2014 NFL Playoffs: Kansas City Chiefs Must Neutralize Indianapolis Colts’ Speed On Offense
The Indianapolis Colts‘ offense is fast. They were fast when they defeated the Kansas City Chiefs 23-7 in Week 16, and all odds point to the Colts still being fast when the two meet today at Lucas Oil Stadium. A Chiefs’ secondary that has been very susceptible to allowing the big play during the latter half of the season will be tasked with covering two wide receivers who run sub-4.35 40-yard dashes in T.Y. Hilton and Darrius Heyward-Bey.
With Trent Richardson (4.45) possessing deceiving speed at the running back position and Andrew Luck (4.6) quietly becoming one of the better running quarterbacks in the league, the Colts have the potential to put up huge numbers facing defenses that can’t match their raw speed on offense.
Fortunately for Kansas City, their defensive unit is among the league’s speediest as well. But when Indianapolis marched into Arrowhead Stadium two weeks ago and dominated the Chiefs on both sides of the ball, it was glaringly obvious that Kansas City was unable to utilize that speed to limit the Colts’ pass attack.
Wideouts Hilton and Griff Whalen were routinely able to find space and Luck had one of his most impressive performances of the season, completing 70.3 percent of his passes for 241 yards and a touchdown. Luck’s numbers had the potential to be much better, but he was limited by the Colts entering game-management mode halfway through the third quarter.
Speedsters in the Kansas City secondary such as Eric Berry and Marcus Cooper will have to harness their speed to better challenge the Indianapolis pass attack this time out. Cooper has been the obvious weak-link in the Chiefs’ secondary this season, and Colts offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton certainly knows this. Dunta Robinson has begun to see more time as Kansas City’s second cornerback in recent weeks, but when Cooper sees the field, expect Hamilton to attempt to take advantage of the matchup. Cooper has the speed and other tools necessary to be a successful NFL cornerback it’s just a question of whether he’ll be able to put it all together.
Additionally, Kansas City will also need to do a better job defending screen passes and check-downs to Colts’ running backs this time around. In Week 16, Donald Brown tore up the Chiefs’ defense to the tune of 110 total yards on just 12 touches, by far his best outing of the season. Brown scored twice with both scores coming on long, improvised plays showcasing absolutely horrendous tackling from the league’s top defense.
If Kansas City can neutralize the speed and big play potential of Indianapolis, the Chiefs should be able to stay in the game. When the Chiefs stay in the game, Alex Smith isn’t forced to play out of his element and Kansas City can rely on Jamaal Charles to do what he’s done all season. Both teams boast impressive wheels, but which team better utilizes theirs will likely determine who’s sitting at home and who’s on the field come divisional playoff time.