KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Dozens of players and coaches for the Kansas City Chiefs and the Indianapolis Colts recall the last time the two teams met at Lucas Oil Stadium with vastly different impressions, but the memories hurt a bit more for the members of the Chiefs’ defense, who saw a 28-point lead evaporate in 45-44 playoff loss ending their 2013 season.
“We didn’t finish, we didn’t finish well,” defensive end Jaye Howard recalled about the game this week. “We allowed them to hang around.”
The Chiefs bring a 4-2 record into Indianapolis against the Colts, 3-4, and while players on both sides say the teams are different than they were three years ago, much remains the same. The Colts rely on a high-powered passing attack led by quarterback Andrew Luck and wide receiver T.Y. Hilton, while the Chiefs deploy a bend-but-don’t break defense focused on turning over the ball.
That 2013 win marked a watershed moment for Luck and Hilton. In addition to picking up their first career playoff wins, the pair set personal bests that still stand today. Luck tossed for a career-high 443 yards, while Hilton collected 13 catches for 224 yards.
Both players were concluding their second seasons in the league after join the Colts as members of the 2012 NFL draft class. Luck went No. 1 overall, Hilton No. 92 in the third round.
“He’s dynamic,” Luck said about this top passing target. “He’s a playmaker. He understands football very, very, very well. He’s an incredibly smart player. He makes big plays.”
The Chiefs counter the Luck-Hilton combo with a defensive secondary led by Marcus Peters. Peters leads the NFL with five interceptions on the season.
But last week proved a quiet week for the ballhawking cornerback. New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees appeared to take great pains the throw the ball in every direction of the field except towards Peters a week ago.
Chiefs coach Andy Reid called that a sign of respect for the second-year defender.
“I remember with Deion Sanders, that’s kind of how those things rolled,” Reid said. “You kind of stayed away from him and went over to the other side. So, I’ve seen that before.”
What Peters must protect against next is letting his guard down.
The Chiefs picked off New York Jets quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick six times in week three of the season, including two by Peters. A week later, Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger targeted Peters for a big gain on his first offensive play, setting the tone for a huge Steelers win.
“The main thing is that you keep working, and working, and working and working at your game, and he’s willing to do that, “Reid said. “Then, the other guys have to know that they’re going to get some action, and that’s okay. We’ve got good players there.”
The Chiefs anticipate having cornerback Phillip Gaines back on the opposite side from Peters this week. Gaines left the team’s week six game against Oakland after tweaking his surgically repaired knee, and sat out last week’s game against the Saints. He watched from the sidelines as Brees tossed for 359 yards against the Chiefs’ defense.
Defensive coordinator Bob Sutton said the injury setbacks as Gaines returns from last year’s ACL injury have been frustrating for the third-year cornerback.
“We’re hopeful we can get him, and I know he is, to get back and be able to stack some games back-to-back here,” Sutton said.
The Chiefs take the field Sunday without All-Pro running back Jamaal Charles. The veteran remains limited while working his way back from ACL surgery last October. He experienced inflammation in his knee last week after practice, which held him to just two snaps against the Saints in week 7.
Reid said the team wants to give Charles more rest to get him back to full strength.
“The knee was up and down,” Reid said. “We just want to back him off here and see if we can’t get that thing to settle down.”
Also out for the Chiefs is cornerback D.J. White, who underwent surgery Monday for a broken hand sustained last week against New Orleans. Reserve offensive lineman Jordan Devey sprained an ankle in practice Thursday and will not play as well.
The Chiefs listed starting right tackle Mitchell Schwartz questionable with an ankle sprain sustained against the Saints. He practiced fully Friday and the team expects him to start against the Colts.