INDIANAPOLIS – Though the Colts left Houston with a 27-24 win last Sunday, they went there knowing the Texans' defense could make life tough.
That notion proved correct as Houston sacked Andrew Luck four times and totaled 11 quarterback hits, holding the Colts without first downs on their first eight third-down attempts and off the scoreboard until a sixth possession.
Chuck Pagano and his staff made the necessary adjustments to survive week nine, and now week 10 presents another stern test against Jeff Fisher's aggressive Rams.
From a defensive standpoint, they kind of smother you," said Pagano. "They're number one in the league putting pressure on the quarterback and sacking the quarterback. That's going to be a challenge."
Houston took Luck down four times in 44 pass calls and ranks sixth in the league in that category. St. Louis paces 32 teams with one sack per 9.9 attempts (29 in 286). The Rams also topped the NFL in this area in 2012.
"They've got really good front four, two edge guys," said Pagano. "Robert Quinn has 10 sacks and Chris Long has 5.5. The rest of the guys do a great job off the edge. They get after you."
A clean pocket is a great commodity for Luck, who has been sacked 19 times this year and hit on 59 occasions.
"They have two premier defensive ends, the number one sack team in the league," said Luck. "You know they can get to the quarterback. They have a bunch of athletes, fast, physical guys. It's going to be a heavyweight fight. We're excited for a great challenge."
Eight different Rams have reached the quarterback this season, and three other linemen – Michael Brockers, William Hayes, Kendall Langford – have at least three sacks.
Since 2010, St. Louis tops the league with 163 takedowns. The Rams had 52 in Fisher's first season (2012), and a good portion of his DNA that has led to 152 career regular-season wins is the priority to at least disrupt a quarterback, if not to hurry, hit or sack him.
"That's important, the next best thing to getting there," said Fisher. "It is important, based upon the route concept and the approach. That's very important to get (Luck) off (his spot) and make him move a little bit."
After facing Peyton Manning for many years as Tennessee's head coach, Fisher gets an eyeful Sunday of the Colts' new elite talent.
"One of the things that Andrew (Luck) does so well is he feels things, and he doesn't take his eye off the receivers downfield to look at the rush," said Fisher. "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."
Quinn tops the conference with his sack total, and he has had two three-sack outings this season. Quinn has at least one sack in six-of-nine outings.
Long, the son of Hall-of-Famer Howie, is seeking this third straight double-digit season. He had 11.5 a year ago and had a three-sack outing in week eight. Long has nine hits, 16 pressures and eight loss-tackles in addition to his sacks.
With a league-best 11.5 sacks this year and 103.0 for his career, Robert Mathis sees a tandem that jogs a memory.
"They have a high motor. I love guys that keep their motor running play-after-play," said Mathis. "They are definitely double trouble. They kind of remind me of 93 (Dwight Freeney) and 98 (himself)."
Freeney is the franchise leader with 107.5 sacks. Mathis and Freeney created havoc for a decade that spawned Mathis to say they resided at "9893 Bring The Heat Boulevard."
Mathis has seen Fisher in action before, and a relentless player knows what type of team this veteran coach will field Sunday.
"A very sound team, and unpredictable. He will pull some tricks out, so you have to be on your p's and q's," said Mathis.