It is now Catch and Detain. Illegal Immigrants trying to come into the U.S.A., often proudly flying the flag of their nation as they ask for U.S. Asylum, will be detained or turned away.”

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Guthrie reported from Mexico City. Associated Press writer Julie Watson contributed to this story from Tijuana and Marcos Aleman contributed from San Salvador.

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Scott headed to Senate as Nelson concedes in Florida

Bill Nelson is pictured. | AP Photo

Sen. Bill Nelson’s defeat represents the loss of the de facto head of the Florida Democratic Party. | AP Photo

Elections

Updated


TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott will be the next senator from Florida after two rounds of recounts finalized his razor-thin victory over Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson, who called the governor to concede Sunday.

Nelson’s political career now comes to a likely end after four decades in various elected posts.

Story Continued Below

Scott’s lead after the Nov. 6 general election was just over 12,000 votes, a number that shrank to roughly 10,000 after a machine and hand recount. Always trailing by a thin margin, the Nelson campaign had filed a stream of lawsuits that it predicted would produce thousands of additional votes for the three-term senator.

But those efforts failed, and Nelson is now set to address the media at 3 p.m. He called Scott to officially concede shortly after 2 p.m.

Scott put more than $50 million of his own money into the race, giving his campaign a significant financial advantage over Nelson.

Republicans have been quick to point out that roughly $50 million from outside Democratic groups was poured into defeating Scott in the closely watched race. On the other side, outside Democratic groups spent about $20 million to try and save the party’s lone hold on power in a third-biggest state in the nation.

In Nelson’s video conceding the race, he took a more contentious tone than is normally expected when a race comes to an end. He did not mention Scott’s name once, noted he was “heavily outspent,” and listed several policy and political talking points that were used during the nasty race.

That included again calling elected office a “public trust,” a term he used throughout the campaign to imply Scott used his post as governor’s office for self-gain.

“I was not victorious in this race, but I still wish to strongly re-affirm the cause for which we fought: A public office is a public trust,” Nelson said.

The defeat represents the loss of the de facto head of the Florida Democratic Party, the title Nelson wore because he was the party’s only statewide elected official. Newly-elected Democratic Agriculture commissioner Nikki Fried is the party’s only statewide elected official.

Her race also went through two rounds of recounts, but she ultimately beat Republican state Rep. Matt Caldwell by more than 6,700 votes. Fried was losing slightly after election night, but unlike Nelson took the lead after ballots were recounted.

“To everyone who put their lives on hold and worked to see the recount process through, to protect the integrity of our democracy – thank you,” Fried tweeted shortly after the manual recount was completed at noon on Sunday. “I’m honored to serve as your next Commissioner of Agriculture. Now, we come together and work in union to govern for the people of Florida.”

Though Nelson’s loss is a gut punch for Democrats, getting a foothold in the Florida Cabinet, which has been completely Republican held for eight years, offers something of a silver lining. The Cabinet includes the governor, the agriculture commissioner, CFO and attorney general.

In another significant state-level race that went to a manual recount, outgoing state House Democratic Leader Janet Cruz knocked off Republican state Sen. Dana Young by just 411 votes, or .2 percent. The race was the most expensive 2018 state Senate race.

Two Florida House races also went to recounts. In Daytona Beach’s House District 26, Republican Elizabeth Fetterhoff beat Democratic state Rep. Patrick Henry 50.05-49.95; and in Palm Beach County’s House District 89, Republican Mike Caruso beat Democrat Jim Bonfiglio.

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Police killing of Utah hip-hop artist draws protest

Advocates are demanding answers in the killing of a 30-year-old hip-hop artist by Salt Lake City police.

KTVX-TV reports that dozens of people demonstrated on Saturday to protest the shooting of Cody Belgard.

The group Utah Against Police Brutality and the Rose Park Brown Berets say Belgard was shot while fleeing.

Police say Belgard, who performed under the name “See Smoke,” was shot by police after he tried to ram a police car.

Authorities say Belgard was believed to have been a driver in a vehicle that previously fled police.

Police say officers shot Belgard after he ignored officers’ commands.

The West Valley City Police Department will lead an investigation into the shooting.

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Information from: KTVX-TV, http://www.abc4.com/

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Yellowstone investigating illegal drone photo taken in park

Yellowstone National Park officials say they’re investigating after a photo was posted online showing one of the park’s geothermal features from a drone, which is illegal.

The Jackson Hole News & Guide reported the photo of Grand Prismatic Spring was posted on Instagram and then deleted after criticism from other users.

Drones are banned in Yellowstone and many other parks.

The National Park Service says drones can harass wildlife and the noise is a nuisance to visitors. Violation of the ban is a misdemeanor with a penalty of up to six months in jail and a $5,000 fine.

A Dutch tourist crashed a drone into Grand Prismatic Spring in 2014 and was fined more than $3,000.

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Information from: Jackson Hole (Wyo.) News And Guide, http://www.jhnewsandguide.com

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