A few things stuck out from the Colts’ miraculous 28-point come-from-behind win over the Chiefs last weekend. First, Andrew Luck is as complete of a quarterback as there is in the NFL. Second, the Chiefs did absolutely nothing to disrupt Colts receivers in the middle of the field, which is why their season is over.
Andrew Luck made every type of throw possible on Saturday. He connected on short passes, intermediate throws, and long bombs. He threw touch passes, stick throws into tight windows and even throws on the run. He is the total package as a quarterback. He’s great from the pocket. He can hurt you with his legs. Most importantly, when he moves, he always maintains a downfield focus, which makes it especially difficult for defenders in coverage to stay on their receivers.
Colts wide receiver T.Y. Hilton also had a huge day – 13 receptions for 224 yards and 2 touchdowns, including the game winner. He aligned all over the formation, but was mostly inside the numbers. As the Colts’ most dangerous weapon, he should have been game-planned for better by Kansas City.
The Chiefs’ philosophy on defense seemed to be matching speed with speed. They used 6 defensive backs often so as to keep up with Indy’s 3 wide receiver sets. The idea behind this approach makes sense. Unfortunately for KC, speed wasn’t as big of an issue as how the Chiefs’ underneath coverage played Indy’s receivers.
The Colts had free reign over the middle of the field on offense. Chiefs defensive backs failed to get their hands on Indy’s receivers. T.Y. Hilton went untouched through the middle on underneath crossing routes. On deeper developing routes, where timing between the quarterback and his receivers are crucial, the Chiefs did nothing to disrupt Indianapolis. This was never more prevalent than on T.Y. Hilton’s game-winning 64-yard TD reception.
As you can see below, T.Y. Hilton was aligned in the slot, with Safety Husain Abdullah in press position.As Hilton released, Abdullah put his hands on him. However, he did not do so physically. His jam did not redirect or disrupt Hilton in any way. Because Hilton wasn’t redirected, he was able to attack the safety within the timing of the play. As you can see below, Luck was at the top of his drop with Hilton running freely at safety Kendrick Lewis. Luck was ready to throw at this point with his best receiver in a one-on-one situation with a safety. Had Abdullah gotten a better jam on Hilton, he might have been further away from the safety when Luck was ready to throw – perhaps 10 yards away instead of 5 like he is below. Quarterbacks have an internal clock which tells them when they have to get rid of the ball. When a receiver running a deep-developing route is caught up in traffic, the QB will usually come off of him early. Had Hilton been jammed at the line, by the time Luck was ready to throw, Hilton would have been further away from the safety and not far enough into his route for Luck to stick with him. Had that been the case, Luck probably would have left Hilton and looked elsewhere. Instead, Luck threw what was ultimately the game-winning score to an open T.Y. Hilton. Andrew Luck and the Colts offense played great in the second half against the Chiefs. But make no mistake, Bill Belichick will not let Colts receivers run freely on Saturday night like Kansas City did. He especially won’t allow T.Y. Hilton to do so. Hilton will likely see a healthy dose of Aqib Talib, as Belichick has used him to cover opposing teams’ number-one receivers from Steve Smith to Jimmy Graham all season. Talib will press Hilton, and do so physically, because Bill Belichick will not allow the Colts offense to run smoothly this weekend. He’ll try to make them play left-handed, as he does with every opponent he faces.
The Colts can still have success against New England’s defense on Saturday night. It just won’t come as easily as it did against Kansas City.