INDIANAPOLIS – Colts outside linebacker Robert Mathis says the St. Louis Rams' dynamic pass rushing style looks familiar. In fact, he was part of the prototype.
Rams defensive end Robert Quinn leads the NFC with 10 sacks, along with 10 tackles for loss. His partner on the other end, Chris Long, has 5.5 sacks.
“They have a high motor,” Mathis said. “I love guys that keep their motor running play after play. They are definitely double trouble. They kind of remind me of 93 and 98.”
Mathis refers, of course, to No.93 Dwight Freeney and No.98 Mathis when they used to wreak havoc on opposing offensive lines and quarterbacks during their decade-long run together with the Colts. In fact, they were so good at what they did, Mathis used to joke that they lived at “9893 Bring The Heat Boulevard.”
Quinn and Long will be trying to evoke that spirit, much to Colts' fans chagrin, when the Rams (3-6) play the Colts (6-2) at 1 p.m. Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Mathis' respect for the duo is echoed by Colts coach Chuck Pagano.
“From a defensive standpoint, they're No.1 in the league as far as putting pressure on the quarterback and sacking the quarterback,” Pagano said. “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.”
Fortunately for the Colts, quarterback Andrew Luck can take a few sacks and a few hits and still bounce back up and deliver.
Luck was sacked four times by the Houston Texans before he finally turned the offense around and led the Colts to another comeback win, with three touchdown passes to wide receiver T.Y. Hilton.
It marked Luck's second-straight game with three touchdowns and no interceptions. His 271 yards passing against Houston marked his second-highest total of the season. He threw for 321 in a loss to Miami.
“He's obviously tough as nails and very rugged and able to get up when knocked down,” Pagano said. “He's been knocked down his fair share and hit, but he manages the pocket as good as anybody. You talk to opposing coaches before, after games, they talk about his durability, how hard he is to get down.”
On the flip side, Mathis and company will try to bring the heat on Rams quarterback Kellen Clemens, who has started two games since the injury to Sam Bradford. Clemens has thrown for 387 yards in those two games.
Mathis has 11.5 sacks this season, but came up empty against Houston, which has him especially hungry to get back to work.
“They're pros, too,” Mathis said of the Texans. “I'm not going out there and not giving 100 percent. I take my hat off to Houston's O-line, I wasn't able to get there. Trust me, I'm back on the grind for it.”
Mathis has played plenty of games against Rams coach Jeff Fisher, who was a longtime AFC South rival when he coached the Tennessee Titans.
“They'll be a very sound, sound team and unpredictable,” Mathis said. “He will pull some tricks out, so you have to be on your p's and q's.”
Mathis won't assume anything's going to come easier with a backup quarterback on the field, either.
“He knows what he's doing,” Mathis said. “He's a veteran quarterback so we've got our job cut out for us. We can't take anything for granted.”
Officials missed the call
Pagano said he was told by the NFL that the Colts should have kept the ball when they forced a fumble on a kick return against the Texans.
Officials looked at a replay of the turnover on Sunday and ruled that Colts special teams player LaVon Brazill had touched the ball with his foot while out of bounds, and so officials gave possession to the Texans. Houston went on to score.
“You send in questions every week and then they give you the responses on every penalty, not every penalty, but what we thought should have been called," Pagano said. "Some of them they agree to, some of them they don't, and they give you their observations, their answers to it. That one they said shouldn't have been overturned.”