(Eds: Adds details; quotes. With AP Photos.)By KRISTIE RIEKENAP Sports Writer
The last time the Houston Texans faced an inexperienced quarterback they forced second-year pro Jake Locker into five turnovers and sacked him six times in a win over the Titans.
Two weeks later, they get a shot at Andrew Luck, the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft last April, and they can clinch the AFC South title with a win.
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Luck has thrown for 3,792 yards for the Colts, but leads the AFC in interceptions with 18, and has lost five fumbles. He’s also been sacked 32 times, and will now have to deal with AFC sacks leader J.J. Watt.
”We need more sacks,” said Watt, who has a single-season franchise record with 16 1/2. ”I need to rush the passer better. As a defensive line, we need more pressure and we need to bat some more balls. We’ll put it on us up front.”
Coach Gary Kubiak noted that Luck is challenging because even if the defense gets to him for a sack, his size (6-foot 4, 234 pounds) makes him difficult to bring down.
”It’s got to be a big conscious effort for us to keep him contained, and then when we do have our opportunities you got to really work to bring him down,” Kubiak said. ”You can make just an incredible highlight reel of people just hanging on to him and him still making plays.”
Kubiak likened Luck to Ben Roethlisberger because of his size, and said that when he was studying the draft last year he thought he was the best quarterback to come out since his predecessor Peyton Manning.
”He’s sure as heck hasn’t disappointed,” Kubiak said. ”He’s been excellent this year. I told the team he’s playing like an eight-, nine-year football player. He’s handling a ton of offense.”
Despite his development, Luck hasn’t found a way to limit his turnovers. He’s had three games this season with three interceptions, and two of them have come in the last four games. He has nine interceptions in the last four games.
The Texans, who are experts at batting down passes, definitely noticed those numbers.
”It’s our goal always to create turnovers,” Watt said. ”We know what that does for momentum. We know how good our offense is, so we want to get them the ball as many times as possible, so we’re always looking to create turnovers.”
Watt has batted down 15 passes this season. He’s the only player since the league began tracking passes defensed in 1991 to have at least 15 sacks and 15 passes defensed in a single season.
Some teams have used brooms or other sticks in practice to try and replicate what it’s like to throw against Watt when preparing for the Texans. But Indianapolis interim coach Bruce Arians said he just used his tallest players and had them put their hands up in front of Luck this week in practice.
”I’ve seen ladders, brooms, everything, and balls still get batted in games,” Arians said. ”They’re so good at disengaging when they’re not going to get to the quarterback and getting in that throwing lane that it’s really hard to replicate.”
The Texans plan to use a variety of tactics to try and make Luck uncomfortable on Sunday. But from what they’ve seen from him so far, they know that will be difficult.
”You always want to try to rattle the quarterback,” nose tackle Shaun Cody said. ”(But) his progression has been so fast where he started the year and where he is now. He’s obviously better. We want to rattle him and get to him, but I think he’s learned from the mistakes he’s made in the past so It’ll definitely be a challenge for us.”
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