Another week, another imposing quarterback for the Kansas City Chiefs. Heading into a matchup against Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, the defense needed to be stellar and the offense needed to shut down the Colts early. At a record of 3-4, the Colts looked to week eight as a means towards resurrecting a season teetering on disaster. If the Chiefs got out to an early lead, then the Colts weak morale would be exposed. Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith did as much, but after obtaining a concussion Nick Foles had to finish the job. The depth of the Kansas City Chiefs roster proved their spots were not earned by luck, but with skill in a convincing 30-14 victory. Running back Charcandrick West and defensive end Dee Ford stepped up in major ways to give the Chiefs a third consecutive win heading into the second half of the season.
Kansas City Chiefs Backups Need No Luck – Week 8 Retrospect
Defense: A Recurring Gift
Receiving the ball on a touchback, the Kansas City Chiefs looked to capitalize immediately. The Indianapolis Colts season had been riveted by inconsistent starts and a lack of ability to fight back into games. The first two plays, however, went exactly against the Chiefs agenda; both were defunct passes. Finally on third down, Alex Smith connected with tight end Travis Kelce to keep the drive alive. Although merely three plays in, the Chiefs had established a different opening tone by converting for the first down.
Spencer Ware and Tyreek Hill ran the ball downfield for most of the opening drive. Chiefs Kingdom had to take a collective breath (the first of three) when Alex Smith was sacked and suffered a lacerated ear. Backup Nick Foles threw only one pass, falling incomplete, and the Chiefs settled for a Cairo Santos field goal.
Although up only 3-0, the Chiefs succeeded in psyching out the Colts offense. Three passes later, Andrew Luck was left moving backward after a 40-yard bomb to Ty Hilton was called back for offensive holding. The mistake-prone Colts offensive line had returned, wasting plays and forcing a punt.
Yet, instead of capitalizing on the mistake, the Chiefs ran three defunct plays of their own. Foles failed to get the offense moving and appeared very cold off the bench. The Chiefs defense painted a different story. Akin to the linebackers he was used to backing up, Ramik Wilson violently collided with Luck, forcing and recovering a fumble – the first of many defensive gifts.
Alas, it was time for the Chiefs to make a critical mistake. With the ball at the Colts 23-yard line, Foles completed a pass to Kelce, moving to the seven-yard line. Three defunct plays and a sack later, Foles looked cold and out of rhythm. The breeze must have passed by Santos as he took the field and shanked an easy field goal to the right.
The Colts had been given a bit of good fortune that Andrew Luck desperately needed. However, just as in the first drive, his offensive line was weak, letting Ford in for a drive stopping sack. With the ball in their hands, the Chiefs had to capitalize to close the door on the Colts. With an opening pass complete to Hill, some magic from Ware in the middle, and Kelce capping off a quick 80-yard drive with a touchdown, the Colts defense finally was purely exposed.
Andrew Luck does not work well with lucky gifts. He works best when defenses give the gift of rhythmic time. In alliance with running back Frank Gore, the Colts took the ball 63 yards in three minutes for a responsive touchdown. Gore’s pass reception touchdown should have lifted the Colts spirits, but all it did was make a mental loss pretty.
The remnant of the first half was busy. Smith returned with four minutes left to take part in a quick five punt exchange that wound the clock down to 42 seconds. Representing another gift from the Chiefs defense and a next man up mentality, Phillip Gaines intercepted a pass from Luck that gave Smith a quick shot to the end zone. Ware caught a 23-yard pass, and then Jeremy Maclin would close out with a 13-yard reception to put the Chiefs in a comfortable 17-7 halftime lead.
Next Man Up!
Upon commencing the second half, the Chiefs defense flexed their muscle with another stop after four plays. Frank Gore was going nowhere, and the secondary was imposing their will on receivers. After receiving the ball and Tyreek Hill going for a quick ten yards, everything looked positive until Alex Smith went out with another head injury. Chiefs Kingdom took another collective breath, but could not relax after Smith was ruled out with a concussion. Already concern for Smith’s status next week was in fan’s minds as Smith entered concussion protocol.
After a mixed first half, Foles threw the ball to reliable targets in Kelce and Hill. Even West flashed a 35-yard run that was ultimately called back due to holding. However, for the observant fan, even a 34-yard touchdown pass could not settle another collective sigh from Chiefs fans. Starting running back Spencer Ware (who was already replacing Jamaal Charles) went out in the second half with a concussion. The 24-7 lead was starting to look like a pyrrhic victory if the injury curse caught another Chiefs player.
Mirroring what the Chiefs offense just did (ten plays, 75 yards, five and a half minutes), the Colts worked up field for a score. This time wide receivers T.Y. Hilton and Philip Dorsett caught key passes to put Frank Gore in goal line position. Taking advantage of a hobbled Chiefs linebacker corps, Luck used the middle of the field on the drive and eventually hit Donte Moncrief for the touchdown. The score may have been a ten-point window, but the Chiefs ownership of the games momentum remained.
Hill returned the next Colts punt 28 yards to put Foles in a workable position. Milking the beginning of the fourth quarter, the Chiefs took five minutes to push the ball a mere 46 yards to hit a field goal. There were good plays, there were bad plays, but overall, the next man stepped up and did what was needed to start icing the game.
With the end of the game in sight, the end of the season was in sight for some Colts players. It would be hard pressed to find a team so self-defeated in week eight. Another three and out series gave the Chiefs the opportunity to ice the game.
The icing drive was not pretty by any means, and the defeated Colts attitude gave way to large penalties that allowed West to work his way up field. No matter how it was done, the deed was finished. Santos nailed a 44-yard field goal to put the Chiefs up 30-14 and ice the game.
Icing the game against Andrew Luck is a difficult task, and really cannot be done. When the Colts offense is clicking, Luck is a magician. However, they were anything but that on the final drive. Amidst two great runs by backup running back Robert Turbin, the Colts looked like Billy-goats in a peach orchard for three minutes before turning the ball over on downs. Dee Ford and Frank Zombo worked for two sacks on the drive, ending the game with the violence it started.
For seven of eight weeks, the Chiefs defense had been working together and improving. The defense was getting scarier each week and by this point was standing strong for a second half playoff push. The 2017 Chiefs defense points to functioning just as cohesively and with even more conviction. Marcus Peters, Eric Berry, Derrick Johnson, and Justin Houston should all be fully confident and healthy at some point in 2017. This should prove to be a strong unit that keeps giving gifts.
This game also featured Ford, Chris Jones, and Zombo pressuring the quarterback. Even Luck cannot work his way past such a multi-faceted pass rush. If the Chiefs front seven comes from all angles with Ford and Jones stepping up on a consistent basis, the sack machine will be grilling quarterbacks like barbecues and KC’s playoff hopes will get a huge boost.
The next man-up theory is consistent among playoff teams. Some teams, such as the Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers of the 2015 season, take advantage of other teams getting injured to make their way to the Super Bowl. Yet, others, such as the New England Patriots and Green Bay Packers, rely on the next man stepping up.
While Patrick Mahomes is unproven as a backup quarterback for 2017, the Chiefs defense and offense features depth at most positions. Week eight showed that the Chiefs can win games they should and avoid mistakes with their backup crew of players. Knowing that a team has the next-man up confidence is huge for trusting in the season-long process.
Lastly, the offensive scheme relied on the two-main targets who could not be stopped. Both Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce caught key passes in this game. Better corners may have adjusted, but the Colts did not – and it ought to be the same way in 2017 with the Chiefs explosive plays skirting right past weaker opponents. As stated in previous retrospect articles, the play calling must have faith in the best targets to consistently work in the highest leverage situations.