This one had a very playoff-like feel to it, didn’t it?
And not in a good way.
Prime-time, Arrowhead Stadium full and loud and a good-but-inferior visitor winning partly because of superior execution of a very specific game plan and partly due to a series of bad breaks for the Chiefs.
The superior execution: The Indianapolis Colts used their massively strong offensive line to bully the Chiefs’ front, move the ball, drain the clock and keep Patrick Mahomes on the sideline.
The bad breaks: A wild run of injuries that included Chris Jones, Anthony Hitchens, Andrew Wylie and Sammy Watkins.
At one point, Mahomes limped off the field, his previously injured ankle stepped on by teammate Cam Erving (who had a rotten day even without that one).
The result: A 19-13 loss that felt like a Frankenstein collection of bits from recent playoff losses to the Titans, Steelers, Patriots and, well, also the Patriots.
So much to scream at. The injuries, plus some tail-between-the-legs play calling in crucial moments tilted took the outcome away from Mahomes’ talent and toward an offensive line that had been getting worked.
Here’s a scene that will stick: Justin Houston, unblocked, stuffing a fourth and 1 run and then shouting what must’ve been a low-pitched howl directly at the Chiefs’ sideline — his former teammates.
The blueprint has existed, but nobody has executed it quite as well as the Colts. They ran the ball — well — on over half their snaps and in the second half carried a more than two-to-one advantage in time of possession.
That’s a possession or three that Mahomes could not be on the field, but maybe that didn’t matter as much on this night as usual. The Chiefs managed just 10 points on their first eight possessions, with the Colts able to consistently pressure Mahomes with four and sometimes even three rushers (seems like screen passes could’ve been effective for the Chiefs, but whatever).
That left enough help in the back to stay behind the Chiefs’ receivers, and for the first time in his career Mahomes could not juice the offense enough with his own special brand of magic.
The problem isn’t the loss. The problem is how clearly it happened, and how easy the Colts made it look.
The Chiefs can be had on both lines of scrimmage. That’s a major problem for a team built not just on highlighting its quarterback, but in keeping him healthy.
It’s just one game. Now the Chiefs must work to make sure it stays that way.