One Big Storyline
Two things can be true at the same time: The Colts were frustrated and disappointed with how they played in Week 2 against the Jacksonville Jaguars, and the Colts are confident and resolute in their belief that they have the right coaches, players and plan in place to be the team they want to be in 2022.
Put another way: The Colts are not shying away from the reality of being 0-1-1, with that loss and tie coming against AFC South opposition. But they're also not panicking and deviating from all the work they did, starting in April, to prepare for an 18-week regular season.
"Just because you had a bad performance or couple bad games, doesn't mean that everything you believe in — like, if you throw that all away, did you ever really believe in it in the first place?" linebacker Zaire Franklin told Colts.com. "It's one of those things, you keep trusting, you keep going."
So the Colts this week hit the practice field with a heightened sense of urgency to correct their mistakes from Weeks 1 and 2 and play their best football in Week 3: "The time is now," center Ryan Kelly said. "We have to do it right now."
And with the 2-0 Kansas City Chiefs – a team that's reached the AFC Championship every year Patrick Mahomes has been their starting quarterback – coming to Lucas Oil Stadium, there's not much margin for error on Sunday.
"Obviously when you have a talented group coming in like Kansas City, Mahomes and all those weapons they have around him, they speak for themselves," Franklin said. "For us, it's really just focusing on us, getting back to what we do."
The Colts believe the team they were in Week 2's 24-0 shutout loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars – which gained nine first downs and allowed 21 – was not the team they will be for the rest of 2022. On Sunday, this team knows it's about showing that to be the case, and not allowing one bad loss to turn into two.
"All the good team I've been on have got their (butts) kicked at some time throughout the year," quarterback Matt Ryan said. "It's how you respond. And the measure of who we're going to be was a team is how we respond to situations like last week. And I have confidence we will."
Who's In, Who's Out
The Colts' final practice report of the week, with game designations:
5 Things To Watch
- Can the Colts play keep-away with Patrick Mahomes? The Colts had the ball for just over 37 minutes in their last meeting with the Chiefs, a 19-13 win in Week 5 of the 2019 season. The Colts ran 74 plays to the Chiefs' 57 and held Kansas City to 4/12 on third down; the Colts' offense had four drives of 11 or more plays and only one three-and-out. The Chiefs are 2-7 since 2018 – the year Mahomes took over as starting QB – when having the ball for 24 minutes or fewer. Ball control can be an over-used talking point, but against a team that's consistently had one of the NFL's best offenses going on a half-decade, it might matter here. "When you have a special player like they have under center, we got to make sure that we do our job of just making sure that we limit him as much as possible," running back Jonathan Taylor said. "It's not just the defense, that's the offense as well because we know he's a special player."
- The challenge when Mahomes has the ball. We've all seen Mahomes make remarkable plays when he gets outside the pocket and creates on the move, whether he's flicking the ball 50 yards downfield or sidearming it five yards into a tight window. But Mahomes is also highly effective when he gets the ball out quick from the pocket – his average time to throw in 2022 is 2.52 seconds, sixth-lowest in the NFL. Mahomes has a 109.1 passer rating when throwing within 2.5 seconds. But the explosive, game-wrecking plays usually come on off-platform, outside-the-pocket plays – when he takes more than 3.5 seconds to throw, his passer rating is 114.6. So the Colts are emphasizing keeping him in the pocket, and then having secondary pass rushes to keep pressure on him when he does get away. "He can escape everywhere — outside, within the tackles, whatever it is, he slips away," defensive tackle DeForest Buckner said. "He's a very elusive guy who likes to extend plays. As a D-line, when you're rushing, you just have to be relentless in our rush and contain him as much as we can and get after him and affect his passes. He's Patrick Mahomes, but he's human."
- Run defense will matter in a specific way. Another sneakily-important thing the Colts did in beating the Chiefs three years ago was shut down Kansas City's ground game (14 carries, 36 yards). But with Mahomes' ability to create explosive plays, it's not just about stopping the run game – it's about stopping the run to limit the number of overall plays the Chiefs have. Kansas City is 7-11 since 2018 when having 20 or fewer rushing attempts; incredibly, they're 6-2 even when averaging fewer than three yards per attempt (with one of those two losses to the Colts). The good news: The Colts' run defense has been an emphatic strength through two games this season.
- The Chiefs' D-line vs. the Colts' O-line. The Chiefs' defensive line has been disruptive over the first two weeks of the season – they're sixth in pressure rate (38.8 percent) and fourth in total pressures (49). The Jaguars found success getting after Ryan with some D-line stunts, and in a copycat league, the Colts can expect to see more of that from Kansas City – including from interior menace Chris Jones, who has 43 sacks since the start of the 2018 season. "We see something that another team does, takes advantage of Kansas City's defensive line, they do the same," Kelly said. "Until you stop it and you show you've stopped it, and we've shown we've stopped it on film before, we just didn't do it on a couple of plays. It starts today."
- The passing offense with Michael Pittman Jr. and Alec Pierce. It wasn't just that the Colts were without Pittman (quad) and Pierce (concussion) last week, it was that they didn't know until Friday Pierce would be out and Saturday Pittman would be out. Both wideouts are slated to play on Sunday, and both are eager to do what they can to pull the Colts away from last week's shutout. "If was really tough to watch last week, so I can't wait," Pittman said.