Colts defense faces big challenge against Chiefs
Robert Mathis described Jamaal Charles in many ways.
Explosive. Problem. Mismatch. Someone to track on every
He’s seen it most of this week when dissecting all the scary
film of the Chiefs, and the Colts linebacker and NFL sacks leader
must come up with a way to stop the AFC’s top runner.
”He can make you pay running the ball, passing the ball,
whatever the case may be. He can make you pay,” Mathis said.
Contending with Charles is only part of the problem Indianapolis
(9-5) faces Sunday in what could be a playoff preview.
The AFC South champs are the No. 4 seed going into Sunday’s
The Chiefs, still in contention for the AFC West crown, would be
the No. 5 seed. If the standings are unchanged when the season
ends, Kansas City will visit Indy for wild-card weekend.
With Charles in charge, the Chiefs (11-3) have been rolling.
They’ve scored 101 points over the past two weeks against
Washington and Oakland, defenses ranked 20th and 18th. The Colts
are No. 19.
And after an inconsistent stretch in which the Colts went 3-3
and were outscored 114-24 in the first halves of those six games,
they finally appeared to get back on track with Sunday’s 25-3 win
over reeling Houston, the front-runner for the No. 1 draft
Now, people are waiting to see if the Colts can do it all over
again against a playoff-bound foe with one of the league’s premiere
”He’s everything. He drives the bus. Quarterback is the guy,
but everything goes through him. As he goes, they go,” coach Chuck
Pagano said of Charles. ”The guy is first and foremost public
enemy No. 1.”
Injuries could make the challenge even more imposing.
Starting linebacker Pat Angerer went on season-ending injured
reserve Tuesday. Angerer was third on the team with 87 tackles
despite playing most of this season with a troublesome knee.
Kavell Conner, who was inactive for three consecutive games
before Sunday, is expected to replace Angerer.
Two other starters, defensive tackle Ricky Jean Francois (foot)
and cornerback Greg Toler (groin), have not returned from their
Indy’s makeshift offensive line is a mess, too. Starting center
Samson Satele (elbow) and starting right guard Jeff Linkenbach
(quad) did not practice Wednesday. Joe Reitz, who replaced the
injured Linkenbach against the Texans, also didn’t practice because
he was diagnosed with a concussion.
That’s certainly not the ideal way to go into this game.
”I remember last year them having a great defense. They have a
lot more wins this year,” Luck said, recalling Indy’s 20-13 road
win over the two-win Chiefs. ”They do a great job of creating
tough plays for offenses (with) their defense.”
In the past six quarters, Luck appears to have finally found a
connection with his young receivers and it’s resulted in six
touchdown passes and just one interception over the past six
This week, it’s the defense that has the bigger test.
Charles is coming off an historic five-touchdown game, averages
an impressive 4.8 yards, leads the AFC with 1,181 yards rushing and
leads the league in total TDs (18).
Alex Smith is fourth in the AFC in passer rating (91.0) and
after losing three straight, the Chiefs have rebounded with
back-to-back wins by a combined margin of 60 points.
”They run the ball very well. They do the little things right.
That’s a tribute to their head coach,” Mathis said. ”They make
you pay if you’re not bringing your A game.”
All of which begs the question about which is tougher: Stopping
Charles & Co. or proving they can finish the season with enough
momentum to make a deep playoff run?
”I think it goes hand-in-hand,” linebacker Jerrell Freeman
said. ”He (Charles) is definitely a Swiss army knife. He does it
all, and he’s definitely tough to stop, so it will be a great
challenge for us.”
Notes: Mathis said he did receive a text message from longtime
teammate and close friend Dwight Freeney after breaking Freeney’s
single-season and career franchise records for sacks. When asked
whether it was a congratulatory text, Mathis smiled and said: ”He
sent me a text.” … The Colts signed linebacker Darin Drakeford
to the practice squad Wednesday. He has spent time on the practice
squads of the Chiefs and Giants this season.
Online: AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org