A Blueprint for the Kansas City Chiefs to Stop Andrew Luck in Wild Card Matchup

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A Blueprint for the Kansas City Chiefs to Stop Andrew Luck in Wild Card Matchup
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The Kansas City Chiefs travel to take on the Indianapolis Colts Saturday afternoon in the first game of the 2014 NFL playoffs.

These two teams hooked up in Week 16 of the regular season with the Colts taking the 23-7 victory over the Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium. 

While there's more than one way to get something done, for the Kansas City Chiefs, success in the game starts and ends with slowing down Colts quarterback Andrew Luck

Obviously easier said than done. 

Luck has been every bit as advertised in helping the Colts to the AFC South Championship. After losing wide receiver Reggie Wayne earlier this season with an ACL injury, Luck has leaned on T.Y. Hilton and Coby Fleener to try and pick up some of that production.

Reggie Wayne's last five seasons for Colts
Year REC YDS AVG TDS
2013* 38 503 13.2 2
2012 106 1,355 12.8 5
2011 75 960 12.8 4
2010 111 1,355 12.2 6
2009 100 1,264 12.6 10

* 7 games played - Stats via NFL.com

Hilton, the second-year player out of Florida International, whom the Colts took in the third round of the 2012 NFL draft, posted more than 1,000 yards receiving this year after a solid rookie season in which he caught 50 passes for 861 yards and seven touchdowns.  

Fleener has 608 yards receiving and four touchdowns in 16 games played this season. Along with Hilton, Fleener was taken in the 2012 NFL draft, He was a second-round pick (No. 34 overall) out of Stanford. 

As a team, the Colts have certainly had their ups and downs this season.

With victories over San Francisco, Seattle and Denver, all within their first seven games of the season, the Colts were thought to be among the league's best.

But with blowout losses to St. Louis and Arizona in the middle of the season, the team was given the dangerous-but-inconsistent tag. 

 

Stopping the stack

In the first meeting between the Chiefs and Colts in Week 16, there was one offensive formation Indianapolis used that was particularly effective. 

The Colts' use of the "stack" formation from their wide receivers proved to be difficult for Chiefs defensive coordinator Bob Sutton and the players. 

Here's a look at one of those plays. 

NFL Rewind - BJ Kissel

In the first shot you're able to see the receiver motioning back inside and eventually "stacking" behind the slot receiver.

Because Kansas City plays a lot of man-to-man defense, motions from the offense require constant communication from the defensive backs. Their assignments can vary from a specific player, to a certain number of guys to the outside of you or some kind of a combination. 

Once the ball is snapped you'll see the outside receiver, Hilton, who motioned, had been lined up with Brandon Flowers.  

Dunta Robinson was concerned with the slot receiver. 

Once they break off into their routes, there is a mix-up by the defensive backs.

Because Hilton had started outside, motioned inside and then took an inside position as he ran down the field, Robinson decided to go with him. You can see that with the white arrow. 

By the time the defensive backs adjusted, it was already too late. Both defensive players followed the deeper route, thus leaving open the underneath portions of the field. 

In this next play, you'll see the same general concept.

NFL Rewind - BJ Kissel

Sean Smith and Flowers are your two players inside the red box. This was often the Chiefs' defensive alignment against the stack formation. 

NFL Rewind - BJ Kissel

Flowers lets the initial receiver that was on the line of scrimmage leak to the middle of the field as he carried the stacked receiver down the field.

The only problem was Smith was doing the same thing as he lined up 10 yards off the line of scrimmage before the snap. 

The inside receiver runs a little hook route in the middle of the field while both corners chase the deep threat. Again, this leaves plenty of room for someone to catch the ball and turn upfield for a few yards. 

NFL Rewind - BJ Kissel

We don't know whose responsibility is the underneath route—it's possible that it's the linebackers at the top of the screen. But with stacked receivers it'd be surprising if both cornerbacks are to take away the same deep threat. Especially with a single-high safety over the top.

On this third and final play, the Colts are again in the stacked formation. 

NFL Rewind - BJ Kissel

It's Robinson lined up in the slot with Flowers over the top of him and shaded to the outside. For the third time it's the player in the stacked formation who runs the deeper route.

NFL Rewind - BJ Kissel

This time the receiver angles towards the sideline initially, and Robinson commits to go with him. The green circle is the player who eventually catches the pass and the white circle is where he catches it. 

The black lines show you the routes being run and the corresponding defensive moves with red lines. 

The interesting thing about this play is trying to find out whether or not Flowers had the responsibility of the player who caught the ball or not.

With Robinson immediately following the stacked player to the outside and up, was Flowers his help over the top? Or was he late recognizing the slot receiver running a post?

NFL Rewind - BJ Kissel

The first two plays showed the Colts running this play with a hook/curl route from the slot receiver, and the stacked receiver running a go route.

On this third play, the receiver instead runs a post, but Flowers was still playing back and therefore wasn't a new "wrinkle" in their defensive schemes towards this formation. 

The final possibility is the linebacker jumped the gun on the running back heading to the flat and opened up the passing lane (and soft spot) in this particular defense. Maybe everyone was where they were supposed to be in a quarter-quarter-half type of scheme. 

 

Saturday's matchup

In any case, these three plays all picked up considerable chunks of yardage against the Chiefs defense in their first meeting. There's a fantastic chance Kansas City will see many stacked formations from the Colts in this game. 

NFL Rewind - BJ Kissel

The Chiefs did make a couple of adjustments at halftime in their first meeting against this formation, as all three of the plays above were from the first half.

On the Colts' first drive of the second half, the Chiefs lined up both of their cornerbacks closer to the line of scrimmage. This isn't how they set in the first half against this look. 

Indianapolis ran nine pass plays in the first half with receivers in a stacked formation. Of those nine plays, eight passes were completed for 108 yards. The other play resulted in a sack.

Two of the completions were to running back Trent Richardson to the opposite side of the stacked formation. 

The Colts also didn't rush the ball a single time with a stacked formation in the first half. But then they came out in the second half and immediately ran it twice in a row with stacked receivers. 

It will be interesting to see how the Chiefs play these formations in the playoff game on Saturday. The Colts obviously found some success with it in their first meeting.

The only reason Indianapolis most likely ran the ball twice to start the second half is they knew it had become a trend and didn't want the Chiefs seeing it as a tendency. But with the success Indianapolis had with it in the first half, the Chiefs know they'll see it on Saturday. 

If you're looking for something to watch on Saturday. When you see the stacked wide receiver formations from the Colts, check out where the Chiefs cornerbacks are lined up and how they're communicating with pre-snap motions. 

It's undoubtedly something they're working on as they prepare for this game. The key to stopping Luck and the Colts offense has to be taking away what was so successful in their first matchup.

The Chiefs need to communicate better and understand how to defend the initial receiver running the curl/hook or option route, as well as the stacked receiver running the deeper route with a free release. 

Determining this is the blueprint for beating the Colts on Saturday. 

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