The Kansas City Chiefs lost a tough one on Sunday, falling to the Indianapolis Colts, 20-17, in a game that came down to the wire.
Trailing by four points with just over eight minutes remaining in the game, Colts’ quarterback Matt Ryan led a 16-play, 76-yard drive that ended with a go-ahead, 12-yard touchdown pass to tight end Jelani Woods.
The series – which ended with the Colts’ first lead of the second half – drained more than eight minutes off the clock and left Kansas City with just 24 seconds to answer. The Chiefs managed to move the ball to the Colts’ 46-yard line on their ensuing possession, but safety Rodney McLeod intercepted Chiefs’ quarterback Patrick Mahomes with eight seconds remaining to effectively seal the game.
Indianapolis’ game-winning drive nearly ended at midfield, however, when linebacker Nick Bolton sacked Ryan on third down with just under five minutes left. The Colts were set to punt following the sack, but the officials assessed an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on defensive lineman Chris Jones that continued the possession.
“I blame myself. We got off the field after the defense fought hard, and I put us in a situation to go back on the field,” Jones said following the game. “I take that one. That was my fault. As a veteran player on this team, I have to be better with those types of things. It won’t happen again from me.”
The penalty was unfortunately one of several out-of-character miscues that contributed to the Chiefs’ defeat on Sunday, the first of which took place early in the first quarter when return man Skyy Moore muffed an incoming punt inside the Colts’ 5-yard line. Indianapolis went on to turn the takeaway into seven points and take an early lead when Ryan found Woods for a 1-yard score.
The Chiefs’ mishaps on special teams continued throughout the game, as Kansas City later missed both an extra point and a field goal in addition to unsuccessfully attempting a fake field goal. Kansas City is known for playing relatively mistake-free football, especially on special teams, but it just wasn’t the case on Sunday.
“In the NFL, the parity is crazy. Any mistakes get magnified,” said Head Coach Andy Reid. “That’s just how it goes, so we have to clean that up. We’ll get that taken care of.”
Despite those miscues, however, the Chiefs quite nearly escaped with the victory courtesy of a relentless defensive effort that racked up five sacks and 10 quarterback hits. The first of those sacks took place on the Colts’ fourth possession, when cornerback L’Jarius Sneed dropped Ryan on a fourth-down passing attempt that provided the Chiefs’ offense with great field position. Mahomes was sure to turn the turnover into points, finding tight end Travis Kelce for a 3-yard touchdown that got the Chiefs on the board.
The defense was similarly clutch a bit later, too, when defensive end Carlos Dunlap strip-sacked Ryan deep in Colts’ territory late in the second quarter. The Chiefs recovered the fumble before Mahomes went on to engineer a five-play, 21-yard drive that ended with a touchdown plunge by tailback Clyde Edwards-Helaire.
They were effective in the second half as well, stopping tailback Jonathan Taylor short of the chains on a fourth-down attempt at the Chiefs’ 31-yard line early in the fourth quarter. The play seemed to wrestle all momentum away from the Colts at the time, and that was certainly the case when Mahomes found wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster for a 53-yard gain three snaps later.
The play moved the Chiefs inside the red zone, but they wouldn’t march any further, as the drive soon stalled before kicker Matt Ammendola’s 34-yard field goal sailed wide left. Indianapolis then took over following the missed kick and began what turned out to be the game-winning drive.
Mahomes – who completed 20-of-35 passes for 262 yards and a touchdown – spoke about the offense’s performance following the game.
“We just didn’t play good enough – especially on the offensive side of the ball – and that starts with me,” Mahomes said. “We missed some kicks and things like that, but at the end of the day, we had multiple opportunities to score. We have to find ways to get in the end zone, and that starts with me…It [comes down to] little things, and when you’re playing a team like that, you have to execute at a high level. We have to learn from it.”
Dunlap provided a similar message during his post-game press conference, emphasizing the importance of learning from Sunday’s errors and moving on.
“Next week is a new week…We’ll fly back and review the tape, but that puts it to rest. I think we have the players and the young players who will bounce back. They take ownership and accountability for their mistakes, and they pride themselves in not letting those happen again,” Dunlap said. “What Coach Reid said after the game was phenomenal. Very few coaches take it on the chin like he did and address it on the spot. That was admirable.”
In some good news, Reid didn’t have any injuries to report following the game.
The Chiefs will now look to get back on track this Sunday night with a prime-time matchup against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium.