The Colts walked into Arrowhead Stadium Sunday night as major underdogs. They faced the most prolific passing attack in the NFL and did so without their two starting safeties, All-Pro linebacker, and had both Pierre Desir and Kenny Moore playing cornerback with some level of injury. All they managed to do was limit the Chiefs to the fewest points scored in the Patrick Mahomes era with just 13. The previous low? 26.
As you can imagine, such an incredible effort on the road in prime time is going to come with a bunch of winners. So let’s get to it!
What do you need when your secondary is a shell of itself? A great pass rush. That is exactly what this line brought on Sunday night. They were in Patrick Mahomes’ face from bell to bell, starting with Justin Houston. Kemoko Turay, Jabaal Sheard, and Grover Stewart were all in on sacks, and what was more, they didn’t let the run game get going on them.
Early on it looked like this unit would struggle, as the Chiefs moved the ball well down the field exactly as we feared they would in the week ahead of this game. Instead, the defense clamped down and forced a field goal, setting the tone for the rest of the game. The only negative from this unit comes in the form of the brutal injury to Kemoko Turay at the end of the game. The early report is that he has broken his ankle and will be out for the season, which is a tough blow to the unit.
This game offered Marlon Mack’s national coming out party, as he patiently worked his way up the field, following his blockers and hitting creases for 132 yards as he ground down the Chiefs’ defense. Mack was questionable all the way up until game time with an ankle injury, and you could tell he was without some of his usual breakaway speed, but with this offensive line in front of him, it hardly mattered.
With the ball in his hands, Mack helped the Colts control the clock and keep Patrick Mahomes on the sidelines while the offense worked. His 470 yards on the season puts him 4th in the league in rushing, and on pace for 1,352 yards and 8 touchdowns on the season.
Khari Willis and George Odum
There aren’t many situations where you want to have to start your 4th round safety. You certainly don’t want to have to start him across from your backup safety against the best quarterback in the NFL. That’s exactly what the Colts did on Sunday. Khari Willis has looked absolutely ready for the NFL, and made a strong case that he deserves to be the starter over Clayton Geathers at the position. He came downhill and made a fantastic stop right up the middle, and consistently has good instincts. The All-22 will undoubtedly tell the story of these two better, but the mere fact that they didn’t give up big plays all game says they played better than we could have hoped. In a week where the Colts desperately needed their depth to step up, these two did.
A week after getting pushed around by the Raiders, the Colts offensive line showed up in a big way Sunday night. They absolutely brutalized the Chiefs’ defensive line, moving them around at their leisure and blowing open massive running lanes for their backs. It was a welcome performance, and one that was absolutely critical to the win. They are one of the best run blocking teams in the NFL, and they absolutely looked like it in this game.
Need a big block to spring your running back? Call Jack Doyle. 3rd down and you have to complete a pass to move the sticks? Jack Doyle is your man. 3 passes for 19 yards doesn’t exactly tell the story of a dominant offensive performance by the reliable veteran, but that’s exactly what he provided. His blocking was excellent, as it has been all season. When Brissett needed an outlet, Doyle was there. He continues to show what a huge loss he was in 2018 with his workmanlike performances this season.
When Kenny Moore went down with a knee injury early in the game, it looked rough for the Colts. Their secondary was already running on fumes, but losing Moore would have been a crippling blow. Instead, Moore was out for a short time and then checked back in, registering a sack with a slick move to evade a tackle, and looking like he didn’t miss a beat. Moore’s sure tackling and presence in this game were huge, and he proved through his toughness and heart that the Colts made the right choice giving him an extension.
It was a major fear of mine prior to this game that this could be a resurgence of Vinatieri’s early season struggles. A road game outside certainly presented a different challenge than did a game in Lucas Oil Stadium where standing ovations greeted every stroll onto the field. Turns out there was no need to worry. Vinatieri was perfect, and has proven that he is fully back. Excellent news for both he and the Colts.
The Colts coaches deserve credit for a great game plan and execution on both sides of the ball. They had this team completely ready to go for their toughest game of the season. Nearly everyone counted this team out, and the coaches kept them focused and ready to go into a tough environment and do exactly what they needed to on both sides of the ball to get a win. With coaching performances like this, it is going to be tough to ever count this team out of a game.
I know we are all wrapped up in the good feelings of a win over a really tough opponent, but there are still some very real questions about Jacoby Brissett. Through 5 games this season he has continued to show an inability to get through progressions and hit his receivers on time. Another issue that has cropped up, and was on display in this game, was his rush to throw the ball away rather than look for potential opportunities downfield. Where someone like Mahomes extends the play and looks for a way to make defenses pay, Brissett often extends the play and throws it away, merely avoiding the sack.
Finally, the other issue with Brissett’s game reared its head on a deep shot to Eric Ebron. Brissett locked in on Ebron, who was wide open after beating his coverage. Because he never looked anywhere else, safety Tyrann Matheiu was able to home in on the play and make an easy pick. This is not the first instance of this taking place, but Brissett is going to have to work on eye discipline and looking off safeties, or he is going to give up back-breaking picks like this.
Again, this is nitpicking in a game where the team largely played well, but games like this allow the question of whether they keep Brissett long term or look for another option.