Colts Must be Ready for Emotional Chiefs
As far as tasks in the NFL go, for the Indianapolis Colts, this one seems easy enough. A road win over the 2-14 Kansas City Chiefs and the Colts are in the playoffs, the memories of a 2-14 2011 NFL season are erased and Andrew Luck sews up the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year award.
Okay, those last two outcomes are out of the Colts’ control, but getting into the playoffs is not. This is a game the Colts should win, and taking care of business on Sunday will go a long way towards convincing themselves, and everyone else, that they belong among the NFL’s elite teams this season.
Here are my five keys to the Colts’ success on Sunday.
Reggie Wayne can jump. Can you?
The Colts average 5.6 first quarter points per game while the Chiefs manage a paltry 2.8. The Chiefs’ defense allows 5.8 first quarter points per game, and the Colts are not much better at 4.5.
The first quarter does not seem to matter much to the Colts. In three of the Colts’ four losses, they led after the first quarter. The Chiefs, however, are 1-10 when trailing after the first quarter.
A strong first quarter for the Colts will get their defense into a nice rhythm while discouraging the down-and-out Chiefs who can only be looking forward to the end of a miserable and tragic season. Jump on ‘em early, and Uncle Mo will tilt the field downhill for the Colts.
No Luck can get a QB out of this
Andrew Luck has been sacked 37 times this season. The Chiefs defense only has 24 sacks, 30th in the NFL. The Colts give up fewer sacks in their wins (2.3) than in their losses (2.8). Six of the Chiefs' 24 sacks came in their two wins.
Obviously, the Colts will have to protect Luck if they want to win.
The real statistic that worries Colts fans, both this season and in the future, is the number of times Luck has been hit this season; he has been hit 107 times, ranking at the bottom of the league. The only reason Luck has not been officially “sacked” more this season is his incredible ability to elude pressure long enough to throw the ball away or make one of the mad scramble plays he is becoming famous for.
Indianapolis must utilize the pass and the run to create balance.
The Colts ran 982 plays from scrimmage this season, good for third-most in the NFL. Surprisingly, the Colts only rank 13th in time of possession at 51 percent, and that drops to 47 percent in their losing games. So the Colts run a lot of plays but do not really have the time of possession numbers to show for it.
The Colts are averaging 27.2 rushing attempts per game and a whopping 40.3 passes per game (this explains the high number of plays with the relatively low time of possession). While the Colts are averaging 1.5 pass attempts for each rush on the season, in their five losses they average 2.1 pass attempts for each rush.
This is often indicative of a team playing from behind, but the Colts were leading or tied after the first quarter in four of their five losses. So the Colts were not playing from behind, but they did have an anemic rushing attack in their losses. They average 62.4 rushing yards in their five losses compared to 132 yards per game in their nine wins.
Clearly the Colts play better when they can get the running game going and allow their defensive unit more time to rest on the bench while the offense is wearing out the opponent’s defense. This shouldn’t be news to anyone who follows football. When teams can dominate time of possession with an adequate ground game, it opens up big plays down the field and wears out the opposing defense, allowing the offense to close out the game.
Definitely no stuffing going on here
The Colts showed some weakness against the run in Week 15 against the Texans. Then again, many teams show weakness against Arian Foster.
The Colts defense is giving up 124.7 rushing yards per game (23rd in the league). The Chiefs offense is averaging 139.3 rushing yards per game (seventh in the league). Clearly, this is a matchup that the Chiefs will seek to exploit.
If the Colts cannot control the tempo of the game with their own rushing attack, and they let the Chief’s O-line push down hill, it will be a long day for the Colts.
Emotions need to run high
The Chiefs were 1-11 when tragedy struck in Week 13. Teams respond one of two ways to these kinds of events; either they fall apart completely, or they come together.
Against the Panthers in Week 13, the Chiefs came together and played their best game of the season in a 27-21 win. The NFL told the Chiefs players that they did not have to play that week against the Panthers. The players responded first by saying they were professionals, and second by acting like it.
The Chiefs dominated the Panthers in time of possession, calling twice as many running plays as passing plays. They had zero turnovers and only one penalty. Brady Quinn was even sharp, completing 82 percent of his passes. The Chiefs players were clearly emotional before, during and after the game as they continued to process the calamity.
The Chiefs played on the road the last two weeks and returned to their old form, losing both games. This Sunday against the Colts, the Chiefs return home and one may expect that they will once again be emotionally charged for the game.
Put simply, the Colts have to match the Chiefs’ emotional intensity. With a playoff spot awaiting the Colts if they win, the Colts will be ready to play.