Clowney in a rush to keep the pres­sure on

Out­side line­backer hopes to re­peat suc­cess against Colts ear­lier this sea­son

Houston Chronicle - - SPORTS - By Aaron Wil­son

Jade­veon Clowney busted into the In­di­anapo­lis Colts’ back­field for a key sack of quar­ter­back An­drew Luck dur­ing the Tex­ans’ over­time vic­tory, dom­i­nat­ing an over­hauled of­fen­sive line.

The Tex­ans’ Pro Bowl out­side line­backer recorded two sacks, four tack­les for losses and scored a touch­down when he pounced on a botched snap dur­ing a 37-34 win on Sept. 30 that launched a fran­chise-record nine-game win­ning streak.

Luck was sacked a sea­son-high four times, but he man­aged to pass for 464 yards, four touch­downs and zero in­ter­cep­tions.

Since that game, the Colts have up­graded their pass pro­tec­tion in a ma­jor way.

They’ve al­lowed just 14 sacks for the sea­son and only five in the past eight games. That in­cluded five games in a row with­out sur­ren­der­ing a sack for the third-long­est streak in the NFL since the 1982 sea­son.

When Clowney gives chase to Luck on Sun­day at NRG Sta­dium, he’ll be fac­ing fa­mil­iar block­ing schemes and per­son­nel. And the Colts have tra­di­tion­ally strug­gled to con­tain the for­mer top over­all pick from South Carolina.

In seven ca­reer games against the Colts, Clowney has recorded 4½ sacks and 28 tack­les.

“Of course, it’s the divi­sion,” Clowney said. “You have to know the guys in your divi­sion. I’m sure they know me, too. I know those guys pretty well, but it will be a hard-fought game and we just have to come to play.”

Clowney has a de­vel­op­ing reper­toire of pass-rush­ing moves.

Be­tween his speed rush and power moves, in­clud­ing a de­cep­tively strong bull rush, the two-time Pro Bowl se­lec­tion has man­u­fac­tured an­other strong sea­son.

Work­ing in tan­dem with three-time NFL De­fen­sive Player of the Year de­fen­sive end J.J. Watt, Clowney ranks sec­ond on the Tex­ans be­hind Watt with seven sacks and 12 tack­les for losses.

One year re­moved from a break­out sea­son with a ca­reer-high 9½ sacks, Clowney is hop­ing to cap­i­tal­ize on his fa­mil­iar­ity with the Colts’ block­ers.

Clowney is pre­par­ing for a phys­i­cal game against the Colts, in­clud­ing vet­eran left of­fen­sive tackle An­thony Cas­tonzo.

“In the divi­sion, a lot of guys know me,” Clowney said. “Some guys play me a lit­tle dif­fer­ent. They play a lit­tle bit dif­fer­ent when I play them. In the divi­sion, it’s a lit­tle rough.

“You play a guy twice a year, you start to no­tice them a lot more. I’m sure they have some­thing go­ing on over there for this week, but we’ve got some­thing go­ing, too.”

Clowney sacked Luck for a loss of nine yards in the sec­ond quar­ter and a loss of 10 yards in the over­time, set­ting the stage for a dra­matic win and be­ing named AFC De­fen­sive Player of the Week.

Clowney hit Luck four times in that game, play­ing his best game of the sea­son fol­low­ing a rough start in the first two games af­ter an off­sea­son dur­ing which he un­der­went arthro­scopic knee surgery.

Clowney and Watt have com­bined for 18½ sacks, 26 tack­les for losses and 35 quar­ter­back hits.

“They’re def­i­nitely one of the tougher duos that you face, but then their whole de­fen­sive front is very good,” Colts coach Frank Re­ich said. “They’re cer­tainly two elite pass rush­ers that present a chal­lenge. So, you cer­tainly have to game plan against that.”

The Colts have made steady improvements this sea­son as Luck has passed for 32 touch­downs. Draft­ing for­mer Notre Dame guard Quen­ton Nel­son has in­jected the of­fen­sive line with a nas­ti­ness un­seen from this team in years.

The Colts rank first in the NFL in fewest sacks al­lowed per pass­ing at­tempt.

“Hope­fully, we can get them to give up sacks,” Clowney said. “We’ve been get­ting a few sacks and a few turnovers the last cou­ple of games and have a good turnover ra­tio. Hope­fully, we can go out here and cause a lot of forced fum­bles and An­drew Luck can throw some picks. It’s part of the game plan, just putting pres­sure on him, mak­ing him throw a few or sack him. That’s ev­ery week.”

Brett Coomer / Staff pho­tog­ra­pher

Tex­ans line­backer Jade­veon Clowney sacked Colts quar­ter­back An­drew Luck two times in their first meet­ing.

Brett Coomer / Staff pho­tog­ra­pher

Tex­ans line­backer Jade­veon Clowney had no trou­ble catch­ing Colts QB An­drew Luck on Sept. 30.

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