If I was a coach or player for the 1-3 Kansas City Chiefs and my team had just fallen behind 17-0 to the Curtis Painter led Indianapolis Colts, I would have been running around the sidelines like a madman, hitting any panic button I could find.
Todd Haley’s organization, however, is made of stronger stuff than me.
About halfway through the second quarter of yesterday’s game, it looked like the Kansas City Chiefs were in the midst of a very familiar nightmare. A stagnant offense and soft defensive secondary is what got the Chiefs into their 1-3 mess to begin with and it appeared as though the Colts were going to feast on those weaknesses all afternoon long.
Yet the Chiefs fought back and the rest, as they say, is history.
What is really remarkable about Sunday’s win isn’t so much that the Chiefs came back, but how.
Generally when teams fall into a 17 point hole they start throwing like crazy in an effort to quickly make up their lost ground. This method could have been particularly attractive to the Chiefs considering they had failed to muster much of a running game all season.
What Todd Haley knew, however, was that going pass-happy with 2 ½ quarters still left in the game would do nothing other than play into the Colts’ hand.
You see, Indianapolis is built to protect a lead, which when Peyton Manning is your QB isn’t such a bad strategy. Thus Indi sports a small, fast defense that features two premier edge pass rushers in Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis. Once the lead is obtained and teams start throwing, Freeney and Mathis are able to pin their ears back and start causing trouble.
To their credit, the Chiefs didn’t panic and they didn’t abandon their game plan. It was clear that Todd Haley wanted to run the ball to set up the pass and that is just what the Chiefs did. They kept pounded away on the ground and as the game went on, the Colts seemed to tire as the Chiefs seemed to grow stronger. Haley used a combination of Thomas Jones and Jackie Battle to pound away at the middle of the Colts defense. Then, just when you thought another run was coming, Matt Cassel would roll out and find Dwayne Bowe, Steve Breaston or Keary Colbert.
The balanced offense began providing long, sustained drives which greatly helped a KC defense that had been sucking win in the first half. Thanks to KC’s offensive success, the Colts offense had a great deal fewer opportunities in the second half. KC’s defense responded by forcing Indi to squander those opportunities, perhaps their finest play of the day coming when they stuffed the Colts on third and one with just about seven-minutes to go in the third quarter. The stop sealed a three and out and the Chiefs answered with a long TD drive. As a result, the Colts ran only six plays in the third quarter, gaining only 16 total yards.
The Chiefs could have panicked. They could have panicked after their 0-3 start or after their poor first half against the Vikings or even crumbled after making Curtis Painter look like Peyton Manning for 20 minutes.
But they didn’t and that is a credit to everyone in the organization, from the head coach on down.
There is still plenty to be concerned about if you are a Chiefs fan. There are still some protection issues on the right side of the KC offensive line and the defense struggled to generate any sort of pressure against a makeshift Colts offensive line. The secondary is still porous at times and will need to sort itself out before the team faces the likes of Tom Brady and Aaron Rogers later this season.
Still, it is apparent that the Chiefs are improving and that they are finding themselves an identify in the wake of injuries to Jamaal Charles, Eric Berry and Tony Moeaki.
Good teams overcome injuries and adversity. For now at least, the Kansas City Chiefs appear to be on their way to becoming a good team.