Colts quarterback Andrew Luck could be facing heat from both sides of the passing pocket Sunday when the St. Louis Rams visit Lucas Oil Stadium (1:00 p.m.). The Rams (3-6) feature one of the top pairs of pass rushing defensive ends in the NFL. Bringing the heat from Luck's blind side, Robert Quinn leads the NFC with 10 sacks. On the other end, Chris Long has collected 5.5 sacks.
"They have two premier defensive ends," said Luck, who has been sacked 19 times this season, "the number one sack team in the league, I think.@You know they can get to the quarterback.@I think they have a bunch of athletes, fast, physical guys."
The Rams have tallied a total of 29 sacks, third most in the NFL. But they lead the league in sacks per pass play.
"They've got a really good front four, two edge guys," said Colts head coach Chuck Pagano. "The rest of the guys, they do a great job off the edge. They get after you. They're going to be up in your face. They play press man (pass coverage). They've got back end guys. They've got corners that can play. They can get up in your face and make things tough on your receivers to work to get off the line of scrimmage. From a defensive standpoint, they kind of smother you. That's going to be a challenge."
Rams head coach Jeff Fisher hopes to keep Luck moving in the pocket, even when the Rams defense doesn't register a sack.
"That's important," said Fisher. "That's the next best thing to getting there. But it is important, based upon the route concept and the approach, that's very important to get him off and make him move a little bit. One of the things that Andrew does so well is he feels things and he doesn't take his eye off the receivers downfield to look at the rush. He's always got his eyes downfield. He's anticipating. We like to say he throws guys open whether he's on the spot or off the spot for that matter."
Colts rush linebacker Robert Mathis leads the NFL in sacks with 11.5, already his career-best for a season. He's impressed by the Rams pass rushing duo of Quinn and Long.
"They're relentless," said Mathis. "They have a high motor. I always love guys that keep that motor running play after play. They are definitely double trouble - kind of remind me of 93 (Dwight Freeney) and 98 (himself). They're awesome to watch."
But Mathis would like to put on a show Sunday as well as he pursues Rams quarterback Kellen Clemens. Mathis did not add to his sack total last Sunday in Houston.
"Hey, they're pros too," Mathis said of the Texans. "I'm not going out there not giving 100 percent, so I tip my hat off to Houston's o-line. I wasn't able to get there, so trust me, I'm back on the grind for it."
Mathis has 103 sacks for his career, just four shy of the Colts franchise record holder Dwight Freeney. Mathis won AFC Defensive Player of the Month honors in October. Despite not having Freeney on the opposite side drawing the attention of offensive lines, Mathis is enjoying perhaps his finest season.
"He's a Pro Bowl player," said Colts defensive coordinator Greg Manusky. "He doesn't really talk much. He does his job. But the best thing from last year to this year, he bought in last year on whatever we wanted and this year he's the same way. He's just making progress each game. He's just a Pro Bowl football player that loves football. He performs because he's got that athletic ability and plays at a high level."
The Colts (6-2) play their first Sunday afternoon game in over a month. The Rams make their first-ever visit to Lucas Oil Stadium.