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Chiefs-Colts Instabreakdown: Offense couldn’t move the ball, defense couldn’t stop the run

Injuries, an out-of-sync offense and bad run defense lead to the Chiefs’ first loss.

NFL: Indianapolis Colts at Kansas City Chiefs Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Final score: Kansas City Chiefs 13, Indianapolis Colts 19

Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs offense just couldn’t find their groove this week, which matched up poorly with a sub-par Chiefs run defense. The Colts milked the clock in the second half by repeatedly running the ball. The Chiefs defense was able to hold the Colts to field goals, but the Chiefs offense wasn’t able to move the ball; a late field goal was all the offense could muster.

Offense

NFL: Indianapolis Colts at Kansas City Chiefs Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Mahomes started off with a solid drive to net a field goal after a couple of costly penalties. He found himself having to line up a very young receiving corps during the start of the game, which lead to some timing problems early on. His hard count was especially effective and kept the Colts pass rush off balance. Mahomes was a highlight reel in the first quarter, with several beautiful, body-contorting throws that led to a scramble to hit Byron Pringle in the end zone for a score during the second drive.

But in the second quarter, Mahomes had his ankle twisted yet again. That ankle, young receivers and pressure from the Colts resulted in several missed opportunities, and it continued into the second half. The Chiefs couldn’t move the ball on offense, and Mahomes kept taking hits on his already-injured ankle. Cameron Erving stepped on Mahomes’ ankle to at the end of the third quarter — which made things even worse.

Damien Williams got the start for the Chiefs at running back. He had a great snag across the middle on a hot route in the first drive and picked up a nice third-and-short. LeSean McCoy got more and more reps as the half went along, and looked to have a massive gain on a screen pass before a costly fumble gave the ball back to the Colts.

Sammy Watkins spent the early stages of game on the sideline after picking up an injury and Pringle got snaps in his stead. Pringle converted an early first down and a sharp out route and connected with Mahomes on a great 28-yard catch to put the Chiefs in the red zone in the first drive. Pringle was the recipient of Mahomes’ first touchdown pass, finding a hole in the zone and securing the catch after a scramble. Pringle had a number of big catches, but his final one — coming up a yard short on a third-and-28 — was possibly the most memorable.

With the Chiefs missing their two starting wide receivers, Mahomes leaned on Travis Kelce. Kelce came up with a nice grab early before two drops in the second drive — one that was initially ruled a fumble. He rebounded with back-to-back catches to help the Chiefs offense get into the red zone.

The Chiefs offensive line was very poor in the first half, and Mahomes was constantly under pressure from the Colts pass rush. Cameron Erving was especially poor, allowing two sacks from his side in the first half. Andrew Wylie also allowed a big pressure up the gut, getting beat inside to allow a quarterback hit. He left the game with and injury and Ryan Hunter came in. Hunter had a costly holding penalty on the very next play that nullified a defensive pass interference call. Laurent-Duvernay Tardif also gave up a late sack, getting beat across his face.

Defense

NFL: Indianapolis Colts at Kansas City Chiefs Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

The Colts came out trying to establish the run game — and aside from a couple of plays on the first drive, they were extremely successful. Indianapolis averaged 6.5 yards per carry on the opening drive, capitalized by a 1-yard Jacoby Brissett scramble touchdown.

Darron Lee especially struggled early, missing a tackle for short yardage that turned into a 30-yard gain on the opening drive. Lee rebounded with a great coverage snap to lead off the second drive. Anthony Hitchens struggled in pursuit early against a couple of stretch plays that had minimal linebacker involvement — despite the defensive line setting an edge and keeping the back corralled. Hitchens went out with a groin injury, giving way to Ben Niemann during the second drive.

With Alex Okafor inactive this week, Tanoh Kpassagnon and Emmanuel Ogbah got snaps. Both lodged an early pressure and Kpassagnon had a tackle for loss with the Colts running away from Frank Clark early. Clark came up huge on a second quarter run with a four-yard tackle for loss that forced a third-and-long. Clark also picked up a knock in the third quarter, but returned in the fourth.

Tyrann Mathieu made his presence felt by blowing up a stretch run, then read Brissett like a book to come up with a red zone interception in the second quarter. Mathieu had another splash play late in the game, coming up with an 8-yard tackle for loss in the red zone to force a late field goal and keep it a one score game. Juan Thornhill got the starting nod again, but gave way to Daniel Sorensen for a drive midway through the second quarter.

Bashaud Breeland got victimized early with a 53-yard pass interference penalty before getting called on a defensive hold late in the second quarter. Breeland had another holding penalty on the final drive of the first half before missing a tackle on Nyheim Hines in the flat. Another holding penalty on Breeland while covering T.Y. Hilton helped extend the Colts first drive of the second half.

Charvarius Ward started the game on the outside, then gave way to Morris Claiborne for two drives in the second quarter. Ward rotated in after that, and had a great pass breakup on a third down to end the Colts first drive of the half. Claiborne seemed off in his snaps, clearly still adjusting to the on-field calls. A mixup with Mathieu saw a big Colts third-down conversion continue a fourth quarter drive, but an offensive pass interference call brought the play back.

Chris Jones had an early pressure and saw more snaps after with Xavier Williams went out with am injury. Jones also ended up getting hurt on a rollout and was immediately ruled out. Rookie Khalen Saunders was thrust into action on the depleted defensive line.

Steve Spagnuolo implemented Reggie Ragland as a blitzer to try to help fabricate some pass rush. Ragland recorded a couple of pressures and forced some bad throws to end the Colts second drive of the second half.