Right from the start, the Colts Offense had trouble getting going. Their first four drives yielded 12 plays, 21 yards, and no first downs. While the Chiefs were scoring quickly on the other side of the ball, the Colts dug themselves a hole they were never able to crawl out of.
On their first drive, the Colts left Dee Ford unblocked on a zone read. He was supposed to be eaten up by the threat of Andrew Luck keeping the ball, and then kicked out by a tight end coming across the formation on a Wham block. Ford (#55 on the right side of the screen) was too fast and shot into the backfield for a negative play.
Two plays later, tight end Eric Ebron dropped what should have been a 3rd-down conversion.
The Chiefs did a great job all day of mixing coverages. They mixed zone and man and spent a lot of snaps locking their corners up on the perimeter. On the Colts’ second drive, tight coverage by undrafted rookie cornerback Charvarius Ward (#35) on 3rd-and-10 forced another Colts punt. Watch Ward at the top of the screen.
On Indy’s next drive, they faced a 3rd-and-2. The Chiefs answered with man free coverage across the board with a lurk defender helping out in the middle. Kansas City’s corners, circled below, did a great job of getting their hands on Colts receivers. This was particularly true of Ward at the top of the screen against T.Y. Hilton.
Maybe it was the slow track. Maybe it was the Chiefs coverage. Either way, Colts receivers had trouble creating separation all day.
The Colts’ fourth 3-and-out to start the game was set up by another negative running play on 1st down and then a mistake by Eric Ebron on 3rd down. Ebron ran his route one yard shy of the first down marker on 3rd-and-6, forcing yet another punt.
In addition to the tight coverage throughout the afternoon, the Chiefs were able to get enough pressure on Luck to keep him from engineering another improbable comeback. On a 3rd-and-6 in the 3rd quarter, Justin Houston aligned inside over right guard Mark Glowinski and beat him badly for a sack. On their next drive, after a Chiefs fumble gave the Colts a real opportunity to get back in the game, Dee Ford made sure it was their last opportunity.
Ford, #55 aligned on the left, beat right tackle Braden Smith with speed off the edge for a strip sack that all but ended Indy’s chances.
All day, Ford had been using a speed-to-power move in his pass rush. (Speed off the line to get the tackle moving quickly, followed by a bull rush into the tackle’s chest). Smith may have been anticipating that move again, because he was just a half-step slow to protect against Ford’s speed rush around the edge on this sack.
The Chiefs Defense didn’t just do enough to not lose the game for their high-powered offense. They were major contributors to Kansas City’s first home playoff win since Joe Montana was their quarterback 25 years ago. We wouldn’t anticipate the Chiefs entirely shutting down the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game next Sunday. But they did do some things against the Colts that should translate well towards slowing down New England’s offensive attack.
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