Red Zone

The Chiefs and NFL by beat writer Terez Paylor

Time to move on: Let's look at Chiefs-Colts defensive game film


01/13/2014 8:00 AM

05/16/2014 11:18 AM

The Indianapolis Colts are officially out of the playoffs, Kansas City, and it's now been nine days since That Loss.

But you know what that means, right? The seven-day rule is in full effect, which means it's time to buck up, leave the past in the past and analyze the snap-count data and game film from the Chiefs' 45-44 playoff loss to the Colts.

No more feeling sorry yourselves, folks. After all, you can't improve unless you fix your mistakes, right?

Fortunately for you guys, I re-watched the game so you didn't have to. And because this was the last game of the season, and there was no shortage of intriguing decisions made throughout, I decided to split my final snap-count observations/film room session of the season into two parts. Part one will focus on the defense, and that will run today. Part two will focus on the offense, and that will run tomorrow.

Now, without further ado, let's get to it.

*The Colts used their “11” personnel ― one running back, three receivers and one tight end ― an obnoxious amount this time around, way more than they did against the Chiefs in Week 16. To put that in perspective, consider this: the Colts' starting fullback, Stanley Havili, only played three snaps after he logged 20 in the first game.

In response, the Chiefs basically played the entire game with six defensive backs on the field. The threat of the pass not only led to more playing time for defensive end Allen Bailey, who is one of their better interior pass rushers, it also kept two of the Chiefs' better defensive players ― ends Tyson Jackson and Mike DeVito ― off the field. Both players are strong against the run, but after logging 83 combined snaps in the first game, the two combined for a paltry 19 this time, six of which came when the Colts lined up in their victory formation at the end.

*By my count, the Chiefs used seven defensive backs three times, and cornerback Ron Parker ― who logged only four defensive plays ― blitzed on each. The coaching staff must really like his ability to do that.

*No shock here, but the Chiefs simply could not stay with T.Y. Hilton, as the second-year pro lit them up from the slot all game long. After Hilton terrorized nickelback Dunta Robinson on their first possession, the Chiefs quickly went to veteran corner Brandon Flowers, who actually did a nice job on him. But when Flowers went down with a concussion in the second half, the Chiefs stuck Robinson on him for a while before Hilton abused him in the slot on two straight plays.

After that, defensive coordinator Bob Sutton decided he'd had enough.

He stuck safety Husain Abdullah, who earned extensive playing time (56 snaps) in the Chiefs' six-defensive back subpackage for the first time this season, from linebacker to nickelback and moved Eric Berry from deep safety to linebacker, where he'd spent most of the season. Quintin Demps, who led the team in interceptions with four but seemed to lose his job as a backup deep safety due to Abdullah's emergence, then took Berry's place in the deep portion of the field and logged 14 snaps.

Abdullah did OK against Hilton, forcing an incompletion on one target, but was also beaten by Hilton for a first down on a 12-yard gain.

*Abdullah was also the player initially lined up against Hilton on his game-winning 64-yard score. But instead of following him up the seam, Abdullah passed him off to safety Kendrick Lewis, who is not fast. So when Lewis, who ran a 4.73 at the 2010 combine, saw Hilton coming up the seam with a full head of steam, he basically had no chance. Luck delivered a gorgeous throw down the middle and Hilton split Lewis and Demps, who probably could have taken a better angle here:

*I know people want to rip the defense after blowing a 28-point lead, and that's fine. Just know that despite three terrible throws ― all of which resulted in interceptions ― Luck simply played his tail off. Seriously. I can't tell you how many times this guy felt the pressure and either scrambled, slithered around in the pocket to buy more time or simply stood in there and unleashed a rocket for a completion. It takes a confluence of circumstances to blow a lead that big, for sure, but don't underestimate the role Luck played in it.

*Safety Eric Berry had a rough game. He finished with a team-high nine tackles but missed two tackles (badly) in the open field and was targeted often in single coverage. He allowed three catches to Coby Fleener, and that doesn't even include a drop that should have been a catch. He also allowed a catch to running back Donald Brown.

Now, some of these completions were simply the result of good execution. For instance, it's hard to defend Fleener when he runs a quick, precise route and Luck delivers a strong, on-target throw, like he does here:

But still, aside from the fumble Berry forced in the second half (which Luck somehow recovered and turned into a short touchdown run), the three-time Pro Bowler had a rough afternoon.

*Also invisible: linebacker Derrick Johnson. He only had three total tackles the entire game (his fewest of the season) and was beaten a few times in zone coverage. And when the Colts ran the ball, I thought the interior of their offensive line did a nice job getting a body on him.

Johnson finished with a Pro Football Focus grade of negative-1.7, and only his performance against Buffalo (negative-2.2) was worse this season. But kudos to him for standing in the locker room after the game and answering every question. He even stuck around after the first swarm of media finished with him and another came by to ask him the same questions. It may seem small, but it was still a display of leadership, one that made it obvious why Johnson was named one of six captains by his teammates after the regular season.

*I thought outside linebackers Tamba Hali and Justin Houston played pretty well, despite the loss. Houston, who had missed the previous five games with a dislocated elbow, looked like his old self and often terrorized right tackle Gosder Cherilus, who graded out as the 10th best right tackle in the league this year, according to Pro Football Focus.

Look at the way he turns the corner on Cherilus at the bottom of the screen:

Now look at the way Houston works Cherilus inside at the top of the screen:

Houston will be entering the final year of his rookie deal next season. The 24-year-old is clearly the Chiefs' best defensive player and is poised to make a ton of money. It would obviously behoove the team to extend him now so they can save themselves the headache next summer, but remember folks, it takes two to tango. Houston may decide to play out his contract and try to earn a huge payday in 2015.

*Nose tackle Dontari Poe had a quiet game, statistically, with only one tackle. But he consistently beat his man and was a bit of a nuisance against Indianapolis' overmatched interior offensive line. For instance, check out this beautiful club rip past Colts right guard Mike McGlynn.

Look, the loss stunk, and it exposed plenty of holes in the Chiefs' defense. But the Chiefs have a pair of young anchors to build around in Poe and Houston, and their play against the Colts did nothing but solidify that notion.


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