It’s a day that will forever be remembered.
The Kansas City Chiefs beat the Indianapolis Colts by a score of 31-13 Saturday afternoon at Arrowhead Stadium in the Divisional round of the AFC playoffs.
To the fans, the win means everything. But to the coaches and players, it was just another objective met.
That dichotomy between the two could seem paradoxical, but it isn’t, and that’s because there’s history there that must be understood.
It was the Chiefs’ first home playoff win in more than 25 years—spanning six-consecutive home losses that these fans remember well. It also means the opportunity for these fans to fire up the grills and get together one more time at Arrowhead as they host the AFC Championship game next Sunday for the first time in franchise history.
It means one more win at Arrowhead earns them the right to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl—something they haven’t done in almost 50 years.
The individual plays—the standout performances, all of it will be told to future generations of Chiefs Kingdom.
It’s not hyperbole—it’s real, and it’s just as real that every single player during postgame media availability spoke about how the win on Saturday—while fantastic, isn’t the goal—that their sights are set on bigger things.
It’s exactly how you’d want them to feel, and likewise for the fans. It all fits.
A win on Saturday did all that for Chiefs Kingdom and the coaches, players, and staff who represent this organization that’s built upon a fan base that should absolutely embrace this moment for all those reasons.
After all, they’ve earned it.
Here are 12 observations from the game:
1. The Chiefs’ third-down defense was the story of the game
The Colts came into Saturday’s game as the NFL’s top offense in regard to third-down conversions—finding success 48.6 percent of the time throughout the regular season.
On Saturday, the Chiefs’ defense became the story as they didn’t allow the Colts to convert a single third down on nine separate attempts.
It was complete domination in that area, and it’s just the fifth time since 1991 that an offense has been held without a third-down conversion in a postseason game, per Chiefs Reporter Matt McMullen.
2. Dee Ford’s strip-sack was the perfect play in the biggest moment
There were a handful of moments that the Chiefs had to show a championship pedigree—the ability to overcome a mistake and rise to the occasion.
Each side of the ball was given this opportunity, and each stepped up.
For the defense, the challenge came after Sammy Watkins fumbled deep in Chiefs’ territory late in the third quarter.
At the time, the Chiefs held a 24-7 lead. The fumble gave the Colts the ball at the Chiefs’ 20-yard line.
On the Colts’ second offensive play following the fumble, Dee Ford—the league’s leader in quarterback pressures among edge rushers and leader in takeaways forced from those pressures, raced around the right edge and was able to knock the ball out of Andrew Luck’s hands as he brought him down for a sack.
The ball was recovered by Justin Houston, and just like that, the defense picked up the offense and was there to show they could rise to the occasion in one of the games’ biggest moments.
3. Patrick Mahomes’ touchdown drive showed everyone something
For the Chiefs’ offense, the opportunity to step up came in the first half.
For the most part, the game was controlled by the Chiefs. They raced out to an early lead and the defense was dominating throughout most of the game, particularly early.
But if there was one moment that things could have gone another direction, or that momentum was could have been going the other way, it was following the Colts’ blocked punt that led to their only points of the first half.
The Chiefs were cruising—leading 17-0 and then, just like that, the Colts were on the board and fans had that kind of, “uh, oh” feeling.
The Chiefs’ next offensive drive needed to be a statement, and it was for many reasons. They went 75 yards on 10 plays as Patrick Mahomes went 6 for 6 for 69 yards before racing around the right edge and diving for the front pylon for his first career postseason touchdown.
They answered back after the special teams’ mistake, because that’s what championship teams do.
4. The early fourth-down conversions made a statement
On the Chiefs’ second offensive possession—holding a 7-0 lead, they faced a fourth-and-1 from the Colts’ 35-yard line.
There was no hesitation. Andy Reid was going for it, and it wasn’t a trick look or some creative design on the attempt. They ran the ball right through the heart of the Colts’ defense for a gain of 11 yards.
And on the very next play, Tyreek Hill took the pitch 36 yards around the left edge for a touchdown run that could be used as a clinic on how receivers are supposed to block down the field.
Reid set the tone with that fourth-down decision, and then he did it again on the next drive—facing another fourth-and-1, and Williams once again took this one right up the middle for a gain of four yards.
Right guard Andrew Wylie had key blocks on both runs, and the Chiefs’ offensive line had quickly set the tone for the game, and Reid gave them the opportunity to do that by stayiong aggressive.
5. Sammy Watkins’ return was a welcomed one
Before Saturday, Watkins hadn’t played for the Chiefs since the Week 11 meeting with the Rams in Los Angeles, and his return was a welcomed one as we were reminded of just how dangerous this Chiefs’ offense is with him in the lineup.
On the Chiefs’ first offensive drive, Watkins snagged a pass across the middle from Mahomes and raced across and then down the field for a gain of 34 yards—adding another 10 yards on the end of it because of a horse collar tackle penalty called on the Colts’ defense.
Watkins would later add a fantastic one-handed catch from his back—ultimately finishing the game with six receptions for 62 yards.
6. Justin Houston led the defense
The Colts came into Saturday’s game boasting a quarterback in Luck who had been sacked a league-low 18 times coming into the game.
Much of the talk all week was about the prominence of the Colts’ offensive line—with much less talk about a Chiefs’ defense that tied for the league-lead in sacks with 52.
On Saturday, the Chiefs sacked Luck three times, including two from veteran edge rusher Justin Houston, who had one of the better games of his season.
“I think we were communicating,” Houston explained after the game. “We were playing together. Once you get that done and you get everyone on the same page, the sky’s the limit for this defense.”
Over their last two games, the Chiefs’ defense has allowed just nine total points.
7. Damien Williams stepped up for the offense
Chiefs’ running back Damien Williams finished Saturday’s game with 154 yards from scrimmage (129 rushing, 25 receiving), and he chipped in with a rushing touchdown as well.
The touchdown, which saw Williams break multiple tackles, was the Chiefs’ first of the game and gave them a lead that they would never relinquish.
Williams, who recently signed a contract extension, continues to show what general manager Brett Veach and company saw in him dating back to the praise Williams was getting back at training camp, when he was working as the third-string back.
He has owned his opportunity.
8. Charvarius Ward continues to show what he brings to the table
One of the Chiefs’ youngest defensive backs—cornerback Charvarius Ward, who was making his third-consecutive start of the season—had the best game of his career on Saturday.
Ward finished the game with four passes defensed, which included multiple breakups in key situations. He seems to be getting better every single week.
He came to the Chiefs at the end of the preseason via a trade with the Dallas Cowboys, which saw the Chiefs send over offensive lineman Parker Ehinger.
9. The Chiefs held the Colts to their second-lowest output of the season
The Chiefs’ defense held the Colts to 263 total yards of offense on Saturday, which was their second-lowest total of the season.
The Chiefs’ defense is playing inspired football right now, and everybody already knows about the offense.
10. Travis Kelce led the Chiefs in receiving
It shouldn’t come as any kind of a surprise that tight end Travis Kelce led the Chiefs in receiving on Saturday. It was discussed all week that the Colts had allowed more yards to tight ends this year than any other team in the league.
Kelce has had a lot of success against zone coverages, and so had Mahomes.
On paper, that was the matchup to watch, and Kelce finished with seven catches for a game-high 108 yards receiving.
But it’s worth nothing that Kelce also stepped up in the blocking game—sealing the edge for several of Williams’ key runs and other big plays throughout the game.
11. Chris Jones chipped in with three batted passes
Chris Jones may not have gotten a sack on Saturday, but his presence was made throughout the game. He finished with a quarterback hit and three passes defensed (batted-down passes).
Overall, the Chiefs had six batted passes in the game, and they were a huge part of stymieing the Colts’ offense, particularly on third down.
12. The injury update
After the game, Reid said there were no injuries to report.
That’s huge as the Chiefs get set to face the winner of the Patriots-Chargers game on Sunday night. They will meet with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line.
Photos from the Chiefs Playoff matchup against the Colts at Arrowhead Stadium on Jan. 12, 2019