The Morning After: Indy

Posted Oct 11, 2010

Chiefs winning recipe stalls in second half

Todd Haley formulated an aggressive plan to take on Indianapolis; one that was apparent from the opening kickoff Sunday afternoon.

“It’s a mindset in the way that we went into this game and the way we were going to play,” Haley said afterwards.

The mindset resembled a boxing match. One in which the underdog goes on the offensive against the reigning champ as soon as the opening bell sounds. Before Indianapolis’ second-possession, the Chiefs had attempted an onside kick, showed a new defensive package, powered the ball on the ground 10 times for 55 yards and gone for a fourth-down conversion inside the Indianapolis 10-yard line.

To say that the Chiefs came into Indianapolis with an aggressive mindset would be an understatement. This was a team that looked determined to prove that their 3-0 start was legitimate. They sent an early statement that they weren’t scared to go toe-to-toe in the home of the AFC’s elite. The day would go on to become a long blow-for-blow bout before the contender ran out of gas.

For one half, even with the failed onside attempt and fourth-down try that fell short, it appeared the Chiefs  were playing the exact game that they had envisioned while preparing for Indy.

“Opening the game the way that we did was not going to win or lose the game for us, and I even believe that going for it on that first possession was not going to win or lose the game either,” Haley said. “You have to do certain things against a team of this caliber and we set out trying to do that, but just didn’t quite execute in some areas that we had to.”

Most of the areas lacking execution came on the offensive side of the football, and occurred in the second half (more on that below in the Three to Improve segment).

“We just didn’t execute the way that we needed to in the second half and it’s disappointing,” G Ryan Lilja said.

In the second half, the pendulum began to swing. Many of the critical elements of the game shifted against the Chiefs. Indianapolis took a sizeable fourth quarter advantage in time of possession, Kansas City’s run game stalled, the passing game was sporadic, a case of the drops re-appeared and Indianapolis forced critical three-and-outs that limited the Chiefs to just 10% in third-down efficiency.

“We did things that get you beat,” Haley said.

To say that Sunday was a tail of two halves would be a stretch. This was a tie game deep into the third quarter, and it was a one-possession game for most of the fourth quarter as well. Even during the second-half unraveling, Kansas City had a number of opportunities to take the game.

In the locker room, post-game, the missed opportunities of the second half seemed to be the most frustrating factor of the day. A complete game would have won this contest, but the Chiefs weren’t able to be reliable in all three phases for four quarters of football.

The first quarter of the season didn’t finish the way that the Chiefs had hoped, but the team still met Haley’s three-wins-per-quarter goal. In the four-quarter mindset, Kansas City’s season resets this Sunday in Houston; a game which Haley as already described as the biggest to date.

Three To Like

1)      Game-Plan Team

The Chiefs have described themselves as being a “game-plan team,” and there is no greater evidence of that than the defensive scheme that the Chiefs carried into Sunday’s contest. Peyton Manning looked both confused and frustrated throughout the day with the amount of coverage disguises, sub- packages and alignments that Kansas City’s defense showed.

The Chiefs played almost exclusively in nickel, but added a wrinkle that hadn’t been seen on film. Using a two down lineman and Jon McGraw as the fifth DB, it appeared that the Chiefs surprised Indianapolis a bit. Aligning to TE Dallas Clark and various slot receivers, often times at the linebacker level, McGraw would get an interception out of the set while the package also produced a rare no-TD game from Manning.

Most of Manning’s success came late in the game with short pass routes against a fatigued Chiefs defense. He’d finish the day with a very un-Manning like 65.0 QB rating.

“You just try to change it up and mix it up,” LB Mike Vrabel said. “Rush four. Rush five. Rush three. Play some man coverage. Play some zone. You make them kick field goals and that’s success. You look at their numbers in the Red Zone and it’s as good as anybody else. To a point we had some success, and then at the end not so much success.”

Speaking of Red Zone defense, that’s number two on our list of “likes.”

2)      Red Zone Defense

This was one of our areas we focused on heading into the game. The Colts entered Sunday as one of the league’s best in the Red Zone, connecting on TDs in nearly 75% of Red Zone visits. Not only did the Chiefs have two defensive stands inside their own 10-yard line, but they held the Colts to just 33% in Red Zone efficiency.

Had Kansas City not been able to defend in the Red Zone, the Colts early 6-0 lead would have been a two-TD deficit instead. If that were the case, we’d be talking about a much different football game.

3)      No Big Plays

The defense forced Indianapolis to earn every yard. Manning is going to move the football against nearly any team, but the Chiefs made sure that Manning’s arm didn’t’ beat them with a big play. With the offense struggling in the second half, this one stayed close by Kansas City’s defense limiting the Colts’ longest play to just 24 yards.

Three For Improvement

1)      Third Downs/Three-and-Outs

Overall, the Chiefs were just 10% (1/10) on third downs, but the real killer came on the three offensive possessions that followed McGraw’s third-quarter INT.

On the series following McGraw’s INT, the Chiefs were unable to connect on any of their three passes (two key drops with one coming in the end zone) and settled for a 43-yard field goal. Following Ryan Succop’s 43-yarder, the Colts went on a 12-play drive that ended with Adam Vinatieri’s 42-yard FG.

 Down three points, the Chiefs would gain only nine yards on the next two possessions; both being three-and-outs. Meanwhile, Indianapolis took the game over with 20 plays for 90 yards on the two ensuing possessions and scored seven points to take the 19-9 lead.

2)      Fourth Quarter Time of Possession

 The Colts held the ball for nearly 10 minutes in the game’s final quarter, wearing out Kansas City’s defense in the process. The final difference in T.O.P. was nine minutes, but about half of that came during the final 15 minutes of play.

3)      2nd Half Rushing

After taking the momentum of a wild first-half ending to the locker room, the Chiefs weren’t able to execute their offensive game plan in the second half. A series of incomplete passes and drops (one in the end zone) are the most memorable topics for Monday’s water cooler conversation, but there was much more than a dropped TD that did the Chiefs in.

A running team, Kansas City was able to rush for only 30 yards in the second half. That was a far cry from an 83-yard first-half rushing output that averaged 4.9 yards per carry. When the Chiefs were at their best on Sunday, they were running the football early in the contest.

“We were not able to keep (the run game) going and that’s what ended up getting us beat,” Haley said.

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