You Couldn’t Start Any Better…
The game started on a dream. The Kansas City Chiefs entered into Indianapolis vying for their first playoff win in two decades. Six plays into the game, running back Jamaal Charles goes down with an injury and is out for the game It doesn’t seem to matter. They were playing well enough to make up for his disappearance.
Quarterback Alex Smith is playing the game of his life. He’s successfully launching deep passes for touchdowns, hitting receivers in stride even though they’re completely covered, and using his legs to run around extending plays and even earning substantial yardage. This was the guy the 49ers drafted all those years ago; here he was, but on a different team.
Even though Charles was out for the game, running back Knile Davis was filling in nicely. You often hear about players who got better during the course of the season. That happened this year with Davis. He started the season as a necessary backup for Charles; getting a few carries here or there, but mostly meant to block on plays where Smith was in the shotgun. Now here at the end, Davis plays with confidence and tenacity. At one point in the first half it surprised me to see him attempt to run over a defensive back, which is something he wouldn’t have done at the beginning of the season.
Just after halftime, the Chiefs were up 38-10.
My wife asked if she could change the channel. I said no. I wanted to see this win, this elusive playoff victory for Kansas City. I should’ve left. It would have saved the rest of my evening.
I Honestly Don’t Know What Happened…
The 38-10 lead is the last thing I remember. There is no memory in my brain that can recall what the Kansas City offense did during the late third quarter or the early fourth quarter. Could it be that my brain would purposefully make me forget? That can’t be it because I can vividly recall what the Colts did.
On the very first Indianapolis drive of the game, the Colts employed a very simple tactic. Wide receiver T.Y. Hilton would run a simple out route and somehow he was open every time. Play after play, quarterback Andrew Luck would pass the ball towards the first down marker, and Hilton was there with enough space to easily catch the ball and run out of bounds. It worried me at first, but the Chiefs tightened up, and it wasn’t a problem for the rest of the half.
But it returned. The Colts vengeance will forever be known to me as the ‘Out Route Massacre’.
The play would start, Hilton would run several yards, make a hard plant with his inside foot, and dash towards the sideline. Oh how it haunts my memories. What was it about such a basic route that the Chiefs could not comprehend? Hilton looked like the Flash, the Chiefs secondary looked like they couldn’t keep up.
There was a so many things wrong with the Chiefs during the second half, but that out route seems like a simple whole to fix, therefore making it worse than everything else. Maybe I’m just overreacting.
Injuries, Injuries Everywhere…
Jamaal Charles. Donnie Avery. Brandon Flowers. Justin Houston. Knile Davis.
All went down with injuries. It was like watching an oil company clear a rainforest, as if trees continued to fall and never get up.
As the lead dwindled more and more, I kept wondering if all of this could have been prevented had Charles stayed in the game. He produced nearly one third of the Chiefs offensive yards this season. At first the offense looked like they didn’t need him, but the second half was full of three-and-outs. Would it be too much to ask for one offensive drive to continue for more than five minutes?
The greatest turnaround in NFL history ended when a few key players could not resume play. I know this entire final thought is all about if’s and could-of’s, but it made a huge difference to the way the Chiefs played.