Chiefs get best of Justin Houston in playoff victory over Colts

Chiefs LB Justin Houston talks about key fumble recovery

Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Justin Houston talks about the key fumble recovery in the team's 31-13 victory over the Indianapolis Colts on Saturday, Jan. 12, 2019.
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Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Justin Houston talks about the key fumble recovery in the team's 31-13 victory over the Indianapolis Colts on Saturday, Jan. 12, 2019.

The numbers reflect a player hampered by injuries over recent seasons for Chiefs outside linebacker Justin Houston.

But when it mattered most, Houston came up with one of his biggest games.

On an afternoon of defensive standouts for the Chiefs in their 31-13 divisional-round victory over the Indianapolis Colts, Houston recorded two sacks, a fumble recovery and a deflected pass.

He was the Justin Houston of old, who made the All-Pro team in 2014 after a 22-sack season and captured other individual honors in 2013 and 2015.

“We were communicating, and playing together,” Houston said. “Once you get that done, with everybody on the same page, the sky is the limit.”

Houston missed four games this season with a hamstring injury. He’s missed time in previous seasons with knee injuries.

But Houston was full-go Saturday. The Chiefs’ success on the defensive end started up front with Houston and Dee Ford, who added a sack, on the outside. And Chris Jones and Allen Bailey coming from the middle to bat down three Andrew Luck passes.

They held the Colts, who had won nine of their final 10 regular-season games and their wild-card game at Houston last week, to 263 total yards and 87 yards on the ground. Luck completed 19 of 36 passes, but once the Chiefs took a 14-0 lead in the first quarter, the margin never fell below double digits.

Houston and the defense came up with stop after stop. The Colts had 11 possessions in the game. Seven ended in punts, including their first four. All of those were three-and-out stops.

“We could not establish a rhythm, and that hurt,” Luck said. “Those three and outs, they put our defense in a bad situation. Certainly not the start we wanted.”

Thanks to a stout Chiefs defense.

“They play minimal coverages, they just played them well and they got pressure at times,” Reich said.

The Colts entered the game as the least-sacked team in the NFL. The Chiefs’ defense tied for first with the most sacks recorded.

Something had to give, and the Chiefs didn’t.

Houston chased Luck out of bounds for one of the early third-down stops.

But the biggest play, and perhaps the game’s biggest moment, occurred late in the third quarter. The Chiefs led 24-7 but a Sammy Watkins fumble set up the Colts at the Chiefs’ 20.

After a Luck incompletion, Ford used is speed to get around Colts tackle and Olathe native Braden Smith, got to Luck and knocked the ball loose. And there was Houston, beating Ford to the fumble recovery.

“That was an attitude play,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. “You look for that as coaches, and as a team it motivates everyone.”

Any chance of a Colts rally melted with that play.

“It was amazing,” Bailey said of the Houston/Ford pass-rushing tandem. “The way they counter off each other, it’s a great combo.”

For years, that combo was Houston and Tamba Hali. But Hali’s last year as a starter was 2015 and last year was his final season in football.

“I’ve been on the field with great units,” Houston said. “I think we’re just jelling together … and the best is yet to come.”

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