Despite the weather I thought this would be a high scoring and close game. Unfortunately, it was most definitely not that. In fact, this game went a little like the Colts win against the Texans in the previous round. The Colts struggled to move the ball early and the Chiefs jumped out to a 17-0 lead. Even when the Colts did get on the scoreboard, from a blocked punt, the Chiefs marched straight back down the field to make it 24-7.
Saying all of that and the Colts still had their opportunities. Adam Vinatieri missed a field goal to end the half. That would have left the Colts going into the half down just 14 points. Unfortunately, they remained two scores behind the Chiefs and despite forcing a crucial fumble they could never get back in the game fully.
Let’s take a look at the key factors that decided this game.
The Battle in the Trenches
I highlighted this in my preview and ultimately this turned out to be the key to the game. My belief was that the Colts offensive line would buy Luck time to throw the majority of the time. Turns out they could not. Luck was sacked three times, hit five times and had at least five passes deflected at the line of scrimmage. Beyond even those numbers Luck seemed constantly under fire, scrambling around in the pocket and trying to buy his own time.
In fact, it was the Chiefs defensive line that ensured this game never close. With the score 24-7 in the third quarter Sammy Watkins fumbled on a great play by Darius Leonard. That set the Colts up at the Chiefs 20-yard line and silenced a constantly nervous Arrowhead crowd. Two plays into the Colts drive, Dee Ford burst through the line and forced a fumble by Luck. The Chiefs recovered and with it went most neutrals hopes that this game would get close.
The Colts also never really got their run game going in this one. In total they rushed 14 times for 87 yards but those statistics do not tell the full story. In the first half Marlon Mack ran the ball five times for nine yards, with two negative plays. His overall numbers, 5.1 yards per carry, were somewhat saved by two rushes for 31 yards on the Colts fourth quarter touchdown drive. Those runs came when the Chiefs brought Daniel Sorensen up to play linebacker and the Colts offensive line could manhandle him.
Luck off target
Even when Luck did have time he seemed nervous of the rush and regularly missed throws. Early on his throws were seemingly constantly falling short or under thrown. The very first third down he threw low to an open Ebron and killed the drive. Another drive he had Chester Rogers diving on a simple screen type pass, that ended with negative yard, as the defence swarmed up.
Later in the game he was missing guys and was nearly picked off a couple of times. The most memorable example of this was when he missed Hilton on a slant route and Steven Nelson dropped a would-be pick-six. He ended the game 19-of-36 with one touchdown and an average of 5.6 yards per attempt. The Colts needed their quarterback to be at his very best and unfortunately he fell short.
Chiefs offence dominant early on
While the Colts offence spluttered out of the gate, the Chiefs did not. Their first three drives resulted in 17 points, and ticked over 13 minutes off the clock. In total they went 213 yards on 28 plays, in the same time as the Colts ran nine plays for 12 yards in under five minutes of game time.
On their first touchdown drive of 90 yards in five plays the Chiefs did not have a third down and completed plays of 11, 16, 34 and 10 yards. They were aided by a silly Horse Collar tackle by the Colts when Watkins was already out of bounds.
Bold strategy pays off
While the first drive was clinical the next two were highlighted by a couple of bold calls. On the second drive it looked like the Colts had stopped the Chiefs one yard short at the Colts 47. Only for Andy Reid to keep the offence on the field and Damien Williams barrelled 11 yards for the first down and much more. On the very next play Tyreek Hill went 36 yards on an end around for a touchdown.
On the next drive, the Colts once again forced a fourth and one, this time at their 35-yard line. However, the Chiefs once again went for it, and again Williams barrelled over for the first down. That drive only ended in a field goal but psychologically the damage was done. The Colts not only had to defend this offence for three downs, they had to stop them going 10 yard in four downs. A close to impossible task.
Chiefs offence goes to sleep
The Chiefs scored points on 4-of-5 drives in the first half. They scored on just 1-of-6 in the second half. They punted three times, turned it over on downs to start the second half and had that fumble late in the third quarter. Those drives will be an interesting study for whoever comes into Kansas City next week. The Chiefs did not seem to go conservative so it looked to be a more case of the Colts adjusting and this offence spluttering. Again the Chargers or Patriots, they may not be able to afford that again next week.
Stupidity reigns supreme
I do not want to take away from this game anything but the quality of the Chiefs defence. However, I need to point out the sheer stupidity of the Colts defensive players at points. At least twice, while down three scores they celebrated sacks on Patrick Mahomes as if they were winning this game by three scores. One of those sacks drew a 15-yard penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct. Fortunately, the play happened after a fourth-down stop and did not extend the drive. However, it did mean that instead of Luck getting the ball at the Colts 38, he had to start at his own 23. The following drive went nowhere so ultimately it did not matter, but it was just a stupid and totally unnecessary thing to do.
The Chiefs deserved to win this game. Their offence clicked early and their defence suffocated the Colts throughout the game. This game was a disappointment for the Colts for sure, but it is not the end of the world. This is first of a multi-year project and they massively overachieved what anyone expected from them. However, Luck’s performance in the cold is something to keep in the back of the mind for the future.
Mahomes and company not get to sit back and wait to see who they face out of the Chargers and Patriots. Neither matchup will be easy and the Chiefs defence will need to be just as good as they were yesterday, next Sunday.
Image credit: Indy Star