I’m not going to lie; I turned off the Colts- Chiefs game right after Andrew Luck threw an interception with about a minute left in the second quarter. The score at that point was 31-10 Chiefs.
Even without Jamal Charles, Kansas City’s offense was tearing the Colts apart. The Chiefs converted on all but two third downs in the first half, while owning the time of possession. Their defense was getting to Andrew Luck, forcing him to make bad decisions. At one point, the Chiefs held a 28-point lead. But then, everything changed.
Midway through the third quarter, the Colts began to play with a sense of urgency. They began to run the “high-risk, high reward” no huddle offense and Andrew Luck and T.Y. Hilton began to dominate the Chiefs defense. They kept hitting them with 10 to 15 yard passes, forcing the Chief’s to keep their tired personnel in the game. The Colts offensive line was opening up the pocket, allowing Andrew Luck to move around and buy time to find his receivers.
Indianapolis was very efficient during these drives. In three of their five scoring drives of the second half, they went for over eighty yards in under two minutes.
The defense played great too. They held the Chiefs to just two field goals in six drives after the Colts began the comeback. They stuffed the run and forced the Chief receivers to get no yards after the catch and first downs. And of course, turnovers played a role, specifically when Robert Mathis made the play of the game to force a fumble on Alex Smith to set up a touchdown.
The second half of the game showed the Colts true potential. They can score quickly and in bunches, can hold their own defensively, and take advantage of match-ups. The Patriots need to make sure they learn from the Chiefs loss in order to stop this Colts team.
So what do the Patriot’s need to do to win?
1. Don’t give up big plays:
The Patriots are very good at this this season. Even though they have given up the 26 most yards in the league, they have only given up the 10 most points. This is because they create a lot of turnovers and don’t allow the other team to get big yard plays. If New England can take away the big plays and force Indianapolis to run a lot of plays, it will force the Colts offense to slow down and take away the part of their game that makes them so dangerous—speed.
2. Slow the Game down
The Patriots do not lose many shootouts, but neither do the Colts—and if this game came down to a shootout, it would be anyone’s game. However, if the Patriots slow the ball down, have long drives and don’t turn the ball over, it will tire the Colts. If the Patriots defense also slows down the game by not giving up big plays and forcing the Colts into third down conversions, it will help contain their offense as well. Remember, Andrew Luck is a fantastic quarterback who can make big plays, but at the same time, he completed just 60 percent of his passes this year. If the Patriots force him to make a lot of throws, it will be in their favor, as he is bound to make some mistakes.
3. Get off to a quick start and maintain pressure late in the game
This one is extremely important. In all but one of the Colts losses, their opponents got out to early leads which forced Andrew Luck to make (thus miss) a lot of throws. Sometimes, Andrew Luck will make comebacks, but the Colts are a very disciplined team and do not lose games where they are leading in the second half. Therefore, in order to have any chance, the Patriots must get a lead early in the game.
It is just as important that New England continues to keep pressure on the Colts the entire game. This is the mistake Kansas City made. They began to get conservative by just going for a lot of screens, short passes and running the ball. They were more concerned about killing the clock then scoring points. The Colts can score a lot and can score quickly, which is why they came back from a 28-point deficit. Therefore, if the Patriot’s get a big lead by running a fast paced offense, they should continue to do that. Even if they are leading by two touchdowns going into the fourth quarter, their goal should be to score points—don’t worry about the clock, because as the Colts showed in the game against Kansas City, they can manufacture eighty yard drives in under two minutes.