There is a lot of finger-pointing following the KC Chiefs‘ abysmal performance in their Week 3 loss to the Indianapolis Colts, and rightfully so. It might be easy for fans to get caught up in their justified frustrations and disappointment to notice an admirable bright spot, though it should be distinguished that the Chiefs’ defense found major success against the Colts.
In the game’s opening drive, the Chiefs held the Colts to a measly five yards and forced a quick three and out. Sadly, Chiefs rookie Skyy Moore muffed the punt, and the Colts’ special teams unit capitalized and recovered the ball, granting them possession only four yards from the goal line. This led to an eventual Colts touchdown.
The Colts’ third offensive possession faced limited success once again, only managing to rack up 31 yards on eight plays before being forced to punt. The Chiefs’ rabid defense was even stingier on their next showing. Facing third and one, the Colts elected to rush running back Jonathan Taylor up the middle where he was quickly swarmed by defenders for no gain. Now facing fourth and one, Colts’ quarterback Matt Ryan was strip-sacked by L’Jarius Sneed, forcing a turnover on downs.
Despite the Chiefs’ Week 3 loss to the Indianapolis Colts, the Kansas City Chiefs defense found success throughout the game
On their fifth drive, the Colts managed to sustain a decent 11-play, 41-yard drive that was capped off with a 43-yard field goal. However, it didn’t take long before the Chiefs’ defense would strike again. On just the third play, Carlos Dunlap forced a strip-sack on Ryan which was recovered by L’Jarius Sneed. Additionally, the Colts’ final drive before halftime was equally fruitless as their five plays ultimately lost them four yards and ended with another punt.
In their first possession of the third quarter, the Colts fought to finally sustain a drive and found some success in moving the ball. While facing third-and-six at the KC 22-yard line, linebacker Nick Bolton swallowed up Ryan for an 11-yard loss and forced the Colts to make a 51-yard field goal. In the following drive, the Colts once again faced a fourth-and-one. Much like earlier in the game, Jonathan Taylor ran up the gut, this time attempting to hurdle the pile. As fans have come to expect, however, Bolton made another huge play by jumping up and stuffing Taylor mid-air, forcing another turnover on downs.
The Colts’ final drive of the game found success, though was ultimately due to the lack of discipline by Chiefs’ defensive lineman Chris Jones. Needing a touchdown and with just over five minutes remaining, the Colts faced a third and six on their own 39-yard line. Bolton again brought down Ryan for an eight-yard sack which should have put the game away. Tragically, Jones was jawing at Ryan after the play which resulted in a flag being thrown for unsportsmanlike conduct. The Colts’ were saved from sure destruction and took advantage of the gassed and demoralized KC defense, eventually scoring a touchdown to win the game.
Though technically the Chiefs’ defense allowed two touchdowns, neither was the fault of the unit as a whole. The blame for the first touchdown falls squarely on Skyy Moore for gifting the Colts a first-and-goal. The second touchdown drive was another example of the Chiefs shooting themselves in the foot. If Chris Jones hadn’t drawn the penalty, the Colts would have been forced to punt the ball away.
Aside from the flukey touchdown drives, the K.C. defense were absolute stalwarts throughout the game. In their remaining seven drives the Colts settled for two field goals, punted twice, lost a fumble, and turned the ball over twice on downs.
A look at the numbers
Though it was a heartbreaking result, the Chiefs’ defense was perhaps the only unit that held up its end of the bargain against the Colts, and the stats back that up. The defense was stifling against Jonathan Taylor, the league’s leading rusher last year and unanimous first-team All-Pro. Taylor carried the rock 21 times for 71 yards and no touchdowns. The fact that he was held to a lowly 3.4 yards per carry is an achievement in itself. The Colts’ offense as a whole also faced tough sledding as they were held to only 3.8 yards per play.
In addition to a strong showing against the run, the Chiefs pass rush was able to harass Matt Ryan throughout the game. They tallied up five sacks and ten QB hits. This deadly combination resulted in the Colts putting up only 259 yards of total offense.
The KC defense was also effective at shutting out the Colts on third and fourth down situations. The Colts only converted six out of fifteen attempts on third down, and only once in three fourth down looks. The ability to kill drives is essential and the defense was lethal in that department.
Expectations should only get higher
Despite the loss, the Chiefs defense continues to prove that they’re vastly improved from last year, and they appear to just be getting started. Their performance is only more impressive when one realizes that they were missing three starters in Willie Gay Jr., Trent McDuffie, and Mike Danna. Linebacker Darius Harris did a tremendous job in his first start while filling in for Gay. He led the team in tackles with seven solo tackles and six assisted tackles.
It seems that the defensive unit appears to be building chemistry every week, and it’s coming from all around the roster. Rookies like Jaylen Watson and George Karlaftis are continuing to show promise. Defensive tackle Khalen Saunders is looking the best he ever has since entering the league. Veteran Carlos Dunlap has offered strong support against the run and the pass. And Nick Bolton continues to be, well, Nick Bolton.
The performance by the defense mustn’t be overshadowed by the incompetence of the rest of the team in the loss to the Colts. Traditionally, Steve Spagnuolo-coached defenses only improve as the season drags on which should be an encouraging thought as the Chiefs look to improve next week against the Buccaneers.