Chiefs’ struggling defense gets Colts’ potent offense next

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Members of the Kansas City’s defense had been hearing all season about how bad they were, and how they were the biggest threat to an offensive juggernaut falling short of reaching the Super Bowl.

Then they shut down the Raiders in Week 17.

Of course, the Raiders are hardly one of the NFL’s premier offenses, and they rolled into Arrowhead Stadium with little impetus to play hard. But by holding Derek Carr and the rest of the Oakland offense in check, it gave the Chiefs some momentum heading into the playoffs, not to mention proof that some tweaks to their personnel packages had paid dividends.

“We just have to keep it rolling,” said linebacker Justin Houston, their longtime emotional leader. “It’s a great time for us to play like this. We were firing on all cylinders from the front to the back end (against Oakland) and now we just have to build off it.”

That’s because Andrew Luck and the rest of the Colts, who come to Kansas City for the divisional round Saturday, represent a massive upgrade in competition.

Luck threw the second-most touchdown passes (39) in the NFL this season, behind the Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes (50), and enjoyed one of the best offensive line performances in the league.

Their offense isn’t a one-trick pony, either. They dominated Houston on the ground in a 21-7 win in the wild-card game Saturday, when Marlon Mack piled up 148 yards rushing and a TD.

Together, the Colts have roared into the postseason with seven wins in eight games.

“Andrew’s going to get you every once in a while,” Kansas City head coach Andy Reid said, “and you’ve got to make sure you get him more than he gets you, but he’s got a lot of good players around him. That offensive line, people can argue with you that it’s the best in the National Football League. You look at the receivers, they’ve got good receivers. They’ve got good tight ends. You go all the way around.”

Indianapolis was fifth in scoring (27.1 points per game) and the Chiefs were 24th in scoring defense (26.3 ppg). They were last in the league in rush defensive efficiency, average yards after contact and first-down percentage, and they were second-to-last in yards-per-carry allowed despite many teams trying to play catch-up.

As bad as those numbers were, though, the Chiefs were actually respectable against the pass. And they were downright dominant when it came to pressuring the quarterback, generating sacks on 7.4 percent of pass plays — better even than Khalil Mack and the Bears — and pressure on 31.1 percent of them.

That means an intriguing matchup between the Colts’ offensive line, which hasn’t allowed anybody to have more than one sack in a game since Week 4, and the Chiefs’ pass dominant rush.

“The goal and strategy remains the same,” Indianapolis offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni said. “Run the football and set up other things by running it, and then be successful in situational football.”

Dave Skretta is an Associated Press writer.

Divisional playoff games

SATURDAY

Indianapolis at Kansas City, 1:30p.m. Channel: 11Channel: 3Channel: 8

Dallas at L.A. Rams, 5:15 p.m. Channel: 2Channel: 40

SUNDAY

L.A. Chargers at New England, 10a.m. Channel: 5Channel: 13Channel: 46

Philadelphia at New Orleans, 1:40 p.m. Channel: 2Channel: 40

This post was originally posted at https://www.sfgate.com/sports/article/Chiefs-struggling-defense-gets-Colts-potent-13518976.php.

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