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INDIANAPOLIS – What a difference a week can make in the NFL.
Sunday night in Kansas City was thought to turn into a runaway victory for the then undefeated Chiefs (4-1).
But the Colts (3-2) had other plans, in coming up with one of their greatest regular season wins of all-time.
What was learned from the Colts shocking the Chiefs, 19-13, at Arrowhead Stadium?
FIVE THINGS LEARNED
- Best Win Since? As Jim Irsay said after Sunday’s stunner, this victory is without question one of the finest regular season wins we’ve seen in franchise history. Most survivor pools probably had the Chiefs as a popular pick this week. But the Colts, as a double-digit underdog, wrecked those plans. One week following one of their more uglier home performances in quite a while, the Colts came up with a regular season win that should rank right up there with any in franchise history. How would the Colts bounce back from the poor loss to the Raiders? That was a question all week long. The Colts answered it emphatically, with a win built around stingy defense and a punishing ground game. Frank Reich loved the week of practice his team had and he was adamant that no coach or player was ‘shocked’ by Sunday’s outcome. The rest of the NFL world was though. The Indy defense rattled Patrick Mahomes and halted the potent Chiefs’ attack. On the other side of the ball, the Colts executed a game plan that they failed to back in January.
- Incredible Defensive Performance: A major hat tip to Matt Eberflus and his unit. One week after many (including myself) were critical of how that side of the ball had been playing, the D responded by doing something the rest of the NFL had been unable to do. The Colts held the Chiefs to just 13 points, and only 3 points on the final 8 series of the night. After a decimated cornerback group early in the game regained some health, the Indy defense was outstanding. Patrick Mahomes completed just 56.4 percent of his passes (the second lowest mark of his career). Kansas City had scored at least 25 points in 25 straight games. They only put up 13 on Sunday night. A struggling Indy defense, particularly against the run, changed that narrative, by allowing just 2.6 yards per carry. For the vast majority of the game, the rush lanes were disciplined in sacking Mahomes 4 times (he had been sacked only 3 times all year entering Sunday). The rush and cover pairing found more disruption, thanks to better defensive line play, and even some press and man coverage looks, which forced Mahomes into holding onto the ball longer than normal. Once WR-Sammy Watkins left early in the game, the Colts did a better job in slowing down TE-Travis Kelce. And Justin Houston came up with a couple of timely game-changing plays. Could this defense deliver against the elite QBs in this league? It was a fair question, given the recent history we had seen out of that side of the ball. On Sunday night, they were more than ready for the league’s toughest offensive challenge.
- Old School Offensive Blueprint: On paper, the Colts had a game plan that could make things interesting on Sunday night. They executed it pretty darn well. It was a ground and pound night of old school football, behind a talented offensive line. Marlon Mack didn’t look like a game-time decision, with a bum ankle, as he carried the ball a career-high 29 times for 132 yards. With the Colts sustaining drives via a punishing ground attack, that played into more and more time of possession. The Colts finished Sunday by having the ball for 37:15, compared to 22:45 for the Chiefs. After the first quarter, the Chiefs had the ball 13:03 the rest of the way. It was Frank Reich taking full advantage of a terrible Kansas City run defense (and a DL that got banged up during the game). Reich said on Sunday he was prepared to do some “crazy things” from a play-calling/decision making standpoint. But thanks to the Colts following the ideal blueprint against such a high-powered team, that ultra-aggressive path did not need to be taken. This was what the Colts wanted to do back in January. On Sunday night, Mack and the rushing attack kept the offense ahead of the chains, and executed in a style that was absolutely needed.
- Can Beat Anyone, Anywhere: Moving forward, the Colts can always point back to Week Five in Kansas City as to what this team is capable of. They proved on Sunday night that they can beat the NFL’s elite. They showed they can slow down one of the league’s best quarterbacks. We all know the NFL is about doing things on a week-in, week-out basis. Sunday night doesn’t all of a sudden mean the Colts are going 13-3 and earning a bye. But it shows that they can beat the best teams in this league, away from home. This sort of win hasn’t happened for the Colts in several years. It happened on Sunday night and it should give the Colts belief that—with some necessary improvements/changes at a few places—they are a team who can make noise come late December/January. It took until after Sunday’s win, but the Colts did admit there was something different about this week, knowing what happened back in January. The Colts did something about that on Sunday.
- Momentum Into The Bye: It’s a 3-2 record for the Colts heading into a Week Six bye. Many would argue that this 5-game stretch to start the 2019 season was the toughest chunk of games for the Colts this year. And the Colts found a way to go 3-2, win two important road games against other AFC teams and now sit tied for first in the AFC South, with the Houston Texans. The shocking upset victory places the Colts on the right side of .500, and probably a win ahead of where most people expected them after the first 5 games of the season. Following their upcoming bye, the Colts will play 4 of their next 5 at home. The opportunity is there in late October and November, thanks to a favorable schedule, for this team to build a strong record heading into the final month of the season.
-Reich Quotable: On the upset victory: “Wow. What a great win. The saying in the locker room was one emotion we were not feeling was ‘shock.’ I can’t even explain it. All week long we had that feeling, starting Wednesday, with the way we practiced, I think it was by far the best week of practice since we’ve been here, and particularly good on defense. Obviously, that showed today. Coming into this place, against that offense and to do what our defense did today was unreal.”
-Player Quotable: Defensive end Justin Houston on a little added redemption behind Sunday’s win: “I’d be lying to say there wasn’t. That’s just like your old girlfriend. (When) you get a new girlfriend, you want to show off.”
-Injury Report: The Colts had the following players inactive on Sunday: DE-Tyquan Lewis (ankle), S-Clayton Geathers (concussion) S-Mallik Hooker (knee), LB-Darius Leonard (concussion), WR-Parris Campbell (abdominal), S-Rolan Milligan (knee) and OT-Le’Raven Clark. Linebacker Zaire Franklin (hamstring) left the game and did not return. Defensive end Kemoko Turay (right leg) left late in the 4th quarter and was carted off the field.
-Key Stat: After having the ball for barely more than 20 minutes in January’s playoff loss to the Chiefs, the Colts possessed it for 37:15 on Sunday night, dominating the TOP over the last three quarters of the game.
-What’s Next: The Colts (3-2) are now heading for their bye week tied for first in the AFC South with the Houston Texans (3-2). It’s the earliest bye for the team since the 2012 season.