Here are the game’s winners and losers:
- This is an article in which we usually start with the offense. Not today.
- Defensive coordinator Bob Sutton and his staff put together a fantastic game plan against the Indianapolis Colts. First, the personnel decisions. Following the Chiefs’ Week 16 loss to the Seattle Seahawks, I couldn’t fathom the decision to suddenly put cornerbacks Charvarius Ward and Tremon Smith and safety Jordan Lucas into the lineup. At the time, I argued that the preseason—not Sunday Night Football with an opportunity to clinch the No. 1 seed in the AFC—was the time to try young guys. I was wrong. Ward has looked better every week—he had had a team-leading four passes defensed against the Colts—and Lucas and Dan Sorensen have been refreshing to watch as Ron Parker struggled earlier this season. Sorensen appears to finally be back to old form after it took a month or so to shake off the rust.
- After a week in which the Colts’ offensive line surrendered no sacks to a talented Houston Texans team, linebackers Justin Houston (2.0) and Dee Ford (1.0) combined for three sacks. One of the biggest defensive plays of the game came from that tandem—with the game at 24-7, Sammy Watkins fumbled the football. Two plays later, Ford stripped Andrew Luck and Houston was there to recover. The Chiefs eventually punted but the momentum swing late in the third quarter was palpable.
- Chris Jones batted down three passes along the line of scrimmage.
- The Chiefs defense as a whole held the Colts to 263 net yards and allowed no third-down conversions (0/9). A low conversion rate is good but zero percent is somewhat unheard of. The Chiefs offense, after a solid start to the game, wasn’t the same in the third quarter. It was the defense that answered the call.
- I have been somewhat critical of the Watkins signing all season given the salary size, the lack of production and his health. I think all those reasons are fair and real. That being said, the offense has a different feel when he’s on the field. I thought that for the first time since the bye week, the Chiefs offense felt dominant again, and Watkins likely played a significant role in that. Take away what could have been a costly fumble, and he provided the Chiefs just what we expected in his return. I am starting to come around. If an expensive decoy gets you to the Super Bowl, then perhaps he is worth the whatever the pay rate. Watkins finished with six catches on eight targets for 62 yards.
- On first watch, I did not think it was an elite game for Patrick Mahomes. But the drive after the punt block could be the franchise’s most important drive since 1969. With many Chiefs fans muttering, “Here we go, again,” Mahomes and Andy Reid constructed a 10-play, 75-yard drive that ended with Mahomes dialing it back to his Texas Tech days and taking it four yards himself for the score. Reid also played to win all game long, as the Chiefs finished 3-of-4 on fourth-down tries.
- I find that the jury is still out on general manager Brett Veach’s draft picks and premium free agent signings, but the depth additions of this roster have been outstanding. Amazing to think that had the Kareem Hunt incident not happened, Damien Williams would still be riding the bench. Partnered with Reid, an offensive mastermind, Williams has become such a weapon for the Chiefs. Williams had 25 carries for 129 yards and a touchdown on the ground, while also catching five balls for 25 yards. I am bad at math, so trust me when I tell you my calculator says that with 154 yards from scrimmage. Williams was the probably the Chiefs’ most important skill-position player on Sunday if not for...
- Tight end Travis Kelce. As rumors regarding the retirement of the Patriots’ Rob Gronkowski begin to circulate once again, Kelce continues to solidify himself as the best tight end in the league. Kelce had seven receptions for 108 yards and now has a total of 30 receptions for his postseason career—that’s the most in Chiefs history. Kelce is unlike any player in the league in that he has the body of a tight end but the skills of a receiver, and if you noticed, the only thing the Colts could do on Saturday was shoot for his legs. Fortunately for the Chiefs, Kelce left the game unscathed. There is still no weapon like Tyreek Hill, who proved it once again with his 36-yard run for a touchdown to give the Chiefs a 14-0 lead. I thought that coming into the game, whichever team could go up 14 would dictate the game. That played out.
- Arrowhead Stadium is 47 years old. Next Sunday it will host its first AFC title game.
- Just as the Colts were beginning to get some momentum going late in the first half, 46-year-old kicker Adam Vinatieri came on to make it a 14-point again headed into the locker room. Vinatieri’s 23-yard field goal was no good. Vinatieri later missed an extra point in the fourth quarter that would have made it a 10-point game. The early miss, it being the shortest miss of his 23-year NFL career, no doubt had to make Chiefs fans a bit more comfortable that the home playoff losing streak would finally end.
- Quarterback Andrew Luck may have reinvented himself, like a baseball player does at the end of his career, but he is not the Andrew Luck of old. It is a shame, really, since that is probably a result of mid-career injuries. It is worth noting that Luck still finished the season second to Mahomes in touchdowns with 39, but he is nowhere close to the 23-year-old phenom playing on the other side.
Someone wanna tell Kenny Moore (No. 23) the score?— Arrowhead Pride (@ArrowheadPride) January 13, 2019
- On two separate occasions in the second half, cornerback Kenny Moore had great plays for the Colts. That isn’t the problem. The problem is after each play, he got up and danced like the score was tied, while in all likelihood his team’s season would be over shortly after the final gun. And while we’re on the topic of dancing...
- his was an incredible moment from Colts defensive tackle Denico Autry. Can’t wait to see Leonard and Autry next year.