They have played 68 regular-season games since Patrick Mahomes took over as a full-time quarterback for the Kansas City Chiefs in 2018.
They have only scored less than 20 points six times. The sixth came Sunday when the Colts’ defense limited Mahomes and the Chiefs offense to two touchdowns and a field goal in a 20-17 win.
The Colts held the four-time Pro Bowl quarterback and perennial Kansas City Chiefs MVP candidate on 20 completions on 35 attempts (57.1 percent) for 262 yards with one touchdown, one interception and a 78.5 passer rating. Both Mahomes’ completion percentage and passer rating were each the 10th-lowest of his career.
“Knowing the type of team, knowing what type of opponent you’re up against,” said linebacker Zaire Franklin, “just felt good to put on a great performance against a great offense.”
The Colts’ defense did a number of things exceptionally well against Mahomes and the Chiefs offense on Sunday. First, they choked Kansas City’s ground play and limited the Chiefs to 2.5 yards per carry on 23 attempts. And if you dug deeper, the Chiefs’ backs — Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Jerrick McKinnon, Isiah Pacheco and Michael Burton — gained just 32 yards on 18 carries (1.8 yards/try). Six of the Chiefs’ 17 true running plays resulted in a tackle for a loss or a tackle for no gain by the Colts, with Franklin having three TFL/no wins.
But the Colts already knew they could stop the run. And the Chiefs went into Week 3 with a 6-2 record averaging 2.5 yards per rush (they’re now 6-3).
What the Colts’ defense against the Chiefs showed was how well they as a whole can defend the pass.
Mahomes was able to get the ball out quickly — in under 2.5 seconds — on just half of his 46 dropbacks and completed 16 of those 23 throws for 149 yards per Pro Football Focus. Mahomes started Week 3 with the sixth-lowest throwing average in the NFL of 2.52 seconds and his passer rating for that was 109.1; On Sunday, his passer rating on those quick throws was 83.4.
With all of Kansas City’s movement and pre-snap window dressing, it was important to limit Mahomes’ efficiency on those quick throws — especially for a defense that’s only in its third game in a new system under defensive coordinator Gus Bradley.
“It was a great game plan. Gus did a great job,” said linebacker Bobby Okereke. “There were a lot of controls. A lot of mental gymnastics for us on the field to get everything right and be in the right places. But we had great communication – elite communication.”
But when Mahomes tried to lengthen plays and create off-schedule, the Colts’ defense shut down. When Mahomes took over 3.5 seconds to throw, he completed just three of 11 passes at 16 dropbacks per PFF; He took a sack and climbed four times with a passer rating of 57.8.
The combination of getting Mahomes to hitchhike and not tear up those quick throws, and then keeping the pressure on him — and providing cover in bottom field — meant the Colts largely prevented that type of blast. for which the Chiefs quarterback has become known throughout his career.
“He’s a special player,” said defender Yannick Ngakoue, who notched a sack on Sunday. “At the end of the day, you just have to keep rushing and pushing with these kinds of quarterbacks. These guys don’t stop and they can make big games out of small things. The biggest key for us today was to keep rushing the passerby no matter what else was going on.”
The Colts pressured Mahomes on 16 of his 46 drop backs, and he completed just three of 12 passes for 65 yards in those games. And that was the result of a relentless pass rush and superb downfield coverage – total team defense.
“That was a great defensive performance,” said head coach Frank Reich. “I mean, a really big effort. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone bring down Mahomes that well, even if it was maybe just a sack, but we had him on the run. We had him in the well. “He didn’t escape and made a couple of big plays. Real credit for our D-line and our defense and what we did there. I thought we played cover extremely well. I thought Gus and the defense staff had a great game plan.” “