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Luck's picks slow down at right time for Colts

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Colts at Baltimore

Kickoff: 1 p.m. Sunday
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He hasn't thrown an interception in three games

Friday, January 4, 2013 - 6:11 am

INDIANAPOLIS – Colts quarterback Andrew Luck hasn't thrown an interception in nearly a month. Is it coincidence or a better approach?

Perhaps the reason's not as important as the result.

One of the few criticisms of Luck in his first season as quarterback has been his turnovers. Some of that is perception. When you throw 627 passes, some are going to be picked off. When you're sacked 41 times, sometimes the ball will be jarred loose.

Yet Luck has shown a proclivity to correct flaws in his game, so maybe three straight interception-free games are signs that something has changed.

“I guess it was a sore spot for the offense,” Luck said. “I know a lot of games, I felt like those interceptions, fumbles, really killed any momentum we had or killed our chance to win. It's something you focus on as a quarterback, limiting turnovers.

“I wish maybe it could have come a little sooner but (I'm) glad to stay away from the interceptions the last few weeks. But what a challenge this defense presents this week in that department. We'll have to be on it. I'll have to be on it for us to have a chance.”

The Colts play the Baltimore Ravens at 1 p.m. Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore.

While the Ravens' vaunted defense has been aging – cornerstone linebacker Ray Lewis said he'll retire at season's end –it's still dangerous. The bane of many quarterbacks' existence, safety Ed Reed, is still in action. Reed tied with Cary Williams for the Baltimore team lead with four interceptions this season. The Ravens rank 17th against the pass, giving up an average of 228.1 yards per game. The Colts average 258 yards per game through the air.

Luck's tendency to throw interceptions remains higher than most. He has 18 in 627 attempts (one pick every 34.8 passes). Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco, for example, has 10 picks in 531 attempts (one every 53.1 attempts).

The only quarterbacks with more picks than Luck this season, both with 19, were Drew Brees (one every 35.2) and Tony Romo (one every 34.1). Incidentally, Peyton Manning threw a pick every 20.5 passes as a rookie with 28 in 575 attempts.

Luck, of course, ran an offense that relies more on the long passing game and used fewer short passes or high-percentage throws to running backs out of the backfield.

Offensive lineman Winston Justice, who came to the Colts from the Eagles in the offseason, says he feels Luck has played consistently well all season regardless of whether turnovers have decreased at season's end.

“To be honest, I think he's been the same,” Justice said. “Ever since the first day I saw him, he's been a leader. He doesn't really get (rattled) or get nervous or anxious or stuff like that. I don't think he's changed that much because he's still the same player. Did he grow some? Maybe, but I didn't really see it. He's been a good player since the first day he got here.”

Colts coach Chuck Pagano certainly endorses the reduction in turnovers. Luck had a potential fumble reversed upon review because of the “tuck rule.” The Colts' only turnover in the last three games was Mewelde Moore's fumble in the goal line in a loss at Houston.

“We've had one turnover in the last three games, knock on wood,” Pagano said. “We know that winning the turnover battle, when you look at all the stats, it's probably the biggest indicator that you can look at other than points. You win the turnover battle, you've got a great shot at winning the game.”

That's something Luck has understood since Day One. Now, for whatever reasons, he's executing that mindset better at the most crucial time of the year.