ReFo: Colts @ Chiefs, Week 16
The Indianapolis Colts officially punched their card to the playoffs and allowed an improbable season, which has scenes ripped straight from a Hollywood script, to carry on beyond next Sunday just as head coach Chuck Pagano returns to take the reins.
The Kansas City Chiefs have no such luck, with the only excitement for their fans after Week 17 likely to come in the form of the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft and a new head coach. Frustratingly for the Chiefs, this is another game they’ll look back on and know they should have won. How often does a team run for 350 yards and lose?
The game lacked a true standout performance, but that doesn’t mean there weren’t plenty of talking points. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the key performances from both teams.
Indianapolis – Three Performances of Note
Luck Settles Down Late
As has often been the case this season, Andrew Luck’s performance featured plenty of ups and downs. But fortunately for the Colts, this game had more ups. Despite failing to complete a pass for a long stretch in the second half, he righted the ship and led the Colts on that long game-winning drive that chewed six minutes off the clock, culminating in his touchdown pass to Reggie Wayne. On 3rd-and-Goal with 4:12 left in the fourth quarter, he found Wayne at the back of the end zone, putting the ball high above Chiefs safety Eric Berry where only the Colts receiver could catch it. He still makes the head-scratching plays that remind you he is a rookie, like not throwing the ball away or getting out of bounds and taking a big hit from cornerback Brandon Flowers on 2nd-and-10 with 5:03 left in the third quarter. However, on this occasion at least, the good outweighed the bad for the No. 1 overall draft pick.
Woeful Against the Run
If you are looking for a clinic on how not to play run defense in the NFL, look no further than the Colts’ performance on Sunday. Six starters from Indianapolis finished the game with a Run Defense grade of -2.0 or lower as the Chiefs averaged 8.0 yards per carry and churned up 354 yards on the ground. Outside linebacker Robert Mathis was the worst of them all, failing to do anything positive against the run all game. Mathis’ struggles ticked all the boxes, with the veteran finding himself losing contain, missing tackles and being blocked to the ground by tight end Steve Maneri. From 33 plays against the run, the sum of Mathis’ work for the day was a missed tackle and a Run Stop Percentage of 0.0, perfectly summing up the Colts’ afternoon on defense.
Freeney Gets the Better of Stephenson
While he too was beaten badly as a run stopper, Dwight Freeney can at least take solace in the fact that he made life miserable for Chiefs left tackle Donald Stephenson as a pass rusher. Finishing the game with eight pressures, the bulk of Freeney’s work came against Stephenson. With 16 pass-rush snaps from that side he produced a sack, a hit and four hurries, resulting in a Pass Rushing Productivity of 29.7. It won’t be easy for many in the Colts’ front seven to hold their heads high after that performance, but that level of pass rush from Freeney will give the Colts reason for optimism as they head into the playoffs.
Kansas City – Three Performances of Note
Bad, Bad Brady Quinn
If you’ve come here looking for anything positive to read about Brady Quinn’s performance yesterday, you might want to just skip past this paragraph. So inept that it makes the decision to leave him in the game seem baffling, the highlight of his day was a tossup between seeing his interception on 3rd-and-3 with 7:37 left in the third quarter called back for pass interference, or one of the many times he turned and handed the ball to Jamaal Charles and Peyton Hillis. As has been the case for most, if not all, of his career, he fell apart under pressure, completing just one of eight passes for 4 yards and two interceptions. With even a competent effort from the signal-caller the Chiefs would have likely won easily behind a strong running game. Regardless if it’s done via free agency, trade or through the NFL Draft, it’s obvious that upgrading the quarterback position has to be the top priority for the Chiefs in the offseason.
Solid Play Again from Pitoitua
In a season with plenty of reasons for Chiefs’ fans to turn away, it’s important to highlight the little victories. While he failed to generate any pressure, defensive end Ropati Pitoitua produced an impressive display against the run for the second week in a row. With three tackles against the run, including a forced fumble on Colts running back Vick Ballard on 1st-and-10 with 8:11 left in the first quarter, Pitoitua finished the game with two defensive stops to earn a Run Stop Percentage of 11.8.
Berry Holds His Own
With struggles earlier in the season, you wouldn’t expect safety Eric Berry to be up to the task of containing the Colts’ top receiver, Reggie Wayne. But the fifth overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft did exactly that for almost all of the game, continuing an upward trend of performances in coverage. Berry will be disappointed he allowed the game-winning completion in the end zone, but he also came away with two pass breakups, including one on a corner route on 2nd-and-10 with 1:33 left in the third quarter. Allowing three receptions for 30 yards from his 42 snaps in coverage, Berry finished the game allowing an average of 0.71 Yards per Coverage Snap.
– Allowing 11 total pressures, the Chiefs were just one pressure worse than the Colts’ offensive line, but they came on 16 fewer passing snaps.
– Jamaal Charles may have led the team in rushing, but it was Peyton Hillis who was the toughest of the two to bring down, forcing four missed tackles and averaging 4.0 Yards after Contact Per Carry.
– Despite hauling in the game-winning reception, Reggie Wayne had two drops from the seven catchable passes thrown his way, giving him a Drop Rate of 28.57.
PFF Game Ball
It might not have been a performance worthy of the MVP talk making the rounds a couple of weeks ago, but Andrew Luck pulled it together and drove the Colts to the win in a game that lacked a real standout player.
Follow Gordon on Twitter: @PFF_Gordon