It turns out maybe the Indianapolis Colts are just fine. Andrew Luck’s retirement shortly before the season may have caught them off guard, but the Colts have a deep, versatile roster with stacked with high-quality contributors on both sides of the ball, and it allows them to win all kinds of games, in all kinds of environments.
This particular win is one of the most impressive you’ll see all season. Frank Reich and company went into Arrowhead Stadium and defeated Patrick Mahomes and the previously-undefeated Kansas City Chiefs, stalking out of Missouri with a 19-13 victory that was extraordinarily well-earned.
The Colts were without several key contributors on defense and early on looked like they might be about to fall apart due to various injuries. But they righted the ship, steadied themselves, and largely imposed their will on both sides of the ball for much of the evening. The result was a 37:15 to 22:45 time-of-possession advantage, and an offense that actually out-gained the most explosive unit in the league.
The Colts’ job is not nearly done. There are still 11 games to go. But this is the kind of win you can build on. Now they’ll have their chance.
Why the Colts won
Stingy defense and ball-control offense.
Despite working seriously shorthanded (Darius Leonard, Malik Hooker, and Clayton Geathers were all inactive due to injury; while Kenny Moore and Zaire Franklin left the game due to injuries of their own), Matt Eberflus’ defense straight up dominated this game. Justin Houston was everywhere in his first game playing at Arrowhead Stadium as a visitor. Denico Autry, Jabaal Sheard, Kemoko Turay, and Grover Stewart repeatedly made plays in the backfield and kept pressure on Mahomes all night. The coverage on the back end from Pierre Desir, Rock Ya-Sin, Quincy Wilson, and George Odum was largely fantastic. The Chiefs came into this game averaging 474.8 yards and 33.8 points per game. They totaled just 324 yards and 13 points, snapping their NFL-record 25-game streak of scoring 25 or more.
On the other side of the ball, the Colts just kind of kept the ball for as long as possible. The Colts ran nine drives during the competitive portion of the game. They came away with points on five of those nine drives. Only one ended in a three-and-out. Five of them took at least three minutes off the clock, and three of them burned at least five minutes. Marlon Mack ground out 132 yards on 29 carries. Jordan Wilkins chipped in 28 yards with his seven totes. Jacoby Brissett was not particularly efficient (18 of 29) or explosive (5.1 yards per attempt); but he made a few timely plays and ran the ball in for the Colts’ only touchdown of the game.
Why the Chiefs lost
They got dominated at the line of scrimmage on both offense and defense. Mahomes was under duress essentially the entire night. He took several big hits and was visibly limping multiple times. He was noticeably less efficient following the first limp-causing hit, and the Chiefs’ offense couldn’t get untracked after that. Oh, and the Colts absolutely dominated the Chiefs when they tried to run the ball: Damien Williams had the team’s only nine running back carries, and he turned them into just 23 yards. As previously mentioned, the Colts used their run game to grind the clock and control time of possession and field position. They averaged 4.3 yards per carry on 43 totes, picking up key first downs time and time again.
It got a bit overshadowed by everything else that happened afterwards, but the game changed quite a bit after LeSean McCoy’s fumble at the end of a long catch-and-run on a very well-designed screen play midway through the second quarter.
The game was tied 10-10 at this point, and the Colts had just seen their own drive cut short by a Jacoby Brissett interception in the red zone. The Chiefs picked up a key third-down conversion on a beautiful throw from Mahomes to Mecole Hardman, and then McCoy broke through multiple waves of defense on the screen. And then George Odum changed the game, coming in from the side to pop the ball loose and end Kansas City’s scoring opportunity.
Play of the game
It’s got to be Justin Houston putting the finishing touches on his revenge game.
Houston finished this one with four tackles, two of them for a loss, a sack, and another quarterback hit. There was no play bigger than this one, as he broke through the Kansas City offensive line to bring Damien Williams down in the backfield on a key fourth-and-1 opportunity. The Colts turned the ensuing drive into three points, pushing their lead to nine, which ultimately proved insurmountable.
The Colts improved their record to 3-2 and kept pace with the Houston Texans in the AFC South race. They take a well-deserved bye in Week 6, which they will hopefully use to get their defense healthy. The Chiefs suffered their first loss of the season, dropping to 4-1. They have a one-game lead over the Oakland Raiders (!) in the AFC West, and next week they host the Texans in a 1 p.m. ET game on CBS. They have some injury issues of their own to deal with, what with multiple players on both offense and defense leaving the game early with various ailments.
Relive all the action in the Colts’ upset win below.
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