Today, we saw a matchup of two teams many had considered, whether fair or not, to be overrated. The Chiefs have carried that stigma because of their shortage of wins against playoff teams, while the Colts’ record simply defies their statistics (nothing wrong with that, right?).
Regardless of whether anyone is right about either club, the home team appeared to have the advantage going into this match up, playing in the loud, cold Arrowhead Stadium, with the nearly unstoppable Jamaal Charles against a struggling run defense, and a defense of their own that can be a nightmare for opposing quarterbacks.
Things began the way many Colts fans feared they might, two quick three and outs by the offense sandwiched around a four play touchdown drive by the Chiefs, who took a 7-0 lead on a 31-yard run by Charles.
Things began to look better on the Colts’ third drive, however. They began to move the ball, little by little (13 plays for 59 yards). Indy kept the Chiefs on their heels, using a no huddle attack despite playing in a loud, hostile environment, and, while the drive ended in a rare missed field goal from Adam Vinatieri, one could sense the confidence quickly building on the Colts sideline.
The Indianapolis defense, decently rested after the five-minute drive, forced the first of five three and outs by the Chiefs. In fact, after their touchdown, Kansas City’s subsequent drives went something like this: punt, punt, fumble, punt, missed field goal, interception, punt, punt, interception, fumble – with four sacks, four turnovers, and only 287 yards. Yep, it was a good day for the Colts defense.
Jamaal Charles had his yards (13 carries for 106 yards, 8.2 ypc), but with the Colts leading for most of the day, it scarcely mattered how well Kansas City ran the ball.
After the first three and out by the Chiefs, Vinatieri had a chance to make up for his early miss and blasted home a 46-yarder to make the score 7-3 in the second quarter.
Robert Mathis forced a fumble at the Kansas City 31 on the following drive, which Cory Redding recovered. A couple plays later, Andrew Luck found running back Donald Brown for a short pass on the right side, and Brown, with the help of a block from tight end Coby Fleener, dodged and darted his way into the endzone for a 33-yard touchdown and a 10-7 lead. The Colts suddenly held all of that precious, intangible thing we like to call momentum.
The Chiefs, needing to answer back before things got out of hand struggled to move the ball again. Jerrell Freeman, who had a brilliant day, tackled Dwayne Bowe for no gain on first down, Erik Walden helped keep Charles from breaking a big run, and Antoine Bethea absolutely blew up Bowe on third down. That brought out Dustin Colquitt, the punting equivalent of a Manning brother, for another punt (a 59-yarder).
Colquitt’s impressive punt notwithstanding, Indianapolis, starting from their 16-yard line, put together another scoring drive, highlighted by T.Y. Hilton’s falling 31-yard grab. Adam Vinatieri nailed 45-yarder to make it 13-7 with around two minutes left in the half.
The Chiefs moved the ball well in their two-minute drill but missed a 47-yard field goal, leaving the halftime score 13-7.
The Colts nearly recovered a fumble right off the bat when nose tackle Aubrayo Franklin hit Jamaal Charles for no gain on the second play of the half. They made up for it a play later when Mathis hit Alex Smith’s arm as he threw, and Jerrell Freeman came up with the first of his two interceptions.
The Colts offense has had games where they had trouble seizing the moment when the defense put them in a good situation. Not today. Luck dialed up a sideline pass to Da’Rick Rogers. Rogers immediately got a step on the cornerback, who promptly rode him like a backpack, setting up a holding penalty and a first down on the Colts’ 49. Donald Brown took a handoff behind the right guard and tackle, made a couple moves, broke a tackle, and sprinted 51 yards for the touchdown. 20-7, and the Colts were in clock killer already.
Ricardo Matthews and Fili Moala split a sack on the next drive, bringing out Kansas City’s star player of the day, Colquitt, for a 60-yard punt.
Indianapolis ate up nearly eight minutes on a 15 play, 44-yard drive to finish off their scoring with a 30-yard field goal, stretching the lead to 16.
Neither team would score again, as the Colts defense just kept on going to work. They did a remarkable job and never lost their intensity. Cory Redding sacked Smith on a big third down with the game still in reach for the Chiefs. Reserve corner Josh Gordy got his hands on a pass in the endzone to prevent a momentum-shifting touchdown to Dwayne Bowe. Jerrell Freeman came up with his second interception, reeling in an underthrown ball while covering tight end Anthony Fasano one on one.
The Chiefs moved into Colts territory for a second time in the quarter, but after a pass breakup by Vontae Davis, Freeman came in on a blitz and sacked Smith, forcing a fumble that was recovered by Moala. Game over.
A few plays later, Indy found itself in the victory formation. 23-7. Another good day to be a Colts fan.
A few randomly assorted notes:
– Darrius Heyward-Bey, experiencing a full-on benching at this point, had a great special teams play today, ripping down a punt returner before he could go anywhere. He looked like he was pretty charged up about it too.
– Both punters had monster days (Pat McAfee even did a little golf swing celebration after a beauty in the fourth quarter). Colquitt averaged 54 yards and put two inside the 20, while McAfee punted four times for an impressive 50.3-yard average and put one inside the 20 as well. Wind? What wind?
– The Colts have needed to help Mathis out in the pass rush department. The need to be able generate some pressure from other players, and they did it today. The defense had 6 quarterback hits, Bjoern Werner came up with his second sack in as many games, Redding brought Smith down, Freeman had the strip sack, and Moala and Matthews split another quarterback takedown.
– Andrew Luck only went down once. That’s a good day for the make shift offensive line.
– Donald Brown had a fine game, aided by his 51-yard run. He only average 3 yards on his other carries, but his big plays (including the touchdown reception) helped turn this otherwise close game into a laugher.
– Jerrell Freeman only had 5 tackles, but he added 3 pass breakups, 2 interceptions, a sack/forced fumble, and a QB hit.
– Andrew Luck needs just 6 more yards to have the most of any quarterback in his first two seasons. He went 26/37 for 241 yards, a TD, and a 96.1 rating today.
– Griff! The Griffer was a machine today: 7 catches for 80 yards on 8 targets, and 4 punt returns for 32 yards.
– Luck had some very reliable targets today. The young guys came up big again. Hilton had 5 catches on 7 targets, Rogers caught 4 of 6, Richardson 3 of 5, Fleener and Brown both caught 2 of 3, and Whalen led the team with his 7 receptions on 8 targets.
– Indy’s offense tended to inch along then hit on a big play. Thank goodness for big plays.
– Being plus 4 on turnovers is fun.
– Next up, the Jaguars. Let the playoff scenario talk begin…again.