This game was a case of so close and yet so far for the Indianapolis Colts. For the second time in under a week, the Colts were within a shout of winning their first game of the season, but just as Tampa Bay did on Monday night, the Kansas City Chiefs engineered a late comeback to deny the Curtis Painter and the Colts that elusive first victory. The Colts got off to a fast start, as they established a 17-point lead twice, but failed to hold on to either of them. Once the Chiefs mounted a late drive in the second quarter to reduce the deficit to ten points at half time, there was an air of when rather than if the Chiefs would comeback.
Even in coming back from a 17-point deficit, the Chiefs rarely looked convincing and against such a poor Indianapolis defense, they really struggled to make the most of their advantages. Without Dwayne Bowe’s big day would this comeback have happened?
Kansas City – Three Performances of Note
1) Battle tank
The Colts’ defense is built around speed and pursuit, and when the Chiefs decided to give them a healthy dose of 238lb Jackie Battle (+3.3), you suspected that they might be in trouble. Battle racked up 119 yards on 19 carries, with 76 yards coming after contact. He also forced three missed tackles on his way to a decisive performance, giving balance to a passing offense, which stepped up this week. The Chiefs fed the ball to him late in the game and against a tiring defense, Battle was able to put this game away. Battle was positively graded for seven runs in the second half and while they didn’t score a rushing touchdown, Battle’s running set most of their touchdowns up. His 24 yard run barreling through the heart of the Colts’ defense prior to the two minute warning in the fourth quarter all but closed this game out.
2) The passing game showing signs of life
After two poor games to open the season, Kansas City’s passing game has really started to up their game over the past two weeks. Dwayne Bowe and Matt Cassel have led the attack, but this week Steve Breaston (+1.8) and Keary Colbert joined the party with key plays on the game winning drive. The hook up between Cassel (+3.6) and Bowe (+2.8) is crucial though and these two victimized Jacob Lacey (-6.5) in this game and if the Chiefs are to somehow make a meaningful defense of their AFC West title they need to ride their current wave of momentum for many weeks yet. With the loss of Tony Moeaki, the second contributor in the passing game is still yet to be filled. Breaston is capable to fill that role until the Chiefs can get rookie Jonathan Baldwin on the field to see what he is capable of. Until then, they need Breaston to elevate his game and come up with more plays like the crisp routes he ran to get behind the coverage for his game winning touchdown reception.
3) Kelly Gregg is re-discovering his best form
Re-acquainted with a familiar foe from his time in Baltimore, Kelly Gregg (+4.3) re-discovered his best form against Indianapolis this weekend. Gregg has struggled with consistency thus far in Kansas City, but against Jeff Saturday Gregg looked like the stubborn nuisance who was such a crucial presence in the heart of the Baltimore Ravens defense for much of the last decade. The Colts averaged only marginally over two yards per carry on rushes on either side of Saturday as he simply couldn’t handle Gregg one on one or pass him off to his guards cleanly. Gregg’s stop in the backfield just after the two minute warning in the second quarter is probably the headline play here, but truth be told Gregg was coming up with plays to stymy Saturday all day long.
Indianapolis – Three Performances of Note
1) Offensive tackles up their game to silence Hali
Tamba Hali had his most ineffective game as a pass rusher (only one pressure) since week 10 last season in Denver. Against tackles Jeff Linkenbach (+0.6 pass protection) and Quinn Ojinnaka (+0.6 pass protection) it would not have been reasonable to have expected a big day from Hali, but that simply didn’t transpire. The Colts got help for their tackles keeping in tight ends and running backs, which inhibited Hali from making an impact. The offensive line elevated its game and so did offensive co-ordinator Clyde Christensen, who adjusted his gameplan knowing full well that Curtis Painter isn’t Peyton Manning. The Colts bought Painter more time in the pocket and while it didn’t lead to a victory, it did allow Painter to put in his best performance as a professional.
2) Promising display from a defensive tackle
It’s not often that Indianapolis fans have been treated to strong displays from their interior defensive linemen, but this week at least one of them showed up ready to play and contribute in a positive way. Ricardo Mathews (+2.5) recorded a career high 24 snaps and showed good athleticism, range and smarts to make plays as a pass rusher, run stopper and even the instincts to get out and cover passes. On one drive in the second quarter, Mathews really flashed his potential. On 1st and 10 with just over 12 minutes left in the second quarter, Mathews tracked down a running back releasing from the backfield to knock the pass down in coverage and then later in the drive, on the ensuing third down, was able to beat Barry Richardson to get deep into the backfield and bat a pass down in the pocket. Combined with a third down stop in the fourth quarter where he tracked down yet another pass play, Mathews flashed the kind of ability that should see him earning more snaps in weeks to come. Amongst the Colts’ defensive tackles, so far this season only the currently injured Drake Nevis has been as impressive as Mathews was this week.
3) Painter and the triplets
With a couple of big plays on Monday night Curtis Painter (+5.1) started to show a little more familiarity with this Indianapolis offense and he flourished in the opening half of this game. The only player that Painter struggled to click with was Dallas Clark, but all of his other threats (Reggie Wayne, Austin Collie and Pierre Garҫon) were targeted for big plays. Barring five drops by his receivers, Painter’s day could have been even better and his time with the starters appears to be paying off to the extent that questions may be raised about Kerry Collins regaining his starting spot when he shakes off his concussion. Painter’s link with Garҫon is proving to be the most profitable for him, his deep touchdown hook up in the second quarter showing a good chemistry between the two and an ability for Painter to manipulate the coverage getting in behind Brandon Flowers for the score.
● Two safeties and two linebackers played 100% of defensive snaps in this game: Jon McGraw and Derrick Johnson for the Chiefs and Antoine Bethea and Pat Angerer for the Colts.
● Brandon Flowers yielded almost as many yards in coverage in this game as he had in the Chiefs’ first four. Flowers conceded 125 this week having conceded 150 in the first four weeks.
● Matt Cassel controlled the intermediate throws this week. Cassel went 6/6 for 89 yards on a touchdown on passes aimed between 10 and 19 yards downfield.
PFF Game Ball
Jackie Battle, RB, Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs found an injection of energy in their running game this week for the first time since the loss of Jamaal Charles and that came in the shape of Jackie Battle. Battle was quick to find and get through gaps and brought a physical presence dominating the Colts’ linebackers and safeties at times.
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