See how Andrew Luck fared in his second NFL start

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See how Andrew Luck fared in his second NFL start

From Comcast SportsNet
PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Unlike his electric preseason debut, Andrew Luck's first pass against the Pittsburgh Steelers didn't result in a touchdown. His eighth one did. Just not for the Indianapolis Colts. Standing on the sideline moments after Pittsburgh's Ike Taylor cut in front of an underthrown pass and raced 50 yards for a score, Luck fumed. But only for a second. Showing the mental toughness the Colts wanted when they tasked him with helping rebuild a franchise on the fly, the rookie rebounded to help Indianapolis take the halftime lead before falling 26-24 on Sunday night. Pittsburgh rookie kicker Danny Hrapmann kicked four second-half field goals, including the 22-yard winner with 23 seconds remaining. By then the top overall pick was in a baseball cap after completing 16 of 25 passes for 175 yards. He added a 1-yard touchdown run and the Colts (1-1) held their own against a perennial Super Bowl contender. "You never want to throw any interceptions, even if they are tipped, bobbled, whatever," Luck said. "I've got to cut down on those, but I think showing we can bounce back from those mistakes and kind of climb out of that hole was a good sign." Luck certainly won over the Steelers (1-1), who let Luck lead the Colts on three second-quarter scoring drives to turn a 14-0 deficit into a 17-14 lead. "He's a tough kid," Pittsburgh defensive end Brett Keisel said. "He's a good quarterback. I think he's going to play a long time. (Colts offensive coordinator) Bruce (Arians) is, I'm sure, a happy man." Even if Luck wasn't particularly thrilled after Taylor sprinted into the end zone to put the Steelers up two touchdowns. Luck didn't expect things to go as easily against the Steelers (No. 7 in the AP Pro32) as they did in a romp over St. Louis last week. He didn't expect to throw a pair of interceptions either. "I knew after last week everything wasn't going to be smooth-sailing, you know?" Luck said. "But I think you can learn a lot from mistakes and hopefully not repeating mistakes." He didn't during a sublime quarter in which he refused to get rattled against the defense that finished No. 1 in the league last fall. Using his mobility to step away from pressure and his vision to find open receivers, Luck didn't look like a guy who won't start his first NFL regular- season game for another three weeks. "(Luck) was able to come back and put it behind him just like he always has," Indianapolis coach Chuck Pagano said. "We saw the same thing in college. He's able to bring his team back from behind so it was nothing surprising to us to see him come back and put those kind of drives together." The Steelers aren't undergoing the kind of drastic makeover the Colts (No. 32) are enduring. Still, they have issues of their own, namely getting used to new offensive coordinator Todd Haley's complex scheme. The results so far are mixed. Ben Roethlisberger completed 7 of 8 passes during his one drive of work in the opener against Philadelphia last week, all of them quick hitters. His first pass Sunday night ended up in the hands of Indianapolis' Antoine Bethea. Antonio Brown and Roethlisberger atoned the next time the Steelers had the ball, with Brown doing most of the work. He hauled in an 18-yard pass from Roethlisberger on third-and-11 to extend the drive then put together a highlight-reel 57 yard catch-and-run for a touchdown. The play was all Brown. He took a screen pass from Roethlisberger, cut to the middle and used some great downfield blocking by running back Baron Batch to get to the end zone. Brown -- who has become Roethlisberger's favorite target with Mike Wallace in the midst of a holdout -- added some style points by doing a flip as he crossed the goal line. "It'd give it an 8.5," Brown said about the somersault. "I didn't stick the landing." And the Steelers didn't stick with it. The play accounted for more than half of the 112 yards of offense Pittsburgh generated when Roethlisberger was in the huddle. Roethlisberger completed 5 of 9 passes for 81 yards and the touchdown to Brown. "We're making a little bit of progress," Roethlisberger said. "I still think we're leaving a lot out there. We're not playing as good as we could or should, but we're making progress." So are the Colts. On the verge of getting blown out, the Colts responded behind their new leader. Luck led a 10-play, 80-yard drive after Taylor's pick and Donald Brown got Indianapolis on the board with a 1-yard plunge. Luck had it going on Indianapolis' next possession before being undone by a little bad, well, luck. He found rookie wide receiver T.Y. Hilton in stride down the middle only to have the wide-open Hilton throw the ball up in the air. Pittsburgh's Cortez Allen ran underneath it to thwart the drive, but it hardly slowed the Colts. Indianapolis tied it at 14 when Luck deftly slid into the end zone on fourth-and-goal from the 1, ending a drive in which Luck completed all five of his passes. Luck got one more chance just before the half, and he made it count. Working exclusively out of the shotgun, Luck led the Colts 31 yards in five plays, giving Adam Vinatieri just enough time -- and room -- to sneak a kick between the uprights at the halftime gun. NOTES: Colts DE Robert Mathis left the game in the first quarter with a shoulder strain and did not return. Indianapolis WR Austin Collie underwent a concussion test after taking a blow to the head from Pittsburgh linebacker Larry Foote. ... The Steelers travel to Buffalo on Saturday night while the Colts visit Washington. ... Harrison, Hampton, running backs Isaac Redman and Rashard Mendenhall and linebacker Jason Worilds did not dress for the Steelers. ... Indianapolis backup QB Drew Stanton completed 4 of 13 passes for 69 yards and a touchdown.

Acciari glad to be back with B's after missing a month

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Acciari glad to be back with B's after missing a month

BOSTON -- Noel Acciari missed a month of game action with a lower body injury, so it would have been perfectly acceptable to show plenty of rust in his game upon returning to the Boston lineup.

But the former Providence College standout didn’t look rusty, a step behind or out of place in any way as he played the fourth line energy forward role to a perfect fit after missing the last 13 games. Acciari did get in one game with the Providence Bruins prior to suiting back up for the Black and Gold on Saturday, and perhaps that helped him manufacture a couple of shots on net to go along with three thumping hits against the Maple Leafs.

The 25-year-old Acciari didn’t factor into the scoring at all for the Bruins, but that’s just as well given that his focus should be on killing penalties, being hard to play against and taking the body whenever the chance presents itself. Claude Julien reformed the B’s energy line that had so much success earlier in the season with Acciari, Dominic Moore and Tim Schaller, and didn’t hesitate tossing them back into the mix together while looking for energy and a spark for an offensively stunted team.

“It’s good to be back with my linemates, and you know, I think we kind of picked up where we left off, but there’s definitely things we need to work on. That’ll come with a couple more practices and games together,” said Acciari, who finished theSaturday loss with three registered hits packed into 11:35 of ice time. “Kind of getting back to our familiarity and kind of get back to where we were before I got injured.

“It was a good start tonight, but we definitely just weren’t clicking like we used to, but that’ll come. I think that will come. Like I said, a couple practices and just kind of getting some games in [are good things]. I thought we were pretty good tonight, but, you know, should get more pucks to score [goals].”

Clearly there is room for improvement for everybody including Acciari, but it was encouraging to see the fearless competitor again flying around on the TD Garden ice playing high intensity hockey for a fourth line that could use every little bit of that. 

Backes: "Offensive frustration is warranted at this point"

Backes: "Offensive frustration is warranted at this point"

BOSTON -- This may not come as a surprise, but the Boston Bruins are having some trouble putting the puck in the net.

Despite outshooting the Maple Leafs by an 11-2 margin in the first period and outshooting them by a 32-21 margin over the balance of the 60 minute game, the Bruins scratched for just a single goal in a frustrating, constipated 4-1 loss to Toronto at TD Garden. Clearly some of the offensive difficulty was caused by a solid Frederik Andersen, who improved to 6-0-0 in a career against Boston that’s beginning to take on Bruins Killer proportions.

But a great deal of the B’s struggles to finish scoring chances on Saturday night is a malady that’s dogged the Bruins all season, and marked the 20th time in 29 games this year that Boston has scored two goals or less. In most of these games the Bruins have dominated puck possession and outshot their opponents, but still have come away mostly empty handed in the goals scored department while dropping deep in the bottom third of NHL offenses this season.

“It seems like every game we’re out-chancing teams, but we don’t outscore teams. That’s where the biggest issue is right now. Our scoring is not there and if you don’t score goals you don’t win hockey games,” said Claude Julien. “Because of that we criticize everything else in our game, but our game isn’t that bad.

“If we were scoring goals people would love our game right now, but that’s the biggest part. There’s not much more I can say here except for the fact that if we don’t score goals it’s going to be hard to win hockey games.”

But the Bruins aren’t scoring goals consistently, their power play is below average while trending in the wrong direction and the team has been forced to watch steady offensive players like Patrice Bergeron suddenly slump in a concerning way. Clearly David Pastrnak is doing his part with 18 goals scored this season in 24 games, and others like Brad Marchand and Dominic Moore have also performed above, or beyond, their acceptable level of play.

But there are other players failing with the chance to make an offensive dent: Austin Czarnik has been on the roster for nearly two months, and has zero goals and two points in his last 15 games as the offense is again dried up on the third line. He missed wide on a shorthanded chance in the third period after a Moore centering pass set up him all alone in front, and was critiquing himself for fanning on a perfect dish to him in the slot.

Moments later the Leafs had an insurance score from James van Riemsdyk to make it a 3-1 game, and it was all over for the Black and Gold at that point.

Czarnik is an easy target because he’s young and inexperienced, but there is more than enough struggle and frustration to go around with a bunch of offensive players that can’t seem to get out of their own way. David Backes admitted it’s reached a point where the Bruins are frustrated when they can’t score enough to beat a team like Toronto, and that it falls squarely on the lead guys in the Black and Gold dressing room that are underperforming.

“I think offensive frustration is warranted at this point; we just haven’t done a good enough job scoring goals. We played a heck of a first period. We limited them to two shots and we had an opportunity to have a team that’s coming in here that’s a younger team, to really put them behind the eight ball,” said Backes. “Instead, they think they got a second lease on life and they were able to capitalize. All of the sudden, they were up 2-0 and we’re fighting an uphill battle again rather than -- we have that opportunity to play a heck of a first period and we don’t find a way – it’s easy to talk about, but it’s going out there and doing the job and putting it past or through the goalie, or however it needs to happen. “You’ve seen our goals; you want to do a study on it unless you’re Pasta [David Pastrnak] with the one-timer on the side, it’s been ugly, it’s been rebounds, it’s been greasy goals and that’s our equation and we need more of it, and we didn’t do it. They did a good job of being in front of their net and boxing out, eliminating those second chances. But, we’ve got good players in here that need to create more and find those second chances and win those battles, find those loose pucks, and throw them in the net.”

The Bruins have been talking seemingly all season about the need to get to the “dirty areas in the offensive zone”, and for players to jump all over the second and third chance opportunities currently going by the board unchallenged on goalie rebounds.

Now it’s about speaking with action for the B’s, and more specifically speaking volumes with goals and offensive finish instead of “chances” that aren’t doing much of anything if they’re not being snapped into the back of the net.