Quick Thoughts – Chiefs v. Colts

Running back Mike Hart scores the go ahead touchdown to seal the win. (Brent Smith | Reuters)

Running back Mike Hart scores the go ahead touchdown to seal a Colts win. (Brent Smith | Reuters)

The Indianapolis Colts entered their week five tilt against the Kansas City Chiefs in desperate need of a win.  They got that win, but also left the game with more questions than answers and another injury to a key player.  Here are some of my quick reactions to the Colts 10-point win over the Chiefs.

Red zone efficiency, which was a big factor in the Colts’ two previous games, played a big part in the outcome of today’s match-up.  The Colts converted all three of their red zone appearances into 13 points, while the Chiefs were 0-for-2 in in red zone scoring.  If the Colts had been able to punch it in on their two trips inside the five yard line, this game would have been a rout.

The defense started out in the same lethargic manner they played with last week, with the first drive being especially bad, spanning almost 80 yards and taking up most of the first quarter.  Unlike last week, they made good adjustments and really put the clamps down on the Chiefs’ offense in the second half.

Kelvin Hayden continues to have a rough go of it.   This time it was a horrible late hit penalty at the end of the first half that afforded the Chiefs a field goal opportunity.  Along with the bad penalty, Hayden continues to put up inconsistent performances in coverage.   The Colts need the pre-contract Hayden to solidify the secondary, especially when defensive coordinator Larry Coyer dials up the blitz.

Third-string safety Aaron Francisco acquitted himself well as he filled in for the injured Melvin Bullitt and Bob Sanders.  He had a few problems in run support, but made up for them with some excellent plays in the passing game.   It is unfair to expect a third-string player to bring “starter-level” performances, but if Fransisco can play at this level until Sanders returns, the defense should be okay.

The defensive line is still a concern, as they yet again failed to get much of a push from the tackles in the running game.   The Chiefs also did a good job of exploiting the tendencies of Freeney and Mathis, running in the lane left by their aggressive pass rush.  If the line cannot hold up better against the run, it is going to continue to wear down the linebacker and safety units that are already weak.

Jerraud Powers continues to be a stud on defense.  He is strong in run support, and his closing speed and tackling ability hampered the Chiefs’ ability to throw the quick slant.  It was good to see that Powers is no longer returning punts — his importance to the Colts’ defense is too great to risk him on special teams.

Austin Collie had another great day at wide receiver.  His play count seemed limited early on, perhaps due to his heel injury, but his increased play in the second half really helped the Colts pick up key first downs.   His amazing hands and great route-running should go a long way towards solidifying him as the Colts number two wide receiver.

Pierre Garçon returned from his recent hamstring injury.  He started off making three consecutive catches, but quickly remembered that he was Pierre Garçon.  A wide receiver that cannot catch is not very valuable, and Garçon continues to be too inconsistent to be a trusted target.  On top of that, the offense continues to run routes for him in the red zone, but he’s unable to generate any separation.

It was puzzling to see the Colts’ continue to attack Brandon Flowers.   The Chiefs’ best corner back was covering Garçon and Manning attacked the match-up early and often, with Flowers getting the best of it.  Reggie Wayne should have been able to better exploit his match-up against Brandon Carr.

Ryan Diem is a mess.  He was unable to stop Chiefs’ defense end Tamba Hali in the second half.  Manning only took one sack, but was hurried and forced out of the pocket on a majority of his throws.  Diem has been too inconsistent in both run and pass blocking, and I fear he may get someone hurt…

Although he may have already succeeded in that, as Joseph Addai left the game in the third quarter with a shoulder injury.  No word on if it is a bruise or a dislocation, but Addai was moving his arms fine on the sideline after being pulled from the game, so hopefully he’ll be ready to play next week.  Before leaving with the injury, Addai was having a great game, putting up 89 combined yards (50 rushing, 39 receiving).

Mike Hart did well as the lead back once Addai left.  There wasn’t much running room, but Hart’s tenacious running style allowed him to continuously pick up yards after contact.  His 11-yard touchdown run that iced the game was a great display of agility, speed, and power.  Hart isn’t a starter, but he’s shown that, when given the opportunities, he can be a good number two back.

Peyton Manning had his first struggles of the season, as the Chiefs’ back seven seemed to disrupt a lot of the Colts’ passing attack.  The Colts had similar struggles when facing the same scheme from the Bills in the pre-season.  Both teams pressed the Colts wide receivers and tight ends, disrupting their routes, while getting consistent pressure on Manning with their front four.  The Colts will have to figure out a way to attack this type of defense as other teams will start to employ it against them.

Good job, Brother Eli!  Little brother was able to do big brother a big favor as his Giants beat the Texans, allowing the Colts to catch up to the Texans record-wise.  The Colts still trail in tie breakers, but will have an opportunity to take control of the division the next time the two teams meet.

The officiating has been pretty bad this year, and today was no different.  While the Kansas City defense deserves a lot of credit for their ability to stifle the Colts’ offense, the lack of defensive holding and illegal contact calls really aided them in their efforts.

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