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INDIANAPOLIS – A capsule look at the Colts' opponent this week, the Kansas City Chiefs of the AFC West.
Synopsis: Last season the Kansas City Chiefs and Indianapolis Colts finished the year with 20 wins and two division titles between the organizations. The 2011 season has started off differently than either team would have hoped, but with three quarters of the season still remaining neither side has relinquished its aspiration.
For Indianapolis, close finishes have kept fans on the edge of their seats, as the team has played in back-to-back prime-time matchups with the outcome being decided in the final minutes of the game.
"(We) just talk about our margins, which are so thin in terms of, 'We're about that far away,' and it's just one play," said Head Coach Jim Caldwell after the loss to the Buccaneers. "One play here, one play there. You analyze everything when games are so close. But, all in all, I think we just can't afford mistakes, and I think we had a few too many in this one."
The Chiefs enter Sunday fresh off their first victory of the season against the Minnesota Vikings and with 12 games to go, Kansas City understands its season is still very much alive.
"We're an evolving team. We're trying to move into a good team and early on, those first couple of games we really did a number of things to hurt ourselves," said Chiefs Head Coach Todd Haley. "These last couple of games we've shown that we have some guys that know how to persevere through difficult times. They've pulled tighter and they're not going to crack. They're going to keep fighting and trusting their teammates and believing in their teammates."
Similar to the Colts, injuries have played a role in the direction of the 2011 season for the Chiefs. Following an outstanding performance in 2010, Kansas City was expecting major contributions from Jamaal Charles on the offensive side of the ball. Charles helped pace the NFL's top rushing attack (164.2 per game) and the seventh overall offense (349.7 per game). However, a knee injury forced the Chiefs to place Charles on injured reserve, ending his season.
The loss of Charles was a blow for this offense, but wide receiver Dwayne Bowe has performed well coming off a season that saw him set career bests for yards (1,162) and touchdowns (15).
As Matt Cassel's top weapon, Bowe has recorded 16 receptions for 292 yards and two touchdowns this season. Against the Vikings he had 107 yards and one touchdown on five receptions. The performance let him surpass the 4,000-yard receiving mark for his career.
On the defensive side of the ball, Kansas City has been paced by one of the premier pass rushers off the edge in Tamba Hali. Hali has recorded four sacks, and he is a crucial piece to the Chiefs defensive scheme.
"Tamba is a great pass rusher, one of the best pass rushers in the league," said Chiefs linebacker Derrick Johnson. "They always know where Tamba Hali is at (all) times, so you've got to move him around a little bit. Tamba did a great job of fighting. Usually he's going to have two guys on him. He just fought his tail off today and he got himself a couple of sacks."
As was the case against a re-vamped Buccaneers defensive line, the Colts once again will be tasked with attacking an aggressive defense come Sunday. Although the Colts were unable to leave Tampa with a victory, the team saw improvements across the board offensively.
Curtis Painter threw for 281 yards and two touchdowns, both season-highs for the team, and the offense accumulated the most net yards of the season (318). Wide receiver Pierre Garcon also set a career-high and Colts' season-high with 146 reception yards.
The Colts will have a shortened week to prepare for the Chiefs, but the Colts will not allow that be an excuse.
"It's a situation where we have to be able to get it done, and we don't necessarily lament about the difficulty of the situation in trying to get ready in such a short period of time," Caldwell. "It makes it a challenge, just like pretty much every week in this league. It's always a challenge, whether you're dealing with your time constraints or your dealing with making adjustments to injuries. We kind of looked ahead a few weeks ago, trying to get ourselves in a position where we'll be ready for this really short week, because this can be really tough on you."
*2011 Record: *1-3, Tied-3rd in AFC West.
*Head Coach: *Todd Haley, third season as Chiefs and NFL Head Coach (15-21).
*Last game: *Led by an efficient attack through the air, Kansas City defeated the Minnesota Vikings at Arrowhead Stadium for the team's first victory of the season. Matt Cassel threw for 260 yards and a touchdown with a 102.7 passer rating against the Vikings. Cassel connected with Dwayne Bowe and Steve Breaston for a combined 198 yards and one touchdown, as the duo was targeted a total of 14 times. Tamba Hali tallied two sacks for the defense, bringing his total to four on the season.
*2011 NFL Rankings: *Offense – Overall, 29th (270.5); Rushing, 14th (110.8); Passing, 30th (159.8); Defense – Overall, T-21st (372.8); Rushing, 26th (130.0); Passing, 17th (242.8).
*2011 Leading Passer: *Matt Cassel (72-111 comp., 688 yards, 64.9 pct., 4 TDs, 5 INT, 75.2 rating).
*2011 Leading Rusher: *Dexter McCluster (28 carries, 164 yards, 0 TDs).
*2011 Leading Receiver: *Dwayne Bowe (16 receptions, 292 yards, 2 TDs).
2011 Leading Sacker: Tamba Hali (4.0).
2011 Turnover Breakdown: -5 (Tied 28th).
First-round draft choice: Jonathan Baldwin, wide receiver. With the 26th overall selection in the 2011 NFL draft, the Kansas City Chiefs selected Jonathan Baldwin out of the University of Pittsburgh.
Baldwin was an All-Big East first-team selection, and named was named to watch lists for the Maxwell and Biletnikoff awards. He started 27 of 38 games at Pittsburgh and had 127 receptions for 2,325 yards and 16 touchdowns.
*2010 Review: *Last season the Chiefs were crowned champions of the AFC West after posting a 10-6 record in Todd Haley's second season as head coach. The 10 wins matched the total number of wins in the previous three seasons combined, and the Chiefs were able to improve from 4-12 in 2009 to 10-6 in 2010.
Led by Pro Bowl seasons from Jamaal Charles, Matt Cassel, Dwayne Bowe and Eric Berry, the Chiefs established themselves as serious contenders in the AFC. However, the team was defeated at home by the Baltimore Ravens in the first round.
With help from Cassel, Bowe finished the season with an astonishing 15 touchdowns, 11 more than the year before, to lead the NFL in receiving touchdowns.
Defensively the Chiefs ranked as the 14th overall defense (330.2 yards per game).
Last time in Playoffs: L, 7-30 vs. Baltimore Ravens (2010).
*Last time in Super Bowl: *1969.
*Super Bowl Championships: *One (1969).
*2010 Pro Bowl Selections: *Matt Cassel QB, Jamaal Charles RB, Dwayne Bowe WR, Brian Waters OG, Eric Berry S.
Quotable I: On the upcoming matchup against the Indianapolis Colts:
"(The Colts) are a team that is built for their stadium in my opinion. They start around the front four on the defensive line, specifically a couple guys in (Robert) Mathis and (Dwight) Freeney that are as good as you'll see ever, in some cases. They have some good young linebackers that look like they are going to be real good players, a secondary that understands how they play defense, really an entire defense that plays that way.
--- Chiefs Head Coach Todd Haley
Quotable II: On the remainder of the season:
"This is a four-game season right now, the second quarter of the season, and we've got to do things a lot differently in the start of this quarter than we did in the start of the first. I think that's one of the most important things that has come out of this is our guys understand that. They learned the hard way, but they seem to be understanding what our team needs to do to win, and that's a real important aspect and item for our guys to understand."
--- Chiefs Head Coach Todd Haley