There aren’t a ton of things to feel great about after the Chiefs lost to the Indianapolis Colts 19-13 on Sunday Night Football.
It was by far the ugliest game we’ve seen the Chiefs play since Patrick Mahomes began starting games at quarterback and it is without a doubt the worst game the reigning MVP has played in his young career.
Mahomes’ performance wasn’t alarming in any sense though. The absence of Tyreek Hill and mid-game departure of Sammy Watkins gave him a receiving corp of Demarcus Robinson, Mecole Hardman and Byron Pringle – the latter having the best showing – to mount a second-half comeback. That didn’t even make a difference because the biggest issue of the night was the shockingly small amount of time the Chiefs possessed the ball in the final two quarters.
Last week, I wrote about the deficiencies in both the run and pass defense and how those issues could hurt them in the future after they narrowly escaped Detroit in Week 4. In the time between publishing that piece and the game, I had convinced myself I was too harsh on the run defense and their less-than-stellar start to the season. It was hard to imagine a team controlling the game against the Chiefs when their dynamic offense is – usually – able to score at will so lacking in run defense shouldn’t be a huge concern.
Well, we saw what happens when the offense can’t score at will. The Colts hung around early in the game when Mahomes was making plays, grabbed a three-point lead before halftime, took the second-half kickoff and set the tone for the rest of the game.
It was most evident on the drive in the fourth quarter where Indy ran the ball nine straight plays with no pushback from the Chiefs and eventually kicked a field goal to go up 16-10. The Colts had possessed the ball for 17 of 23 minutes in the second half, Mahomes was sitting on the bench for more than 20 minutes of real time between drives and the defense was absolutely gassed.
The go-ahead scoring drive we expected to get was nowhere to be found when the Chiefs took over with seven minutes left in the game. A completely ridiculous facemask penalty – more on these later – by Demarcus Robinson on a reception set them back to the 15-yard line. A few bad plays later made it third and 28 where Mahomes found Pringle over the middle but he ended up one-yard short, setting up fourth and 1 where Damien Williams was stuffed behind the line by former Chief Juston Houston, ending the drive.
Maybe I’m being too harsh but this play call stunk and was blatantly obvious. Upon picking up 27 yards with a pass formation on the field, the Chiefs subbed in a full package of blockers with one yard to gain. Sure, running the ball isn’t always a bad call on fourth and 1, but it is if you’ve barely ran the ball all night and your quarterback is the best in the league. Mahomes just made a play on third down that teams hardly ever pull off to make fourth down manageable – on a reinjured ankle that was, this time, stepped on by offensive lineman Cameron Erving – so why would you not at least give him the ball? Unless the ankle is worse than he is making it sound – he refused treatment in between drives Sunday – but we do not want to go there. Either way, it’s hard to imagine Hill won’t be back next week with all the work he’s been doing in front of cameras during pre-game warm-ups and that will move the needle with this offense’s production. Travis Kelce has some work to do as well with just four catches on 10 targets Sunday. Two were on key plays where he just dropped the ball, a lot changes if Kelce hauls in four more of those throws.
Of all the frustrating moments to come out of the loss, Bashaud Breeland’s four penalties take the cake. Believe it or not – I certainly didn’t – those were his first penalties of the season. Three defensive holding calls and a 53-yard pass interference penalty accounted for more than half of the team’s 125 penalty yards. Clearly, this cannot become a trend, and it likely will not because they have experienced how those mistakes will literally lose them games.
With the Texans next on the schedule, Mahomes and the offense are in line for a big bounce-back game against a team with struggles in the secondary. Houston’s pass rush, headlined by J.J Watt, is a glaring concern with chances being we will see Watt line up over Erving – who was eaten alive by Juston Houston Sunday.
The defense will be dealing with the most dynamic offense they’ve faced all season led by Deshaun Watson and DeAndre Hopkins. I can say with 100% confidence, there is nobody in the Chiefs’ secondary capable of locking down Hopkins and Watson’s game-breaking abilities will challenge the front seven – without Chris Jones – all game.
If you asked me last week, I would have said this game is a lock but recent developments have me wondering if this loss might snowball into something worse. I’ll be keeping my eye on the injury report to see if anything positive comes to light prior to Sunday.
Jason Brown is the sports editor of the Leavenworth Times. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org