For the second straight week, the Kansas City Chiefs paired a slow start with sloppy play.
It didn’t hurt them in Week 4, but being their worst enemy in consecutive outings contributed to a 19-13 loss against the Indianapolis Colts at Arrowhead Stadium Sunday night.
“We got beat in about every phase you can get beat in this evening,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. “That’s my responsibility: to take care of business.”
Penalties, dropped passes, a leaky run defense, injuries and a LeSean McCoy drive-killing fumble bogged down the Chiefs’ offense in the first half against a shorthanded Colts defense. Indianapolis began the game without a trio of starters, in linebacker Darius Leonard and safeties Clatyon Geathers and Malik Hooker, all of whom were declared inactive with injuries.
But what appeared to be prime picking for quarterback Patrick Mahomes never materialized, as the Chiefs couldn’t find any balance on offense despite getting on the board first with a Harrison Butker 29-yard field goal.
The scoring drive featured wide receiver Byron Pringle recording three catches for 37 yards. Pringle, the former K-State receiver, saw extended action given Sammy Watkins’ early exit with a hamstring injury and finished the game with six catches for 103 yards and a touchdown. Watkins’ departure left the Chiefs with Pringle, Demarcus Robinson, rookie Mecole Hardman and DeAnthony Thomas at wide receiver.
Kansas City’s 3-0 lead marked the Chiefs’ first points in the first quarter since Week 1. Before Sunday night, opponents had outscored the Chiefs 26-0 in the first quarter.
The Colts quickly answered with a 11-play, 70-yard drive, 52 of which came on the ground. Running back Marlon Mack gained 40 yards rushing on four carries on the drive.
Mack paced the Colts’ ground game with 132 yards on 29 carries on the night. As a team, the Colts finished with 180 yards, marking the fourth straight game in which the Chiefs have allowed an opponent to rush for 150-plus yards as a team. Mack also became the third straight running back to rush for at least 100 yards or more on the struggling Chiefs run defense.
“We’ve got to stop the run, man,” defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah said emphatically. “It’s getting bad. We got to stop the run. That’s all I’m going to say. We just need to do better and stop the run because teams are going to keep using that to their advantage because they know they can’t pass on us.”
Linebacker Damien Wilson echoed his defensive teammate.
“They did what everybody with a tape told them to,” Wilson said. “Last week we couldn’t stop nobody in the run game, and they came out running the ball, sure enough.”
With Indy’s running game clicking, quarterback Jacoby Brissett didn’t need gaudy numbers to help the Colts improve to 3-2 and give the Chiefs their first loss. Brissett finished the game completing 18 of 29 passes for 151 yards and an interception, which was recorded by Chiefs safety Tyrann Mathieu.
But the Colts’ commitment to the ground game didn’t surprise the Chiefs’ defense.
“That’s what all the teams have been doing to us,” Wilson said. “Run, run, run, and then just throw it when they have to. To be honest with you, we’ve got to tighten up on third down. I don’t think it would be as bad if we were winning on third down. We just got to have a better win percentage as a whole, and it starts with the linebackers. It trickles forward and it trickles backward. Linebackers got to be better.”
Defensive end Tanoh Kpassagnon agreed about the team’s inability to stop the run, but he believes fixing the issues shouldn’t fall on an individual position group.
“Stopping the run is a team effort, where passing you can get away with some guys just making the play,” Kpassagnon said. “Run, it take a whole team, so that’s something we’ve been working on and we’ve got to continue to harp on.”
Neither team lit up the scoreboard by modern NFL standards on Sunday. But the Colts’ punishing ground game allowed Indianapolis to hold a commanding 36:00 to 22:45 edge in time of possession.
The Chiefs and Colts exchanged blows through the first two quarters, with Mahomes flashing the magic with incredible video-game throws on the Chiefs’ second possession of the game. On the first highlight-worthy throw, Mahomes rolled to his left and threw across his body for a 17-yard completion to tight end Travis Kelce, who dropped two passes early in the game.
Mahomes wowed the crowd five plays later with a 27-yard scoring pass to Pringle after shaking off a sack by Justin Houston, who spent eight seasons in Kansas City before his release in March, on the previous play.
On the ensuing play at the Colts’ 27-yard line, Mahomes faced pressure from the pass rush and immediately went into scramble mode. He showed elusiveness and mobility by going backward to the Colts’ 47-yard line with the Colts defenders in pursuit before running forward and launching a strike to Pringle in the end zone.
The Chiefs appeared to be in good position to put points on the board on their fourth possession of the game, but McCoy’s fumble took away the momentum.
Mahomes finished the game 22 of 39 for 321 yards and a touchdown. The Chiefs, though, couldn’t get their ground game going and finished with just 36 yards on 14 attempts. Damien Williams, who played for the first time since Week 2, led the Chiefs with 23 yards on nine attempts.
Reid explained that the Chiefs went away from the running game because they wanted to exploit a Colts secondary that was missing key starters.
“They were banged up a little in the secondary,” Reid said. “So I thought we could take advantage of that. We weren’t able to do that on a consistent basis with the penalties and turnovers and things.”
The Chiefs were penalized 11 times 125 yards Sunday. Cornerback Bashaud Breeland was flagged four times. He said that’s a career first.
“Hell no,” Breeland said. “That’s my first time, man. I’ve just got to watch the film and correct what I can correct.”
Kansas City also endured numerous injuries Sunday night. In addition to Watkins, they lost defensive tackle Chris Jones (groin), defensive tackle Xavier Williams (ankle), linebacker Anthony Hitchens (groin) and left guard Andew Wylie (ankle) through the course of the game.