KANSAS CITY, Mo. — One team looked like a club preparing for the coming NFL playoffs. The other looked like a team that did not understand the concept of sailing into the postseason with momentum.
The Indianapolis Colts’ 23-7 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium was likely the first game of a doubleheader between these teams that will be played over three weeks.
After falling behind on a quick Kansas City touchdown, Indianapolis ran off 23 unanswered points, earning their 10th victory of the season and setting up their spot as the likely No. 4 seed in the AFC bracket for the playoffs.
The Chiefs’ loss and the Denver Broncos’ victory over the Houston Texans eliminated any chance Kansas City had of winning the AFC West and they are now locked into the No. 5 seed in the conference.
That sets up a possible rematch between the teams in two weeks in the first round of the playoffs in Lucas Oil Stadium.
“Whether that comes to fruition or not, we’ll deal with it at that time,” Colts coach Chuck Pagano said. “Today, we did a tremendous job in all three phases. We did what we felt we had to do to win today against a really good football team.”
With the wind-chill factor at 11 degrees and a hardy breeze out of the northwest, the indoor Colts were not bothered by the weather.
Running back Donald Brown scored in the second quarter on a 33-yard pass from quarterback Andrew Luck, and then Brown came back to run 51 yards for a third-quarter touchdown. Kicker Adam Vinatieri added three field goals.
Coming off back-to-back games in which it outscored its opponents 101-41, Kansas City’s offense was stagnant and unable to generate consistent yardage, let alone scoring chances. Quarterback Alex Smith threw a pair of interceptions.
Smith and rookie running back Knile Davis lost fumbles, and Indy scored a touchdown off those takeaways. The Chiefs came into the game with a plus-21 turnover ratio and they were tied for No. 1 in the league for fewest giveaways with 14.
“That wasn’t our team, on offense, defense or special teams,” linebacker Derrick Johnson said. “We did not match the intensity that the Colts played with. If you don’t do that, you don’t win in this league.”
The Chiefs scored on their opening possession of the game on a pretty 31-yard run by running back Jamaal Charles, who went off right tackle and ran through and away from the Colts’ defense.
The Colts came back and ran off 13 unanswered points over the rest of the first half. After missing a 34-yard field goal, Vinatieri made a 46-yard field goal early in the second quarter to get the visitors on the board.
The fumble by Davis was recovered by Colts defensive end Cory Redding at the Kansas City 33-yard line. Luck took his team in for a touchdown on just two plays. The score came on a 33-yard pass play to Brown, who was left uncovered by the Chiefs defense, giving Indianapolis a 10-7 lead.
“He was the check down, so he’s sort of the last guy,” Luck said of his progression with his receivers that ended with Brown. “They did a good job of covering everybody else. All of our backs like Donald do a good job of getting to the right spot in the passing game. He got to the right spot, I was able to get him the ball and he was out.”
What the Colts said
“With all the things we have been going through this year, with the ups and downs of this team, we’ve been able to stay focused and be tough. It means a lot to this team. It embodies this team. It’s not just physical toughness, it’s mental toughness as well.” — Safety Antoine Bethea.
What the Chiefs said
“Moving forward, we just have to hold each other accountable. Everybody has to look in the mirror and accept the role that they played today because everything was self-inflicted. We have to swallow our pride and we have to get ready to move. We have to get ready to roll.” — Cornerback Dunta Robinson.
What we learned about the Colts
1. What a great performance the Colts got from the offensive line. The line came into the game without a pair of starters as left guard Hugh Thornton and right guard Jeff Linkenbach were inactive because of injury, as was top backup guard Joe Reitz. Rookie Xavier Nixon started at left guard and Mike McGlynn at right guard, and the Indy offense ran for 135 yards and allowed just one sack of quarterback Andrew Luck.
2. The defensive goal for the Colts on Sunday was simple in statement and tough in follow-through: slow down Kansas City running back Jamaal Charles. “We knew coming in it’s all about No. 25,” said defensive end Bjoern Werner. “He is a great player and we knew we would have to contain him to win the game and that’s what we did.”
Charles got his yards, finishing with 106 rushing yards and another 38 yards as a receiver. He scored the game’s first touchdown early in the first quarter on a pretty 31-yard run and then never got near the end zone afterwards.
What we learned about the Chiefs
1. Last week, quarterback Alex Smith finished a victory over Oakland with a perfect passer rating of 158.3, due largely to his five touchdown passes without an interception. Against Indianapolis, Smith finished with a 41.3 passer rating, due to no touchdown passes, four interceptions and just 5.3 yards per pass attempt. The lack of production from the passing game was the biggest reason the Chiefs were unable to beat Indianapolis.
2. Defensively, the Chiefs continue to have problems giving up big passing plays. Despite an overwhelming victory last week against Oakland, they gave up nine pass plays of 20 yards or more. Indianapolis quarterback Andrew Luck hit passes for 33, 31 and 21 yards. That 33-yard throw went for a touchdown to running back Donald Brown.