Remember Week 11 of the NFL season, when the Chiefs were traveling to Denver to play the Broncos? The discussion leading up to that game not only in Kansas City but across the country orbited around one question and one question only: “How will the Chiefs defend against Peyton Manning and his receivers?”
The Chiefs lost that game 27-17, starting a three-game skid. Fast forward five weeks as the Chiefs prepare to take on the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday.
For Addicts, we spend each week game planning in our own heads about next Sunday’s game. In Week 11, all of my waking hours were consumed by that singular question. In fact, until this week, my frame of mind for Chiefs games has been the same: worrying about how to stop the other team.
But after the Raiders game, something clicked. It wasn’t the fact that the Chiefs blew out Washington and Oakland, because most good teams would have done the same. It was more that over the full body of this season, we have seen each unit of the Kansas City Chiefs operate at the highest levels. In the first half of the season, the defense was literally tops in the NFL. Since the bye week, the offense and special teams have been among the highest rated units in the league. For the first time in my four decades of being a Chiefs fan, we have all of the ingredients for a top notch team, without an achilles heel.
As I now spend every waking minute thinking about Sunday’s game against the Colts, my thought pattern has changed. Instead of brainstorming how we can stop Andrew Luck or Robert Mathis, I find that my first thoughts are how the Colts can possibly stop Alex Smith, Jamaal Charles, Dwayne Bowe, Tamba Hali, Justin Houston, Derrick Johnson, Dontari Poe, Eric Berry, Dustin Colquitt and the kick return game.
It’s not an enviable position for the Colts. There are four teams that right now, other teams would hate to see in the playoffs: Denver, the Seattle Seahawks, the Cincinnati Bengals and your very own Kansas City Chiefs. All of these teams have two things in common. First, they are peaking, riding a tidal wave of momentum. Second, they have strong units across the board, with offense, defense and special teams.
If you are Colts defensive coordinator Greg Manusky (a former Chiefs linebacker), you’d certainly expect the Chiefs to run Charles and Knile Davis all day long behind an offensive line that is reaching road-grader status. But you also know that your defense ranks 27th against the run. And if you stack the box, how do you defend against the screen pass or quick slant to Bowe?
Similarly, if you are Colts offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton, how do you account for Poe, Hali and Houston at the same time, knowing that Berry can also attack from multiple positions?
And if you’re head coach Chuck Pagano, what’s your overall gameplan? You’ll want to run a time-consuming offense to keep Alex Smith and company off the field. But can you count on your 21st ranked running game? Can you count on Andrew Luck consistently making plays against a ball-hawking defense and a special teams unit that may well score a touchdown or two (coincidentally, the Colts’ special teams coach, Tom McMahon, also has roots with the Chiefs, serving as special teams coach in Kansas City last year).
Andrew Luck, a revitalized Trent Richardson and Robert Mathis lead a talented and strong Colts team. But playing at home with all cylinders clicking, the Chiefs have a greater chance of imposing their will on this game than do the Colts. For the first time for this Addict, that perspective feels great.
Addicts, which team do you think will impose their will on the other?!