The Kansas City Chiefs' Week 16 home loss to the Indianapolis Colts was uncharacteristic in a number of ways, but the statistic that we should consider throwing out — the 4-0 Colts edge in the turnover department — is the one that had the biggest impact on the game.
The Chiefs gave the Colts four extra possessions and lost by three scores after taking an early lead. No shocker it worked out that way.
But the Chiefs only turned the ball over more than twice in one other game all season, and forced at least two turnovers on defense in 10 of the previous 14 games and a total of 33 for the season. Throw in the five sacks allowed, and the Chiefs had a perfect storm of awfulness.
The Colts, clearly, would love to mimic that kind of performance, and they'll be attacking an offensive line that will look different this time around. Right tackle Eric Fisher is possibly out, and Donald Stephenson would take his place, switching over from left tackle with Branden Albert back in the fold.
This could be the better group. Fisher struggled most of the season, but the Chiefs kept with him — and he was one of the few starters to play in Week 17 in the meaningless game (as far as the Chiefs' playoff standings were concerned). But Fisher got hurt, and it might lead Andy Reid to do what some have said he should have done most of the season: bench Fisher. Having Albert back gives the Chiefs an excellent chance, coming off a week in practice that you can bet was highly focused on pass protection.
That's one way they can improve. Another is the pass rush. With no Justin Houston in that game, the Chiefs had their wings clipped. Andrew Luck had a clean pocket, time to go through his progressions and find some shockingly wide open receivers.
If Tamba Hali is healthy — he's dealing with a sore knee — the duo will be back on the field together. Having them to pressure Luck is a major need; sacks are great, but pressuring Luck and forcing him to his left also can produce desired results.
The Chiefs also must tackle better defensively. Too often, they allowed big plays in the first matchup by not tackling well on fairly routine plays. That's not the defense they were all season along, so it's likely to think it's not the unit it will be Saturday.
Witness this very un-Chiefs-like tackling display on Donald Brown's 51-yard touchdown run two weeks ago. Two defenders, including Hali, have a crack at him at the line; they both miss. Then Brandon Flowers and Kendrick Lewis miss him after about 10 yards. Finally, Dunta Robinson couldn't get off a block to make a touchdown-saving tackle on what became a huge touchdown, changing the game dramatically from a 13-7 game to a 20-7 Colts edge the Chiefs could not come back from.
Offensively, the feeling is that it has to be a 25-30 touch game for Jamaal Charles. But the Chiefs will have to be creative with their usage and break some tendencies with him, too. The Colts have talked all week about the need to follow Charles no matter where he is on the field.
That means that Dwayne Bowe, Dexter McCluster and perhaps even Knile Davis will have to be busy performers, and the Chiefs have to be ready to give them the ball in some key situations to keep the Colts on their toes and not focus entirely on Charles with success.
The Colts know they can beat the Chiefs, having done so recently. They have the formula to match up, personnel-wise; they know this, too. But the Chiefs have to feel that if 7-8 plays went differently last time, it's a wholly different game, and it could be just that again this time around.
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