Chiefs report card: Defense and running game paved way to victory over the Colts

The Chiefs broke through and ended their drought of playoff futility at home with their first postseason win in Arrowhead Stadium since 1994 with a 31-13 win over the Indianapolis Colts.

Player of the game: Travis Kelce provided a steadying force for the offense throughout the game. He finished with a team-high 108 yards receiving on seven catches (15.4 yards per catch).

Reason to hope: The defense had one of its best performances of the season, allowing just six points (the first touchdown came on a blocked punt). They’ve strung together their best defensive games of the season in back-to-back outings after a strong regular-season finale against the Oakland Raiders.

Reason to mope: All-Pro safety Eric Berry and running back Spencer Ware weren’t healthy enough to be active for the playoff game despite coming off the bye week.

Looking ahead: The Chiefs will host the AFC Championship game at Arrowhead Stadium next weekend against the winner of Sunday’s Chargers-Patriots game in Massachusetts.

Don't have a KC Star subscription? Help support our sports coverage

If you already subscribe to The Star, thanks for your support. If not, our digital sports-only subscription is just $30 per year. It's your ticket to everything sports in Kansas City ... and beyond, and helps us produce sports coverage like this.

Report Card

Rushing offense: A. The running game accounted for 180 yards, four touchdowns and a 5.5 yards-per-carry average. Damien Williams led the way with 129 yards rushing on 25 carries, while Darrel Williams and quarterback Patrick Mahomes also got in on the act with rushing scores. The Chiefs also integrated Tyreek Hill’s speed into the running game, including a reverse that gave Hill his first postseason touchdown.

Passing offense: B. Patrick Mahomes efficiently picked apart the Colts’ secondary and linebacker coverage despite not throwing a touchdown pass. He found Kelce in the middle of the field and took advantage of the Colts’ zone defense, and he also spread the ball around to multiple receivers with four players registering five catches or more.

Rushing defense: A. The Colts came in having posted a 200-yard rushing performance in their wild-card win at Houston. The Chiefs held the Colts to 18 first-half rushing yards and 87 total in the game. They did not allow a rushing touchdown, and allowed just four rushing first downs. Most of the rushing yardage that was gained came late in the game when the defense was guarding against the big play in the passing game.

Passing defense: A. The Chiefs’ often-criticized defense managed to put pressure on Colts quarterback Andrew Luck and also blanket his top receiving weapons for the vast majority of the game. They sacked Luck three times and forced him to turn the ball over via a fumble. No receiver had more than 60 yards, and Luck just barely surpassed 200 yards passing (203).

Special teams: C-. A holding penalty on a punt return backed up the offense’s first possession to their own 10-yard line. The Colts first touchdown came as the result of a blocked punt which they recovered in the end zone. They weren’t able to generate much in the punt return game (5 returns, 6 yards), and they had two of their three punts downed inside the 20.

Coaching: A. The Chiefs thoroughly dominated both sides of the ball schematically from the start. Offensively, they exploited holes in coverage and they ran the ball effectively. Defensively, they put pressure on and got to Luck, which not team had done all season. Meanwhile, they also limited the Colts’ highly-productive tight ends and shut down the running game. Coach Andy Reid did a good job picking spots to be aggressive by going for it on fourth down.

Related stories from Kansas City Star

Lynn Worthy covers the Kansas City Royals and Major League Baseball for The Star. A native of the Northeast, he’s covered high school, collegiate and professional sports for The Lowell Sun, Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin, Allentown Morning Call and The Salt Lake Tribune. He’s won awards for sports features and sports columns.