INDIANAPOLIS –The Colts' last two road performances were two of the most difficult days for the defense and after four minutes on Sunday, it appeared to be a tough day at Arrowhead.
After yielding 840 yards and 82 points in losses at Arizona and Cincinnati, the Chiefs zipped 59 yards in four plays to take a 7-0 lead when Jamaal Charles scored on a 33-yard run four minutes into the game.
That was it, however, as the Colts' defense dominated the rest of the way by pitching shutout ball and forcing four turnovers in a lopsided 23-7 victory over 11-3 Kansas City.
The victory kept Indianapolis in the AFC's fourth playoff seed. The Colts can move to third with a victory next week over Jacksonville plus a loss by either New England or Cincinnati.
Indianapolis move to a second seed and a bye week into the Divisional Round by winning next Sunday and if both New England (vs. Buffalo) and Cincinnati (vs. Baltimore) lose.
"Back-to-back weeks, and I love the momentum we're gaining not only on the defensive side, it was a great team win," said Chuck Pagano on Colts Radio.
Indianapolis played solidly last week in a 25-3 home win over Houston to get a ninth win, and Sunday the Colts produced their second double-digit victory season in a row under Pagano (11-5 in 2012).
In earning a 48-10 scoring margin in the last two games, Indianapolis has kept consecutive opponents in single digits for the last two weeks.
Indianapolis did so in weeks three and four this year by holding San Francisco (seven) and Jacksonville (three) in single digits, and the last time the Colts pulled that back-to-back trick twice in a year was in 2005.
"The defense played really well," said Pagano. "We had some great performances, Jerrell Freeman with two picks and a forced fumble. Great job by them only giving up seven points. To come on the road against a really good football team, I'm really proud of our coaches and players."
After Kansas City gained 54 yards on the scoring drive, Indianapolis permitted 233 net yards over the next 11 possessions.
Facing a Chiefs team that had just rolled to 45 first-half points in consecutive games, the Colts forced three-and-outs on three of the next four possessions.
The lone possession that produced a first down ended with Robert Mathis forcing a fumble, and the takeaway led to a touchdown for a 10-7 lead Indianapolis did not relinquish.
The Colts produced 14 points off takeaways, with Jerrell Freeman having two interceptions and a forced fumble.
"It (forcing turnover) was a big thing," said Freeman to Colts Radio. "At the start of the year, we were able to get a lot of turnovers, get a lot of big wins.
"We're trying to redo that here at the end of the season. We've been able to keep the turnover game up and have some fun out there."
Indianapolis had multiple takeaways in five of the first seven games and now has six in the last two weeks. Rebounding from a minus-12 ratio last year, Indianapolis is plus-11 after 15 weeks, and has scored 70 points as a result of opponent miscues.
"You're going to win a ton of games if you can do that," said Pagano. "Kansas City is different from a year ago. Credit our guys. They focused in on it and got some takeaways. The offense did a great job of protecting the football."
Ahead 13-7 at the half, Freeman had his first interception at the Colts' 43 after Mathis batted Alex Smith's arm.
The Colts used the takeaway to grab a 20-7 lead when Donald Brown burst 51 yards for a touchdown two plays later.
With Indianapolis holding a 23-7 lead with 10 minutes left, Freeman intercepted Smith at the Colts' goal-line to effectually end the contest.
"I had tight coverage on (Anthony Fasano)," said Freeman. "He ran an out-and-up, and I really didn't bite on it. I came back, flipped my head around once I got position and the ball was there. He tried to lob it over me, and I picked it off."
The Colts milked almost five minutes off the clock on the ensuing drive and drained the final 3:20 off the clock when Freeman had a sack-strip of Smith at the Indianapolis 36.
"We're dialing up a lot of things (and) getting (opponents) into predictable situations," said Freeman. "(You) pin your ears back and let the guys up front hunt. We're definitely having a great time like that."
Freeman earned a game ball on a day where the Indianapolis sang from the same defensive hymnal in the season's fourth-largest victory margin and in a fourth triumph that has come over an opponent (Denver, San Francisco, Seattle) that has at least 10 wins.
"It felt pretty good," said Freeman of the game ball. "I haven't had one of those. It's gratifying with all the hard work on the field.
"It's not just me. There are a lot of selfless things going on out there. We're doing it together."
COLTS NOTES – The Colts have earned a 13th season in Indianapolis with a double-digit victory total…Chuck Pagano has joined Don McCafferty (1970-71), Ted Marchibroda (1975-76), Tony Dungy (2002-03) and Jim Caldwell (2009-10) as the only Colts coaches to start a career with consecutive 10-plus victory seasons and playoff berths…the Colts are 6-1 this year with 30-plus minutes of possession time and held the ball for more than nine minutes in each quarter at KC…the Colts played their sixth turnover-free game of the season, tying the 2008 total for the most by the franchise in the past 16 seasons…Freeman (two interceptions, one strip-sack) and Donald Brown (10 rushes for 79 yards, 1 TD rushing; 33-yard TD reception) got game balls…Brown's 51-yard TD run was the club's first exceeding 50 yards since his 80-yard burst vs. Tennessee in 2011…it was the first time since 2009 (Joseph Addai) a Colt had a rushing and receiving TD in the same game…Adam Vinatieri has scored in 160 straight games, 113 as a Colt and with 32 FGs has his third 30-plus career FG season (31, 1998 and 2004, with NE)…with the win Indianapolis has guaranteed a second straight season without losing consecutive games, and the only previous times in franchise history doing that feat was in 1967-68 under Don Shula and 1970-71 under Don McCafferty…the only injury of note was to Cory Redding (shoulder).