Colts Have Necessary Blueprint Elements To Upset Chiefs
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INDIANAPOLIS – The challenge is without a doubt unlike anything the Colts have seen this season.
While winning 10 of 11 games is an astonishing feat in any NFL season, the Colts have benefited from a schedule that has not included the serious offensive juggernauts in this league.
The Patriots are the only top-14 offense the Colts played in 2018.
When talking about elite quarterbacks the Colts have faced this year, only Deshaun Watson and Tom Brady are in the upper echelon category, and Patrick Mahomes is in another class by himself with his MVP-play this year.
It’s so difficult to replicate what the Chiefs do offensively, especially when the Colts haven’t taken on a truly elite offense.
“The scheme is a little bit unique in terms of what they do and how they do it,” Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus says of defending the Chiefs. “They really spread the field horizontally and vertically with your defense and make you tackle in space.
“It’s going to be a big challenge for our defense.”
There’s a reason why the Chiefs have scored at least 26 points in every single game this season.
And while the task this Saturday is truly unique for the Colts, Frank Reich’s team has two specific elements that are absolutely needed to go into Arrowhead and pull off the upset.
First, on the defensive side of the ball, one of Matt Eberflus’ most important philosophical beliefs is limiting the big play.
Sure, at times, that drives people crazy in keeping zone looks too deep and giving up the dink and dunk all day long. But that approach has kept the Colts near the top of the league rankings in making sure the chunk plays don’t happen.
The Chiefs had 76 passing plays of at least 20 yards this season, the most in the NFL.
The Colts rank 5th in the fewest big passing plays allowed this season, giving up 41 such plays. They only allowed 4 passing plays of at least 40 yards, the second fewest in the NFL.
Now, Mahomes is a born gun slinger and his ‘arm talent’ is something that has really impressed Eberflus.
Will Mahomes, who will also be making his first career playoff start, have the patience to commit to the dink and dunk approach throughout the four quarters? Or will he instinctually try to take chances down the field?
This is a game why you have Malik Hooker as that deep centerfield safety. We will see how the calf injury to Mike Mitchell impacts the Colts when they go into their dime looks, as personnel groupings with 5 and 6 defensive backs on the field will be common on Saturday.
Will the Chiefs be content to try and move the ball down the field methodically, making sure they execute in the red zone, after drives that could very well take double-digit plays to get into the end zone?
Secondly, on the other side of things, what Frank Reich wants to focus on this time of year is a definite weakness of the Chiefs.
Reich wants to pound it in January, and the Colts did that last week with a playoff franchise record 200 rushing yards.
Kansas City really struggles against the run. They ranked 31st in the NFL this season in yards per carry allowed, at 4.97 YPC.
That should be music to the ears of Reich, who has his best offensive line healthy and together again, and a Marlon Mack running like a sure fire bell cow back.
While the Colts might not want to publicly state it, they have the ability to move the ball on the ground, and in doing so, play a bit of keep away from the explosive Chiefs.
“If it’s running it for 200 or throwing it for 400, I’m always going to say the same thing, we are trying to score every time we touch the ball and we are going to game plan and call the game in a way to score points,” Reich said on Tuesday. “We are really not trying to think so much about, ‘Well, let’s hold the ball and keep it from them.’ We want to run it. There’s no secret about that. That does keep them off the field. That would be great. But at the end of the day, the primary goal is score points.”
“You always think about how you are going to win the game as a team,” offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni added earlier this week. “I really believe that it’s our job to go out there and score as many points as we possibly can. If that’s passing it, if that’s running it, we got to score and that’s always our goal is to go out there and score. I don’t think we can play the game that way. I think we got to play the game the way we think is best to win the game.”
Considering the weakness of the Chiefs defense (which is opposite from an effective KC pass rush) and what they possess on offense, wouldn’t a blueprint to win this game be a focus on moving the ball on the ground, while also eating up clock, and limiting the possessions for Mahomes?
Sure, the Colts will certainly want to take chances through the air and find their top skill player (T.Y. Hilton), but after what they did last weekend to the top yards per carry defense in the NFL, it’s hard to imagine they would deviate too much from that game plan, against a much weaker run defense.
Yes, the Colts are taking on a totally different animal this weekend.
But they have two key elements needed for the upset.