For three quarters the Indianapolis Colts looked more like a team competing for a top-five draft pick than a playoff contender.
A second look at the tape reveals exactly how they pulled yet another rabbit of their proverbial hat.
The Real Story
The Colts were dominant for three quarters of this game, but a disastrous third quarter almost cost them the victory.
Defensively, it was arguably the worst performance of the year from Indy. Against a high-powered offense, one can understand big plays and long drives.
The Chiefs do not have a high-powered offense.
If not for three turnovers, a missed field goal and an insane quarterback sneak, the Colts would likely have given up over 20 points to an offense averaging 13.
The sloppy defensive play likely wouldn't have mattered had the offense been clicking. Instead, Indy receivers continued their inability to get open.
Andrew Luck had more time to throw against Kansas City than he has in recent weeks, but no one could get free in the secondary for the Colts.
Luck had bouts of inaccuracy, and when he did find the range, the receivers did him no favors with at least four drops.
The Colts' record leads fans to expect good performances, but week in and week out they do just enough to slide past the worst teams in the league. The Colts have played half their schedule against the eight worst teams in football.
They've now gone 7-1 in those games, proving that the mark of a playoff team is winning the games you are supposed to win.
Reggie Wayne was quiet most of the afternoon and had two key drops. When it came time to win the game, however, he showed up large. Wayne snagged three passes on the final drive including the game-winning touchdown.
Vontae Davis had an interception, but he should have had two. He was flagged for a phantom pass interference penalty, marring what was otherwise a solid day. He has had a miserable season, but played well against the Chiefs.
Darius Butler didn't make a difficult play to snare his pick six, but deserves credit for awareness. Brady Quinn's throw was so far off target that his receiver never saw it coming.
Donnie Avery was targeted 10 times for just 38 yards. It was yet another abysmal performance for one of the worst wideouts in the game.
How bad has Avery been? When targeting Avery this season, Luck's YPA is 6.3. When targeting anyone else on the team, his YPA is 7.2. Avery continues to absolutely kill the Indy offense with dropped passes and an inability shake free of coverage.
Cassius Vaughn continued to be abused in coverage.
Both Jerrell Freeman and Pat Angerer had brutal days against the Kansas City backs. To his credit, Angerer did have a big forced fumble.
Perhaps it's too high profile to be a secret, but the Chiefs' sneak on 4th-and-inches in the fourth quarter still boggles the mind.
With two different backs already over 100 yards rushing each, why they tried to sneak with Brady Quinn is beyond explanation.
Hillis had plastered Indy linebackers all game long, so giving him the ball was an obvious choice.
Kudos to the Indy defense for stepping up and making a key stop.
Bruce Arians had a clean afternoon in terms of strategy.
His decision to run three times at the end of the game was sound. Normally, that kind of conservative coaching merits derision, but in this instance it was the right call.
Even had Vick Ballard not managed to pick up the first down, given all the factors (field position, a seven-point lead and Quinn), the smart play was to force the Chiefs to go win the game.
Given that most of their yards came on the ground and that option was off the table, there's no problem with three runs and a punt there.
Against a better quarterback, it's absolutely the wrong strategy, but this week it made sense.
Keep An Eye On...
What will the Colts do in Week 17?
With nothing to play for, will the Colts take advantage of a defacto bye week and prepare for a likely first-round meeting with the Baltimore Ravens?
Given that Chuck Pagano is returning to the sidelines, look for the Colts to play all out to win. They aren't going to make a deep playoff run, so they should try and maximize the happy moments while they can.
It's been a special season, and finishing the home slate with a victory would be a lovely touch.
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