Two weeks ago the Indianapolis Colts came to Arrowhead and thoroughly dominated the Chiefs, 23-7. This was also the last game in which Kansas City played all of their healthy starters. Let’s take a look at why things went so wrong for the Chiefs and if these are things that can be fixed in time for Saturday.
Turnovers, probably more than any other reason, is why Kansas City lost to the Colts the first time around.
Alex Smith and Knile Davis combined for four turnovers in the Chiefs loss to Indy. The Davis one wasn’t too surprising given our knowledge of his ongoing battle with fumblitis, but the three Smith turnovers were both uncharacteristic and killers. Three of Smith’s 11 turnovers this season happened in that game, and his 11.1 QBR was by far is worst of the season.
Ignoring the Indy game, Kansas City committed slightly less than one turnover per game (14 in 15 games) and that includes one game in which the Chiefs started their AAA team. Yet, against the Colts, the Chiefs bucked their traditional trend and turned it over four times.
Both of the Colts touchdowns came off of a Chiefs turnover.
Meanwhile, the Chiefs defense did absolutely nothing in the big play department. The Chiefs are second in the NFL in takeaways with 36, but none of those came against Indianapolis. One can now begin to see that when one turns the ball over four times and then takes it away zero times that it becomes very difficult to win football games.
2. Jamaal Charles Second Half
How much of this was on purpose – Kansas City had already clinched a playoff berth – and how much of this was Andy Reid forgetting his has one of the game’s most dynamic offensive weapons is unknown.
Charles had just six touches in the second half of the Chiefs loss to the Colts, and three of them came on one drive.* So in five second half drives, Charles touched the ball just six times. And since we know three touches were spent on one drive, we can use our mathematic skills to deduce that Charles averaged less than one touch in the four other drives. That’s not good.
Now may or may not be a bad time to mention the Chiefs were averaging 7.8 yards on 20 carries in that game. Maybe, just maybe, Kansas City should have stuck with the running game a little longer.
One would have to think Charles will have the ball in his hands a lot more the second time around. Especially if the Chiefs are losing in the second half.
*Which happened to be their most successful drive of the half in terms of yards. Smith threw a pick to end the drive.
Somehow the Chiefs managed to commit the worst penalties at the absolute worst times. Of the seven penalties Kansas City was flagged for, four of them turned into first downs for the Colts. Three of those penalties that were converted into first downs happened on third down plays. This includes a taunting penalty Dontari Poe received after the Chiefs held the Colts on a third down play in the third quarter.
4. Ryan Succop
A huge swing in the game came when Ryan Succop missed a 47-yard field goal at the end of the first half. This prevented the Chiefs from cutting the lead down to three by halftime, and turned into a 10-point swing Indy would score off the turnover the Chiefs committed to start the second half.
Succop is now two for his last five field goal attempts, including the missed game-winner against San Diego. This is a horrifying trend given the Chiefs inability to make field goals against the Colts in the playoffs.
5. Pass Protection
Kansas City allowed five sacks in the their loss to Indy, which led to at least two of Alex Smith’s turnovers. The offensive line’s inability to protect Smith made it even more frustrating that the Chiefs were not trying to take advantage of their running game more, but we’ve already discussed that.
It should be noted that Branden Albert did not play in that game, which should help fortify the Chiefs’ line. Additionally, Eric Fisher, who may now be out for the playoff game at Indy due to a groin injury, was the leaky valve in pass protection. Jerrell Freeman and Robert Mathis had no issues taking getting by Fisher. Things could be a little different if Donald Stephenson has to start in Fisher’s place.
The good news here for the Chiefs is that most of this stuff is both fixable and unlikely to repeat itself. If Jamaal Charles averages 8.1 yards per carry again, which is what he averaged in the first meeting, there is no way Reid stop handing the ball off until the Colts prove they can stop it.
Additionally, the Chiefs are getting some players back, Justin Houston and Albert being the two big ones. Having Houston and Hali back on the edges changes everything for the Chiefs defensively, so getting pressure and possibly forcing some turnovers should be easier this time around.
The concerning thing here is whether or not Ryan Succop can get out of his slump and if the Chiefs can continue to protect the ball at the rate he was prior to the Indy game. If the answer is no to either of those questions then Kansas City will be in a lot of trouble.