The Chiefs Have Their Worst Game of the Season
By Eric Paolini
In what could preview a wild-card weekend matchup, one team showed up and one didn't. Besides an opening-drive touchdown, the Kansas City Chiefs failed to score any other points in Sunday’s 23-7 loss to the Indianapolis Colts. A mostly stagnant offense, a pass defense that couldn’t cover anyone and numerous mistakes amounted to one of the worst showings for the Chiefs this season.
The 16-point margin of defeat nearly equals the combined total of the Chiefs’ three previous losses. And 16 points seems low. It’s surprising Indianapolis got in to the end zone only twice. Four drives stalling and resulting in field-goal attempts limited the scoring a bit, but even then, the Colts should have put more points on the board.
Andrew Luck had all day to throw, even when Kansas City blitzed. The offensive line handled the pass rush with a general ease. Luck was sacked once and hit a total of five times. For the most part, Luck was able to sit back and pick apart a defense that struggled to contain the passing game in any capacity. Griff Whalen was repeatedly able to find holes in the defense for a career day in his young career. (Who? Exactly.)
Whalen, TY Hilton, Da’Rick Rogers continually bested whatever cornerbacks Kansas City threw at them. The low point for the secondary came on a 31 yard-pass play to Hilton that easily could have gone for 50 more with a score had the throw been better. Hilton was untouched at the line with Dunta Robinson (replacing a benched Marcus Cooper) blitzing. Kendrick Lewis briefly checked Hilton before breaking elsewhere and allowing Hilton to move untouched deeper into the secondary with no help anywhere close by. Eric Berry was tied up in the center of the field and was able to bring Hilton down eventually only because Hilton had to go to the ground to make the catch. The Chiefs made an aggressive play in blitzing Luck from the corner for the play to completely break down. Luck saw no pressure and the receivers were allowed to work their routes down the field with few defenders in the way. Few defensive backs and a lot of time is a bad combination for a defense.
Robinson running into Derrick Johnson and pushing Johnson out of the way of a tackle to turn a gain of nothing into one of 16 yards may have been the second lowest point.
The game turned (or at least began to) when Indianapolis started leaning more on the pass. In total, the pass-versus-run numbers were fairly even (37-34), but that includes the runs at the end of the game to kill the clock. While Indianapolis had success in the air, it was a completely different story on the ground. The Colts were just dreadful in the ground game. Kansas City swallowed up nearly every run. Donald Brown and Trent Richardson ran into the line repeatedly. It just so happens that the one run Kansas City failed to swallow up went 51 yards and for a score.
Kansas City suffered too many breakdowns to have a chance to rally. Luck didn't pick apart the secondary mercilessly like Peyton Manning (and Eric Decker) did in the Chiefs’ and the Denver Broncos’ first matchup of the season. Luck had a good day, but had some subpar throws. He threw for only one touchdown and nearly threw an interception that would have actually been one nine out of 10 times. A poor throw and a miscommunication with the receiver put the ball right in Brandon Flowers’ hands only for it to bounce out and hit the ground. Manning made the Chiefs secondary look silly in that matchup five weeks ago. On Sunday, the Chiefs’ secondary made the Chiefs’ secondary look silly.
On top of numerous breakdowns, the Chiefs never received a break. Where a near Luck interception got dropped, Alex Smith’s first interception resulted from his arm being hit while he forced the ball to float in the air. That’s a tough break for Kansas City. Robert Mathis absolutely destroyed Eric Fisher, which isn’t lucky or unlucky, just a bad blocker. You wouldn't expect the floating jump ball to go to one team or the other. It was slightly unlucky that a member of the defense was in the area.
But when the Chiefs turned the ball over three other times, that’s not unlucky, just poor play. Knile Davis reverted back to his fumbling ways, and in a show of solidarity, Smith had a fumble of his own. Smith's turnover also happened to end any comeback hopes. While Smith may have been unlucky to be picked off the first time, his second interception was just a bad pass that found its way into Jerrell Freeman’s hands again. Nobody else besides Freeman was going to come away with that ball.
If anything can sum up the kind of day the Chiefs had, I think the sequence right before halftime does. I see the thought process behind the decisions Andy Reid made, but am unsure whether they were intelligent or not. The result certainly didn't work out in the Chiefs’ favor. A two-minute drill brought Kansas City into scoring range and would have ended a scoring streak by the Colts of 13 unanswered points. Because Kansas City would start the second half with the ball, the Chiefs also faced the prospect of back-to-back possessions they could score and get the lead and some control once again. (Spoiler: it did not work out for the Chiefs.)
The Chiefs faced third and 19 from the Colts’ 49 yard-line with 39 seconds remaining. A 15 yard pass underneath to Jamaal Charles put the Chiefs just inside field-goal range. Except Kansas City, for some reason, allowed the clock to wind down to 20 seconds before calling its final timeout. The Chiefs then opted to go for it on fourth and five to make it a more manageable distance for kicker Ryan Succop. Charles picked up the first down, and the Chiefs had to hurry to spike the ball, and did so successfully, stopping the clock with six seconds left. All this only for Succop to pull the kick for a miss. The Chiefs risked a turnover on downs, running out of time before the half by failing to spike the ball in time before ever attempting a field goal, all to make a slightly more manageable field-goal attempt, all for their efforts to be fruitless in the end. Oh, and Smith threw an interception on the first possession of the third quarter, too.
This is a game the Chiefs will sure want to put behind them quickly. Besides Charles getting another 100-yard game on the ground (106 yards on only 13 carries), most of the Chiefs performed less than optimally. The only other highlight you can possibly point to is the lack of success the Colts had running the football. But Richardson gaining only 43 yards on his 16 carries is more of indictment against him than a win for the rush defense.
Charles did not wreak havoc running screen plays, Smith stopped looking deep (or somewhat deep) and averaged only 5.5 yards per attempt, and Dwayne Bowe let half of the passes thrown his way hit the turf. Both sides of the ball had issues. To put it simply, a no-show performance against a playoff team is less than ideal.