Five Things Learned: Colts-Chiefs (2019, Week 5)

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INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis Colts improved to 3-2 on the season Sunday night with their 19-13 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs in their 2019 Week 5 matchup at Arrowhead Stadium.

With three defensive starters ruled out against reigning NFL Most Valuable Player Patrick Mahomes and the high-powered Chiefs offense, the Colts weren’t given much of a chance at all by numerous league pundits heading into the primetime matchup on Sunday Night Football.

Yet Indianapolis proved them all wrong by grinding it out on both sides of the ball, as the Colts’ offense ran it time and time again, collecting 180 yards on the ground and eating up the clock, while their defense was relentless in its pursuit of Mahomes. Adam Vinatieri also added five made kicks — four field goals and an extra point — and the Colts are one happy bunch heading into their bye week.

“Wow, what a great win,” head coach Frank Reich said. “Just a great, great team win. Our best game of the year. I couldn’t be more happy for our team.”

Here are the FIVE THINGS LEARNED from Sunday’s victory over the Chiefs:

» DEFENSIVE DANDY: The Chiefs came into Sunday night’s game having scored at least 26 points in 22 straight regular season games, an NFL record. Mahomes, through four games, was off to another torrid pace to follow up his MVP performance from a season ago. Even last week, when the Kansas City offense seemed “off” at times against the Detroit Lions, Mahomes & Co. willed themselves to 34 points and a big road victory. The Colts’ defense, meanwhile, came into Sunday night’s game with three key starters — linebacker Darius Leonard (concussion) and safeties Clayton Geathers (concussion) and Malik Hooker (knee) — already ruled out with injuries, while another safety, Rolan Milligan, would be inactive with a knee injury, and starting linebacker Anthony Walker and cornerback Rock Ya-Sin  were each questionable heading in. Certainly not the ideal situation when you’re facing the Chiefs’ offense — but the Colts just figured out a way to get it done. Even as starting corners Pierre Desir and Kenny Moore II fought through (and eventually returned from) early injuries Sunday night, Indy’s defense just kept coming at Mahomes, sacking him four times and stifling Kansas City’s run game to not only snap the Chiefs’ 26-point scoring streak, but to hand them their first loss of the season. “You talk about everybody flying around, everybody on the same page, and guys just making plays,” Walker said. “That’s huge. You’ve gotta have this in this league, man — anybody who’s out there has an opportunity, and we’ve gotta get them out there. And I think it’s that team effort that we talk about.

» RUN THE DAMN BALL: The Colts had a terrific plan defensively Sunday night, but knew they could help that defensive effort by keeping Mahomes and the Chiefs’ offense on the sideline as much as possible. By running the ball 45 times for 180 yards. Indy did just that, and by game’s end, the Colts had dominated the time of possession, 37:15 to 22:45, in the kind of grind-it-out approach Reich has talked about since the start of the offseason workout program, when he said he wanted a top-five rushing attack in the NFL. Through five games, the Colts are right there — they rank fifth in the league in rushing, and Sunday night’s game showed why. Led by the big fellas up front, who opened lanes for Marlon Mack to run 29 times for 132 yards, Indianapolis has found its identity. “We felt like we were doing well running the football,” Reich said. “We got a lot of confidence in those guys. It helps that you are playing a little keep away. That was not the mentality. The mentality was we are going to do whatever it takes, but it sure helps when you can run the ball like that.”

» HOUSTON’S REVENGE: Justin Houston developed into one of the league’s best pass rushers in his first eight seasons in Kansas City, collecting 78.5 career sacks from 2011 through 2018. But in March, the Chiefs decided to cut ties with Houston, handing him his outright release. The Colts immediately pounced on the opportunity to add that kind of edge presence and leader to their defense, and within a couple weeks had reached a reported two-year deal with Houston to be their new starting defensive end. Houston, a man of relatively few words when speaking to reporters, didn’t let on that he was feeling any sort of added excitement going against his former team this past week, but deep down he couldn’t wait to return to Arrowhead Stadium and show the Chiefs that they had made a mistake in letting him go. First, he registered his second sack of the season, bringing Mahomes down for a loss of eight yards early in the second quarter. But his biggest play of the game really put a dagger in the heart of his former team, which faced a critical 4th and 1 from its own 34-yard line, down 16-10 with about five minutes left. Houston came roaring off the edge to bring down running back Damien Williams for a loss of one, forcing the turnover on downs that would lead to Vinatieri’s final field goal of the night to make it 19-10 and officially putting the game out of reach. “I’d be lying to say there wasn’t (added motivation),” Houston said after the game. “It’s like your old girlfriend. If you get a new girlfriend, you want to show her off. To come here and get a win, it means a lot to me – and to the team as well.”

» GOOD TIMING: The win against the Chiefs represents a huge shot in the arm for a Colts team that is now hoping to take full advantage of its bye week. Several players who have been battling injuries — whether they’ve been able to play through them or not — now have several crucial days off to rest up and get ready for the final 11 games of the regular season, starting in Week 7 with a crucial AFC South showdown against the Houston Texans at Lucas Oil Stadium. Among those that have been battling injuries for Indy: wide receiver Parris Campbell (abdominal), safety Clayton Geathers (concussion), wide receiver T.Y. Hilton (quad), safety Malik Hooker (knee), defensive tackle/end Tyquan Lewis (ankle), running back Marlon Mack (ankle), linebacker Darius Leonard (concussion), cornerback Rock Ya-Sin (hip), safety Rolan Milligan (knee) and linebacker Anthony Walker (shoulder), while cornerbacks Pierre Desir (unknown), Kenny Moore II (knee) and Shakial Taylor (chest) and linebacker Zaire Franklin (hamstring) and defensive end Kemoko Turay (ankle) each suffered injuries Sunday night. Also don’t forget that No. 2 wide receiver Devin Funchess (clavicle) will be one week closer to a potential return off injured reserve.

» NOTES OF INTEREST:

— The Colts held the Chiefs offense to 36 rushing yards. It was the lowest rushing total for an opponent since Dec. 18, 2016 at Minnesota (34). Dating back to the 2017 season, the Indianapolis defense has not allowed a 100-yard rusher in 23 consecutive games, which is the second-best active streak in the NFL.

— Kicker Adam Vinatieri converted 4-of-4 field goals and added one extra point for 13 points against the Chiefs. Vinatieri passed Rohn Stark and Jeff Saturday (197) and tied Eugene Daniel (198) for the fourth-most games played in Colts history. Vinatieri now has 701 career field goal attempts. He became the second player in NFL history to reach the plateau, joining Morten Andersen (709).

— See more stats and notes from Sunday’s game by clicking here.

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