Mandatory Image Credit: Reed Hoffmann
Hi, all. Footenotes will be taking a different shape this week, as I’ve received and seen an overwhelming amount of questions and conversations about the Kansas City Chiefs’ 19-13 loss to the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday night. Instead of doing broader sections on a myriad of things, let’s address the elephant in the room.
Patrick Mahomes is mortal. The third-year wunderkind quarterback did his best Houdini impersonation on a wild first-half touchdown pass and made a few other terrific throws that are now expected of him. Perhaps those expectations are unfair, as Mahomes’ ankle was reinjured on a hit and then later made worse when his own offensive lineman stepped on the heavily-taped and aggravated joint. The 24-year-old clearly wasn’t himself down the stretch, and the rest of his team simply couldn’t pick up the slack.
During and after the game, I saw a lot of tweets and Facebook posts blaming one specific person or area of the Chiefs. Run defense. Bashaud Breeland. Andy Reid. Heck, some even put all the burden on Mahomes. At the end of the day, a large chunk of those opinions was likely shared in either frustration or disbelief. With all due respect to the Colts, they’re not a championship-caliber team. Kansas City was making its prime time debut in front of one of the best home crowds in the NFL. Mahomes was their quarterback. It was supposed to be a victory by a sizable margin.
When Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus completely abandoned what got him this far with the team in an effort to slow down the normally spectacular Chiefs offense, it worked. When head coach Frank Reich made tough decisions in-game, they worked. Indianapolis put on a clinic on how to outplay a high-flying offense.
Back to the blame game. It’s not all on anyone. This saying is a cliché, but it’s true: You win as a team and you lose as a team. Whatever could’ve gone wrong for the Kansas City Chiefs did end up going wrong. With that said, I guess it’s time we discuss some of those things.
First and foremost, Andy Reid’s team was completely ravaged by injuries. Indianapolis’ defense was, too, but let’s take things one team at a time. Heading into the game, Kansas City was without No. 1 wide receiver Tyreek Hill and starting left tackle Eric Fisher. Okay, cool. Hill’s backup, Sammy Watkins, was injured two snaps into the game and never returned. Fisher’s backup, Cameron Erving, played so poorly on Sunday night that he may as well have been injured, too. Left guard Andrew Wylie got taken out due to injury.
On defense, interior defensive linemen Xavier Williams and Chris Jones both suffered injuries. DE Frank Clark missed a portion of the contest. I think you can guess what happened to starting linebacker Andrew Hitchens at this point. Oh yeah, pass rusher Alex Okafor was also ruled out before the Chiefs even took the field. No matter how talented an NFL team may be, there’s a certain amount of injuries you simply can’t overcome.
The on-field product was hard to watch. Although Steve Spagnuolo’s defense held Jacoby Brissett and his offense to just 19 points, running back Marlon Mack consistently gashed the Chiefs’ front seven. This led to Indy winning the time of possession battle by nearly 15 minutes. It was death by a thousand papercuts, as the Chiefs gave up a ho-hum 4.0 yards per carry on the night. Every time they needed a stop, though, they couldn’t get one.
Kansas City scored just 13 points on nine possessions in which they were actively trying to score (one kneel down possession). That isn’t going to win many (if any) games at the NFL level. Mahomes mentioned after the game how the Colts’ defensive game plan emphasized man coverage, similar to what the New England Patriots used in the AFC Championship Game earlier this calendar year. KC was held to zero points in the first half of that game and Indianapolis mirrored that level of defensive success fairly well. Limiting the big play was a focal point and once Mahomes’ mobility was shut down, he didn’t have enough time to get rid of the ball. That brings us to our next point.
Eric Fisher is sorely missed. The Chiefs’ offensive line was h-o-r-r-i-b-l-e on Sunday. A small part of that can be attributed to Mahomes being physically slowed down and/or Reid/Bieniemy making bad play calls but in general, the protection was extremely poor. Mahomes was under constant duress and had to throw the ball away on numerous occasions due to not having any other choice. Erving’s rough night and Wylie’s injury compounded things and by the end of the night, it was clear how dominant Indy’s front four was and how bad KC’s line had played.
We forgot Travis Kelce. The newly-joined member of the 30-year-old club appeared super frustrated all night. Dropping balls, calling for flags that never came, even getting into an altercation with Bieniemy on the Chiefs sideline — it was an odd night for the Pro Bowl tight end. He didn’t make things easier on Mahomes, or anyone else.
Bashaud Breeland, who had been the Chiefs’ best cornerback heading into Sunday night, was flagged for multiple penalties and had a bad night overall. He’s one of many Chiefs who didn’t perform at a high level.
Finally, whoever was calling the plays for Kansas City didn’t do a fantastic job. One play that sticks out like a sore thumb: a draw play on second-and-30. The run would go for two yards, leading to a third-and-28 that Mahomes was nearly able to convert if receiver Byron Pringle hadn’t made the wrong cut and end up just short of the first down marker. On the following snap, a run that appeared to be doomed from the start was called. Justin Houston went unblocked and made the TFL against his former team.
Hey, credit where credit is due. The Colts had a fantastic game plan and Brissett did just enough to manage the game. Mack picked up the tough yardage and as a whole, the Indy defense was spectacular against Mahomes and company. Could the outcome have been different if a couple of the injured Chiefs weren’t hurt? Sure. But that goes for the numerous members of the Colts defense who were out. Excuses go both ways and even five weeks into the NFL season, teams aren’t 100 percent healthy.
The sky isn’t falling. It took a multitude of injuries to the QB/LT/G/TE/WR (two)/and DL (three) positions, a distracted Travis Kelce and Bashaud Breeland, a total lack of playmaking against the run, a lack of ability to run the ball on offense and a series of questionable play calls for the Kansas City Chiefs to lose by six points. At home. Against a solid team. Is there reason to be concerned? Sure. Does the final product mean a lot more than how it came about in terms of playoff contenders? Yes.
Great teams are great when they need to be. Let’s wait and see how the Chiefs look when they’re somewhat healthy and focused before drawing conclusions or declaring anyone completely at fault. After all, it’s a marathon — not a race.
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