Optimism overwhelmed the Indianapolis Colts fanbase on Sunday after a 23-7 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium. The Colts were able to move the ball on offense, created turnovers on defense and put together as complete a win as they have all season.
While other games may have had a wider final margin, this was the Colts' best win over a quality opponent. After an initial touchdown allowed by the defense and a slow start by the offense, the Colts scored 23 unanswered points in the second and third quarters to put the game away.
The Colts could face the Chiefs again in the playoffs, a game that likely would be nothing like Sunday’s contest. For one, it would take place in Indianapolis at Lucas Oil Stadium. But each team likely would have different wrinkles in their respective game plans. But with the Colts' decimation of Kansas City Sunday, there is definitely an air of confidence around Indianapolis.
With a potential playoff matchup in mind, which players played well Sunday and could have another big performance in two weeks? Find out in this week’s report card.
Andrew Luck: B+
After a bit of a struggle in the aftermath of Reggie Wayne’s season-ending knee injury, Andrew Luck has picked it up with three strong weeks in a row. He was very good in the second half of the loss to Cincinnati, phenomenal to start the win over Houston and solid throughout the game in Kansas City.
Luck finished with 241 yards and a touchdown on 26-of-37 passing, a 96.8 passer rating. The yards per attempt of 6.5 is low, but that’s a function of Pep Hamilton’s system more than anything else. This week’s offense featured a bit more downfield routes, but still featured more passes within five yards of the line of scrimmage than it should.
Donald Brown: A+
Once a punchline in Indianapolis, “Dammit” Donald has become one of the Colts’ most explosive weapons. On Sunday, he was as good as ever, with his two long touchdowns being the only time the Colts reached the end zone. Brown hit pay dirt on an impressive 51-yard run and 33-yard swing pass and finished with 10 carries for 79 yards on the ground.
While he showed some flashes, including an impressive 4th-and-1 conversion, Richardson also showed that he has serious limitations as a running back.
He saw far too many defenders in the backfield Sunday, but it’s still hard to be excited about 43 yards on 16 carries (2.7 yard average). There are yards there that Richardson isn't picking up. Even if you take away Brown’s 51-yard scamper, he still managed to average over three yards a carry.
T.Y. Hilton: B
Hilton finished with five catches for 52 yards, including a 31-yard reception that would have been a touchdown if Luck hadn’t been hit while throwing, resulting in an underthrown ball.
Outside of that pass, however, the Chiefs contained Hilton, limiting him to just 5.25 yards per catch on his four other receptions. Hilton’s catch rate of 71 percent is nice, but he had at least one other pass that he failed to bring in as he bobbled it before the defender poked it out.
The second-year receiver has potential as a deep threat long-term, but this year has shown that he needs a true No. 1 opposite him to draw attention away.
Griff Whalen: A+
Somehow, Whalen has become a reliable possession receiver, catching seven passes for 80 yards on eight targets. It’s astounding that the former practice-squad player has been as consistent as he has, but his post-catch work was most impressive Sunday, consistently breaking tackles and gaining yards after the catch.
Da’Rick Rogers: C+
Rogers caught four passes for 42 yards on six targets and has a future, at least for this season, in the offense. But, Rogers desperately needs to improve his route running and on-field awareness.
Luck’s interception last weekend came because Rogers ran a poor post, and he nearly caused another interception on Sunday with an incorrect read on the coverage. Rogers’ strength has never been reading coverages, but he’ll learn that to be an effective downfield receiver in the NFL, he has to be more aware.
Coby Fleener: F
The Kansas City defense kept Fleener in check on Sunday, as the second-year tight end finished with just two catches for eight yards. It’s the second straight dud for Fleener, who didn’t catch a single pass last week. One catch today was a six-yard pass on 3rd-and-8 that he fumbled out of bounds before reaching the sticks. His other catch was a two-yard swing pass on first down. The Colts need more from him.
No other tight ends made much of an impact either way, although Jack Doyle did have a six-yard catch.
Pass Protection: A-
For the third week in a row, the line actually kept Luck reasonably clean. In comparison to other lines, it probably wasn’t a great performance, but for this line, it was stellar. Luck was sacked just once, only his second sack taken in the last three weeks. The tackles, Anthony Castonzo and Gosder Cherilus, were particularly good for a third straight week.
Run Blocking: C-
Another down day in run blocking for the Colts, who allowed far too much penetration up the middle. With an interior of Xavier Nixon, Samson Satele and Mike McGlynn, that should be expected. Satele and McGlynn in particular were embarrassed at times by the Kansas City defensive line. The blocking was there for Brown’s 51-yard touchdown, but struggled to open up holes for the rest of the game.
Pass Rush: A
The Colts have had little to no pass rush for most of the season, but after Robert Mathis’ strip-sack (although called an interception on the field), the dam burst in Kansas City. Fili Moala, Ricardo Mathews and Cory Redding all got on the sack board, and the Colts finished with four sacks and six official quarterback hits on the game.
With the pass rush, the secondary excelled, and the Chiefs offense was corralled all game.
Run Defense: D
Well, Jamaal Charles ran for 106 yards on 13 carries, so it’s safe to say that the Colts didn’t stop him. Even if you take out his 31-yard touchdown run, Charles still averaged over six yards per carry. Why Andy Reid didn’t stick with Charles (13 carries in what was never really a blowout?) I’ll never understand, but it was fortunate for Indianapolis.
Robert Mathis: B+
While his official stat line was just three tackles, a pass defensed and a forced fumble (which was actually caused by a Chiefs offensive lineman), Mathis actually turned the tide of the game in the third quarter with a strip-sack of Alex Smith.
The Chiefs needed to come out strong with a scoring drive in the second half, but Mathis’ sack (which was incorrectly judged an interception on the field) led to Donald Brown’s 51-yard run to put the Colts up by two scores.
Erik Walden: D
Walden was invisible on Sunday, finishing with one tackle. He did have one quarterback hit, but outside of that was held in check.
Bjoern Werner: C+
Like Walden, Werner had just one tackle, but fought through a block to sack Alex Smith in the first half, one of Werner’s better plays in his rookie season. Werner has disappointed this season, but getting a sack was a good sign.
Jerrell Freeman: A
Freeman finished with five tackles, a sack, a forced fumble, two interceptions and three passes defensed in what was one of his best games as a Colt. Freeman was especially impressive in coverage, where he’s been inconsistent this season. Freeman had tight coverage and broke on the ball extremely well all game.
Vontae Davis: A
After shutting down Andre Johnson last week, Davis was excellent again against the Chiefs, finishing with three tackles and two passes defensed. Davis doesn’t have great ball skills, but his coverage is consistent, he didn’t allow the Chiefs receivers any room on Sunday and added a few stops in run support as well.
Josh Gordy: B
Forced into playing after injuries to Greg Toler and Cassius Vaughn, Gordy surprised with solid coverage throughout the season. He did have a poor pass interference on Kansas City’s first drive, but he recovered to keep Dwayne Bowe in check throughout the game.
Antoine Bethea: B
Bethea has declined quite a bit over the last few years, but it was a vintage game from the veteran safety Sunday, as he flew around the field and laid big hits all over the field. Bethea still struggles in coverage, and should have gotten flagged for pass interference in the second half, but he got away with a jersey tug as Bowe leaped for a high throw down the right seam.
LaRon Landry: C+
The highly paid safety didn’t make much of an impact on Sunday, finishing with four tackles. Landry also had an unnecessary roughness called on him in the second half when he dove at Bowe, who had given himself up on the play.
Pat McAfee: A
Although the coverage wasn’t always there, McAfee flipped the field on his four punts on Sunday, averaging 50.3 yards per punt. The highlight came on his shortest punt, a 39-yard chip shot that was downed on the Kansas City 6-yard line. Even better than the punt: McAfee’s golf swing celebration.
Adam Vinatieri: B+
Vinatieri was 3-for-4 on Sunday, missing a 34-yard field goal in the first quarter, his third miss since Week 4. The grizzled veteran made up for it with three field goals later in the game, hitting from 46, 45 and 30 yards.
Darrius Heyward-Bey: B+
The Colts may have found a spot for Heyward-Bey, who has been demoted from starting receiver to only coming on the field as a blocker in short-yardage situations. But the struggling receiver made plays on special teams on Sunday, making a nice tackle on a punt return, causing Dexter McCluster to lose two yards. Heyward-Bey also downed McAfee’s punt later in the fourth quarter at the Kansas City 6-yard line.