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There's been a lot of justifiable hype this week about Andrew Luck, the second year quarterback who engineered an incredible second half comeback to propel his Colts past the Chiefs on Wild Card weekend.

However, no matter how good Luck is, he can't complete 64 yard bombs from his backside. As with any quarterback, pressure could be key to keeping Luck from shredding the Patriots secondary this Saturday.

A quick look at the numbers shows that there could be opportunities to get some pressure on Luck this weekend. No quarterback was hit more than Luck this season, with Indy's offensive line allowing their franchise quarterback to get popped 93 times, an average of 5.8 hits per game. Combined with his 34 sacks, Luck was picking himself up from the ground on a whopping 21% of his dropbacks this year.

There's no question that Luck is better built to handle pressure than most. At  6'4" and a listed 239 lbs, Luck is built more like a linebacker than a quarterback (he certainly hits like one) and can take a lick like the best of them. Furthermore, Luck possesses underrated speed (his 4.59 40 yard dash from the combine is nearly identical to that of Cam Newton) and escapability. Bill Belichick likened him to a combination of Newton and Ben Roethlesberger earlier in the week, and the fact that Luck was only sacked 34 times this year despite being under that much pressure certainly supports that scary comparison.

However, there's only so much a quarterback can do under constant duress. The Patriots ability to generate pressure could be key to keeping Luck from hitting the big plays down the field that killed the Chiefs last weekend.

This is where Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich need to step up. The two defensive ends have been the only two constants for a New England defense that has been ravaged by injuries; in fact, they are the only two defensive players to start every game this season. As a result, they've both taken on remarkably heavy workloads. Jones has played a whopping 98% of the Patriots defensive snaps (1,124/1,148), while Ninkovich has played 95.8% with (1,096/1,148). The duo accounted for the top two snap totals for defensive linemen in the league by a comfortable margin.

While the bye week was undoubtedly a welcome opportunity for this duo to get some rest, the onus will once again be on them to carry the Patriots pass rush this weekend. Blitzing Luck is a risky proposition due to his ability to connect on the big play. If the Patriots can get pressure primarily from their front four, it will allow defensive coordinator Matt Patricia to flood the short zones the Colts prefer to attack with defenders in coverage.

All things considered, sacks won't necessarily be the end game this week. Luck is a hard quarterback to get down who also generally does a good job of getting rid of the ball quickly. However, if the Jones and Ninkovich can win their matchups with the Colts all Boston College duo of  tackles Anthony Costanzo and Gosder Cherilus to get consistent pressure, it could make it particularly hard for Luck to live up to his lofty billing on Saturday night.

Ned Brady 1/09/2014 02:51:00 PM Edit
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