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SportColts defense faces different kind of test against Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs aerial attack

05:05  12 january  2019
05:05  12 january  2019 Source:   usatoday.com

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1. Is the Colts defense comfortable playing a different kind of game? By a quirk of the NFL schedule, the Indianapolis defense has spent two months shutting Mahomes and his stockpile of weapons are an entirely different animal. 2. Will Indianapolis be able to force the Chiefs into a few costly mistakes?

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A surprising and stout Indianapolis defense is getting ready to face the toughest test the NFL has to offer when the Indianapolis Colts take on the Kansas City Chiefs in the divisional round of the AFC playoffs on Saturday (4:35 p.m., WTHR 13).

Armed with the NFL’s most devastating weapon — the right arm of Patrick Mahomes — Kansas City finished first in the league in total offense, first in scoring and first in jaw-dropping highlights on ESPN and the NFL Network.

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The Chiefs ’ first-year starter never struggled against the Colts , and helped Kansas City break out of a playoff slump at home . Pat Mahomes passed his first playoff test with flying colors against the Colts .

In 2018, Pat Mahomes threw 39 passes for 30 yards or more. Here they are, in a way we couldn’t see them on TV. Like any quarterback who’s apt to ship any kind of throw to anywhere on the field, Mahomes ’ delivery looks different from one throw to the next.

Barring something freaky, the Colts’ playoff fate will rest on the ability of its defense to slow Mahomes down enough for Andrew Luck to run by him.

With that in mind, here’s three questions the Indianapolis defense must answer for the Colts to upset the top-seeded Chiefs and reach the AFC Championship Game.

1.  Is the Colts defense comfortable playing a different kind of game?

Colts defense faces different kind of test against Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs aerial attack© Matt Kryger/IndyStar Indianapolis Colts outside linebacker Darius Leonard (53) celebrates a late interception against the Tennessee Titans at Nissan Stadium in Nashville, Tenn., on Sunday, Dec. 23, 2018.

By a quirk of the NFL schedule, the Indianapolis defense has spent two months shutting down the same kind of offense over and over again. In an otherwise pass-happy league, the Colts have faced a long line of offenses that wanted to establish the run, keep pounding away on the ground and ask their quarterbacks to land a few key punches here and there.

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Patrick Mahomes — by way of 13 touchdowns, zero interceptions, a 3-0 record and the league's top-scoring offense — has become one of the most It's up to the Broncos to change the tune of that conversation — and that starts with a game plan that will introduce a variety of looks to Mahomes in

Patrick Mahomes ' busted lip among telling priorities Chiefs must address to avoid wasting QB's insane talent. Terez Paylor. Senior NFL writer. “Run defense is want to,” Chiefs linebacker Anthony Hitchens told Yahoo Sports. “We started off slow this year, got better and started taking it again.

For months, the game plan has been to take away the run and put the ball in the quarterback’s hands.

That’s exactly where Kansas City wants the ball.

Everything revolves around Mahomes, the apparent MVP front-runner after becoming just the third quarterback in NFL history to throw 50 touchdown passes in a season. Kansas City ranked just 23rd in rushing attempts overall and handed the ball off 30 times in a game twice despite playing with a lead all the time.

After rough outings against Sam Darnold, Derek Carr and Blake Bortles in the middle of the season, the Colts have settled down, allowing only one quarterback — New York’s Eli Manning — to throw for more than 300 yards in the past eight games, and Indianapolis held four teams to fewer than 200 yards through the air.

But the Colts also haven’t faced an elite quarterback in that stretch, with apologies to rising Houston star Deshaun Watson.

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The Chiefs have the best offense in the NFL. They have a quarterback in Patrick Mahomes who can make all the throws, keeps plays alive and is accurate anywhere on the field. This is easily the biggest test for the Colts defense and it will test Matt Eberflus and the coaching staff like never before.

Quarterback Patrick Mahomes has produced an MVP-caliber season for Chiefs Coach Andy Reid in his The Chiefs invited Mahomes on an official visit to Kansas City, spending six hours peppering him with “I knew they liked Patrick a lot. So when they moved up, everybody was kind of like, ‘Hmm

Mahomes and his stockpile of weapons are an entirely different animal.

2. Will Indianapolis be able to force the Chiefs into a few costly mistakes?

Colts defense faces different kind of test against Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs aerial attack© Ed Zurga/AP Photo Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) points after a throw to tight end Travis Kelce during the first half of an NFL football game in Kansas City, Mo., Sunday, Dec. 30, 2018. (AP Photo/Ed Zurga)

Barring a shocking performance, Kansas City is essentially impossible to shut down. While a few of the NFL’s other top offenses fell flat in one game or the other — the Rams against the Bears, the Saints against the Cowboys and Panthers — the Chiefs scored at least 26 points in every single game.

No matter how well the Indianapolis defense plays, Kansas City is going to put some points on the scoreboard.

And that’s where defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus’ season-long emphasis on forcing turnovers must pay off. The Colts tied for 10th in the NFL with 26 takeaways, and Indianapolis forced at least one turnover in every game except one, often saving its game-changing plays for crucial moments against Oakland, Jacksonville, New York and Tennessee.

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© Provided by Oath Inc. Patrick Mahomes had an MVP-caliber season in his second year in the NFL. For one, they feature a strong and varied running game that should stress one of the league’s worst run defenses . What’s more, their running game opens up a well-schemed passing attack that

But that was Patrick Mahomes ’s reality last fall, as the 10th overall pick in Mahomes read Chargers linebacker Denzel Perryman coming down in run support and saw safety Derwin James chase Sammy Watkins into “And I kind of scrambled out to the right, trying to buy time for those guys to get open.

Kansas City is a tough team to turn over. Mahomes threw 12 interceptions, and the Chiefs lost just six fumbles as a whole, tied for fourth best in the entire NFL.

If Indianapolis can force the Chiefs to cough it up a couple of times on Saturday, though, that might be just enough for the Colts offense to take advantage.

3. How do the Colts handle the duo of Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill?

Colts defense faces different kind of test against Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs aerial attack© Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2018; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill (10) warms up before a game against the Oakland Raiders at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Tight ends have hurt the Colts all season long.

Indianapolis gave up 103 catches and 1,194 yards to tight ends this season, the worst marks in the NFL, and now they face Kelce, whose 103 catches, 1,336 yards and 10 touchdowns ranked him second among tight ends in all three categories.

The presence of Hill means that Indianapolis likely won’t be able to roll coverage in Kelce’s direction. The Colts rarely gave up big plays this season; Indianapolis allowed 41 explosive pass plays (plays of 20 yards or more), the fifth-best mark in the NFL.

Hill, on the other hand, is one of the NFL’s best deep-ball threats, and the unbelievable strength of Mahomes’ arm makes the speedy wide receiver a threat to create a big play in almost any situation.

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That could leave Kelce open to exploit the middle of the Indianapolis zone. Players like Darius Leonard, Anthony Walker and Clayton Geathers have a tough task in front of them; Kelce is going to get his catches, but the Colts have to keep one of the league’s most athletic tight ends from taking over the game.

This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: Colts defense faces different kind of test against Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs aerial attack

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