Colts 19, Chiefs 13: What we saw (starting with great defense)
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – What caught our eye in the Indianapolis Colt’ 19-13 upset of the Kansas City Chiefs Sunday night at Arrowhead Stadium. It atoned for the 31-13 loss in the second-round of the playoffs in January, knocked the Chiefs (4-1) from the unbeaten ranks and allowed the Colts to go into their bye week at 3-2.
D-lightful: A show of hands from those of you who expected this type of performance from Matt Eberflus’ defense. We’ll wait. And those of you with your hand in the air either work for the Colts or are liars.
“I did not think it was possible to hold that team to 13,’’ owner Jim Irsay said outside the team locker room.
The Patrick Mahomes-led Chiefs were averaging 474.8 yards and 33.8 points per game. They were riding an NFL-record streak of 25 games scoring at least 25 points and had scored at least 26 in each of Patrick Mahomes’ 23 career starts.
And 13. The last time the Chiefs were this ineffective: a 16-10 loss to Buffalo at Arrowhead Stadium Nov. 26, 2017.
“Coming into this place against that offense and to do what our defense did today was unreal,’’ Frank Reich said. “Flus and the defensive coaches did an unbelievable job.’’
Injuries decimated Eberflus’ group – Darius Leonard, Clayton Geathers and Malik Hooker were out – but you couldn’t tell that from the bottom line. It yielded Harrison Butker’s 29-yard field goal and Mahomes’ 27-yard TD to Byron Pringle on the first two possessions, then took complete control. Consider the Chiefs’ final seven drives, excluding the first-half kneel down: punt, lost fumble, punt, punt, punt, downs, field goal.
Mahomes was 13-of-17 for 157 yards on those first two drives, then harassed into a 9-of-22 for 164 yards finish. He aggravated an injury to his left ankle on a couple of occasions, but credit that to a Colts’ pass rush that regained its swagger. It got to Mahomes for four sacks – he had gone down three times in his first four games – and continued to press the action. The sacks were spread among Justin Houston, who had an impactful return to K.C., Grover Stewart, Kenny Moore II, Kemoko Turay and Jabaal Sheard.
“We just got after ‘em up front,’’ Reich said.
In the second half, the Chiefs were limited to 93 total yards on 20 snaps, and just 7 minutes, 29 seconds of possession time. Their running game was a non-factor from start to finish: 36 yards on 14 carries.
Major kudos to George Odum and rookies Khari Willis, Rock Ya-Sin and Bobby Okereke. Each was pressed into the starting lineup by the injuries. Odum and Ya-Sin shared the team lead with six tackles.
Welcome home, Justin: Houston insisted Thursday he would treat his return to Kansas City as just another game. No one really believed him.
After spending his first eight seasons as a Chiefs catalyst, Houston served a similar role as a Colt. He was credited with four tackles, 1 sack and two tackles for loss. The sack came in the second quarter while one of his tackles for loss all but sealed the victory. It came with Kansas City facing a fourth-and-1 at its own 34 with just over 5 minutes remaining. Houston knifed in untouched from his right end spot and pulled down Damien Williams for a loss of 1.
After snuffing out the Chiefs’ drive, Houston got to his feet and turned to the Chiefs bench. He flexed and stared them down.
“I didn’t like the way things ended when I left here,’’ said Houston, who was released in the offseason. “To come back and get a win means so much to me.’’
Houston declined to share what he shouted at the Chiefs.
“I was mic-ed up,’’ he said with a smile, “so y’all probably gotta check the mic on that one. I don’t know what I was saying.’’
Reich noticed Houston’s amped up disposition prior to the game.
“Even before the game as we break, he was all fired up,’’ he said. “He had the whole team going. Gets the sack, great pressure all day, makes the fourth-down stop. Those are massive plays.’’
Mack attack: Reich and coordinator Nick Sirianni clearly scanned the stats and noticed the Chiefs possessed one of the NFL’s worst run defenses. It had allowed 149.8 yards per game and 5.9 per attempt.
What to do? Lean on Marlon Mack, of course. The Colts’ feature back had one of those wearing-them-down games. He shouldered a career-high 29 carries and gouged the Chiefs for 132 yards. Indy finished with 180, including 103 on 28 carries in a relentless second half.
“All I had to do was make one guy miss,’’ Mack said. “The o-line was blocking real well and I just had to get the tough yards.’’
The holes created by the line, he added, “looked pretty big to me, man. As a running back, that’s what you want to see. They looked pretty huge. All I had to do was put my head down and keep moving forward.’’
Consider it atonement for that offensive line. It was uncharacteristically ineffective in the playoff loss to the Chiefs in January when the running game was limited to 87 yards on 14 attempts.
And let’s not dismiss Jordan Wilkins’ 28 yards on seven carries.
Efficient offense: Sirianni insisted the Colts wouldn’t settle into a ball-control attack to limit Mahomes’ possessions, but he might have been fibbing. Indy dominated time of possession – 37:15-22:45 – by sticking with Mack and getting an efficient game from Jacoby Brissett. Brissett was 18-for-29 for 151 yards and suffered a bad interception in the second quarter when he forced a pass to Eric Ebron that Chiefs safety Tyrann Mathieu intercepted.
In January, the offense never got into a rhythm. It was 0-for-9 on third down. Sunday, things improved to 5-for-14 in third-down situations. On a fourth-quarter drive that was capped by Adam Vinatieri’s 31-yard field goal for a 16-10 lead, they converted a pair of fourth-and-1s: a 3-yard run by Mack behind right tackle Braden Smith and a sneak by Brissett.
That’s how you help your defense limit Mahomes’ effectiveness. You keep him on the sidelines.
Vinny on target: The last time Vinatieri kicked at Arrowhead Stadium, he missed a PAT and a 23-yard field goal in the 31-13 playoff loss.
Sunday, he was dead-solid perfect. Vinatieri knocked down 32-, 32-, 31- and 29-yard field goals along with one PAT.
Medical update: Turay suffered an injury to his right lower leg in the closing minutes and was taken off the field on a cart. The injury occurred on his shared-sack of Mahomes. Linebacker Zaire Franklin suffered a hamstring injury.
And be sure to catch the Colts Blue Zone Podcast: