Andrew Luck: Ball Security Starts at Top

Indianapolis leads the NFL through 15 games with 14 turnovers. It is a concerted effort team-wide to protect the ball because of where the message starts – that is with Chuck Pagano.





INDIANAPOLIS –With a chance Sunday to have a seventh turnover-free game this season, Indianapolis will go about its business routinely.

When the team reconvenes Thursday for preparation in meeting Jacksonville, the Colts will grit their teeth to be stingy.  In a Christmas season with giving as a theme, the last thing Indianapolis wants to do is hand away the football.

"It (ball security) starts from the top, Coach Pagano," said Luck.  "That's how he wants to build this football team, so we work on it in practice."

Pagano has said teams often reap what is emphasized, and what he and his staff stresses are limiting turnovers and penalties.

Indianapolis tops the NFL in stinginess, with its 65 infractions joining 14 giveaways as league lows.  The Colts can set a franchise mark if they have two or fewer turnovers against Jacksonville, while two penalties would set the club's standard over a 16-game season.

To Luck, what is practiced can result on Sundays.

"Talking to Matt (Hasselbeck), we had some conversations about not trying to throw interceptions in practice," said Luck.  "In his career some of the better teams he's been on really made a concerted effort to complete balls in practice.

"Even if it looks complete and maybe it was an interception because a DB let up because he doesn't want to hurt anybody, count that as an interception for yourself.  I know Matt's helped me a lot in that department, and just making it a point of emphasis every week."

Luck has nine interceptions in 533 attempts (1.7%), while he has lost two of his five fumbles.  A year ago, Luck had 18 interceptions in 627 attempts (2.9%) and was responsible for five of the team's nine lost fumbles.

"I knew I needed to improve in that facet," said Luck of the fumbles.  "I know if we as a team want to have a chance to win, offensively we have to take care of the ball.  By the position, the ball's in the quarterback's hands every snap, so I know I needed to do a better job."

If the Colts are spotless in turnovers Sunday, it will be the most such games (seven) accomplished in one season in the last 16 years.

Indianapolis has lost just one contest in 2013 without committing a turnover, and being giveaway- and penalty-free are missions stressed by a popular head coach.

"I think that's two good stats to have," said Luck of having fewer miscues and infractions than 31 other teams.  "It goes back to Coach Pagano's preaching, 'Don't beat yourself, take care of the football, run the football, stop the run.' "

MATHIS GETS SACK – Robert Mathis was credited with a third-quarter sack of Alex Smith to push his seasonal total to 17.5.  The play had been ruled an interception by Jerrell Freeman, but league officials and the Elias Sports Bureau amended the call.

Mathis made contact with Smith, who then advanced the jostled ball forward, but not with his hand.  Indianapolis converted the turnover two plays later on a 51-yard scoring run by Donald Brown.

Mathis extends his seasonal and career (109.0) club marks and trails NFL sack leader Robert Quinn (18.0, St. Louis).  Mathis hopes to join Dwight Freeney (2004) as the only league sack champion in franchise history.

FREEMAN HONORED – Jerrell Freeman has been named AFC Defensive Player-of-the-Week for his game at Kansas City.

Freeman had a team-leading seven tackles, one sack, one interception, one forced fumble, one fumble recovered and three passes defensed.  Through 15 games, Freeman leads the team with 159 tackles.  He has led the team in stops in 22-of-31 career outings.

"It's a great honor, but it's not just me," said Freeman.  "There's a lot of selfless things going on that people don't recognize.  For me to be successful, I have to have a lot of guys around me.  They feel the same way.  It's teamwork."

Freeman joins Andrew Luck, Robert Mathis and Adam Vinatieri in winning the weekly honor this season.

ROSTER MOVE – Defensive tackle Montori Hughes was placed on injured reserve with a knee injury.  Indianapolis waived C-Thomas Austin and signed LB-Alan Baxter to the practice squad.  There are two spots open on the 53-man roster.

PRACTICE REPORT – Did not participate:  DT-Ricky Jean Francois (foot), CB-Greg Toler (groin), OG-Mike McGlynn (elbow), S-Sergio Brown (groin), LB-Robert Mathis (rest), DE-Cory Redding (shoulder), S-LaRon Landry (rest), CB-Darius Butler (quad), OG-Hugh Thornton (neck), S-Antoine Bethea (ankle); Limited:  OT-Jeff Linkenbach (quad); Full:  OG-Joe Reitz (concussion).

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