Moments after the Chiefs’ 23-7 loss to the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday, cornerback Dunta Robinson stood in front of the media, was asked about yet another subpar performance from the secondary and spoke his mind.
No, they did not get satisfied after clinching a playoff berth last week against Oakland. And no, they did not hold anything back against the Colts, whom they probably will meet in the first round of the playoffs in two weeks.
“It’s one of those moments where have to look in the mirror in all three phases,” Robinson said. “They came in today and they kicked our (butts). And we deserved everything we got. So no excuses.”
His teammates weren’t in the mood for excuses, either.
“We gotta tighten up, we gotta tighten up,” safety Quintin Demps said. “It’s very disappointing man, it’s no excuses. They came out and hit us in the mouth.”
Indeed, on a day where the Chiefs committed four turnovers and a handful of brutal penalties, it was the defensive lapses by the secondary that took center stage.
Indianapolis scored its first touchdown, a 33-yard catch-and-run by Donald Brown, because he leaked out of the backfield and was left wide open due to blown coverage, which Demps later took responsibility for.
Later in the first half, Indianapolis’ best receiver — speedy T.Y. Hilton — was inexplicably left wide open for a 31-yard gain that would have gone for a score if he’d gotten a better throw.
The breakdowns were surprising, in a way, because while the Chiefs have been shredded at times by some good quarterbacks since the bye week — Peyton Manning and Philip Rivers — rarely have they been beaten outright on obvious busted plays.
In the NFL, physical mistakes can be tolerated to a certain point. Mental mistakes can’t.
“You can’t blow coverages in this league,” cornerback Brandon Flowers said. “When you do, it shows. Indy came out to play. I feel like we came out here coasting. It was a reality check.”
To be fair, Flowers, who primarily played his more natural left cornerback position Sunday instead of the nickel for the first time in two months, was not exempt from the rough day from the secondary. He was nearly beaten for a long touchdown by LaVon Brazil, who had a step on him but couldn’t haul in the pass down the sideline.
But Indianapolis’ missed opportunities didn’t matter in the end as quarterback Andrew Luck completed 26 of 37 passes for 241 yards and a touchdown. It was a disappointing defensive effort for the Chiefs, particularly after the group seemed to rebound a bit with a five-interception day against the Raiders last week.
But Robinson, who stepped into Flowers’ old role at nickel back and replaced rookie Marcus Cooper in the sub packages in his first extensive playing time in two months, correctly pointed out that the Colts, 10-5, clearly aren’t a four-win Oakland team, and they certainly aren’t Washington, the other team the Chiefs recently beat, either.
“We gotta look in the mirror and we gotta decide what kind of team we want to be moving forward,” said Robinson, who finished with four tackles and two pass breakups. “Yeah, OK. You dominate Oakland. Yeah, you dominate (Washington). But what are we going to do when we face other powerhouses? We’re a much better team than we showed today.”
To that end, perhaps the lowest moment for the secondary Sunday came on a running play. Brown, Indianapolis’ slippery running back, squirted through a hole up the middle in the third quarter, broke through arm tackles by Flowers and safety Kendrick Lewis and dashed up the right sideline for a 51-yard score — but not before he finished it off by stiff-arming and hurdling Robinson the last 10 yards or so.
“It’s unacceptable,” Flowers admitted afterward. “We can’t let that kind of stuff happen, not if we’re the defense want to be and the defense we think we’re capable of being.”
Robinson agreed, and added that while the confidence of the secondary remains strong, his explanation for the run — “They wanted it more than we did today,” he said — could have easily doubled for the reason the secondary and defense struggled as a whole against the Colts.
“I know what it takes (to win), and today is not going to get it,” said Robinson, 31. “This is the best team I’ve ever been on. I played (on a playoff team) in Atlanta last year … and we were a pretty good football team. But if we don’t get focused, then we’re going to be sitting right back here (in a few weeks).”