So, as promised, the Colts game. That was pretty crazy, right? I know I had given up on that game multiple times as Luck seemed to be turning into his 2012, turnover prone self and Alex Smith was busy showing everybody why he was the number one pick once upon a time.* I mean, how often do you see a team come back from 38-10? The answer is not very often. But, clearly, not never, either.
*As much as I didn’t like seeing the Colts losing, I actually really didn’t mind seeing Alex Smith work some magic. I’ve always been a pretty big believer in him and thought that he never really got a fair shake in San Francisco. I’m still not entirely convinced that Colin Kaepernick was really the better choice for the 49ers, but clearly they didn’t ask me.
Andy Reid has gotten quite a bit of criticism for his second half game plan, saying it was too pass heavy and that going away from the run gave the Colts all the time they needed. There is some truth to that, but it totally takes away from the context of the game. The Chiefs, as you surely read coming into this game,* were a run-heavy team all year and got some flak for still not running enough. You’ll have that when you’ve got Jamaal Charles in your backfield.
*Honestly, you can probably make the argument this has always been true in Kansas City. They are notoriously bad at developing quarterbacks, the last “home grown” one being Boilermaker Len Dawson. And even that claim is arguable. Dawson spent time with Steelers and Browns before signing on to the AFL. As bad as they are at quarterbacks, they are amazing at running back. It seems the Chiefs have an almost unbroken line of impressive running backs from their inception to today.
Here’s the rub that maybe has been a bit forgotten thanks to all the points the Chiefs put up: Jamaal Charles essentially didn’t play in this game. On the sixth play or so* he was knocked out of the game with a concussion. Knile Davis, while he did play pretty well, is no Jamaal Charles. Do you really want to put the game into the hands of a largely untested, injury-and-fumble-prone back? I mean, look at this lead story from the first time the Colts beat the Chiefs year. Those aren’t the kind of stories that are going to inspire confidence in anybody. And, besides, Davis went down himself in the second half with a knee injury. Do you really want to put the game in your third-stringer’s hands?
*Going off of memory here.
Besides that, it was pretty clear that the Colts had the Chiefs defense figured out by the second half. They had identified who was truly healthy and who was not, which meant they knew how to adjust their blocking and routes. The Chiefs were clearly still hampered, even with the extra rest from playing their JV against the Chargers. I don’t know what more they really could have mustered on defense in that second half once the adrenaline wore off. KC still needed points, and if you don’t have Jamaal Charles, it seems your best bet easily becomes Alex Smith and Dwayne Bowe. And, well, clearly the Chiefs had some success. They put up a franchise (playoff) best 44 points. 44 points is going to win you a lot of games, even in this new era of offense. And don’t forget that the Chiefs came to about half the width of Bowe’s foot* to putting that game away.
*Or possibly not losing Donnie Avery to a concussion as well. Avery was perfectly serviceable as a Colt, and I’m sure would have been a help to Bowe if he had stayed in the game.
I know Reid became a bit of a punching bag in Philly towards the end, and his clock management has been consistently atrocious. It’s popular to blame Reid no matter what happens. He seems to be one of those always-acceptable targets. I’m not saying he deserves no blame. But I do truly think this was more of a case of the Colts winning this one more than the Chiefs blowing it. If the Chiefs blew it, it was only because they came into the game pretty banged up and only got worse as the game progressed. I know I said before the Colts can’t win playoff games just playing the second half, as they were wont to do during the season. But you also can’t win playoff games with your JV, and unfortunately, that was essentially what the Chiefs had to work with in this game.
Looking ahead, the Colts get to try again in Foxborough on Saturday night. As far as I know, the Patriots aren’t any worse off, injury-wise, than they were for most of the season. Granted, they were generally short handed all year and much was made of the fact that Tom Brady has been generally throwing to receivers the Patriots picked up off the street. The Colts know something like that with the injuries they’ve had this year, too, but they thankfully had a guy like TY Hilton who could somewhat step into that role. I don’t know that I truly believe the Patriots have that guy.
That said, this is still going to be an awfully tough game for the Colts. The home teams in this round have historically been fairly overwhelming favorites with the extra bye week. And it does seem to be the bye week, not the home field advantage, because the home teams don’t do nearly so well in the conference championship games. I do think the Patriots will win that game, but I do think it will be close. Certainly closer than the last time Andrew Luck went to New England. And, truth be told, I will not be surprised if the Colts manage to pull this game out. This team has started to show flashes of the team they were before Reggie Wayne went down. There is certainly hope.
But, at the end of the day, you can’t expect to beat the Patriots on their turf if you don’t play a complete game. And the Colts have shown an alarming inability to actually put a complete game together all year. But, there’s no time like the present to start, right?