Defense Stood Toe-to-Toe with Manning

Tamba Hali's bloody mouth symbolized it best on Sunday: the Chiefs defense – bruised and battered – went full speed against the AFC's defending champions. The problem is, the Chiefs' offense didn't do the same.

Despite frothing at the mouth and adding extra color to his already bright-red torso, Hali never slowed down. Not even for a chance to clean it up. If anything, the blood energized him more. The Chiefs' defense seemed to step up its game as the clock kept ticking on, but as expected, they got worn out because Colts quarterback Peyton Manning controlled the clock for nearly 35 minutes. Most importantly, miscues on the offense let the Chiefs slip from their high perch to 3-1 on the season.

Hali wasn't the only Chiefs defender that got battered. Linebacker Mike Vrabel limped off the field, but returned as soon as possible to keep playing through pain. Vrabel was a big factor in stuffing the Colts' run all day and forcing Peyton Manning to go through the air. Vrabel and Hali epitomized this tough and reborn Chiefs defense, and despite showing plenty of heart, their efforts will forever be outshined by a 19-9 deficit in NFL stat books. These two workhorses showcased the Chiefs' revitalized defense led by Romeo Crennel.

Hali's effort in the game prior to his big hit to the chin was just as strong. He ran over Manning to force a fumble which was unfortunately recovered by the Colts. It was registered as a sack in the playbook, the only time where the Chiefs got through to touch Manning. With the Chiefs having two weeks to prepare, and ultimately not finding enough success, there's no telling just how a team can bust through the Colts' solid pass protection without a bulldozer.

Kansas City entered the game with the fifth-best run stopping defense, and held Colts rushers to only 100 yards combined. Once Colts running back Joseph Addai left the game, the Colts squeaked their way down the red zone by slipping past defenders who were too busy trying to catch their breath. Extra effort by Mike Hart let him hold the ball out just long enough to cross the end zone.

Manning was held to a season low in yards thrown, completions and touchdowns.
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Manning showed his frustration and got antsy in trying to connect with his receivers once his rushing attack became a non-factor. Addai went down with a shoulder injury late in the third quarter, which basically forced the Colts to scrap their plan to run the ball and control even more of the clock. The very next play after Addai left the field, Manning lost his composure and Jon McGraw picked him off.

For the most part, despite his 244 yards with 26 completions, Manning wasn't as formidable a foe as the Chiefs must have been expecting. Some passes to his receivers were low and others were just plain dropped by his teammates. Late in the game, Manning could feel the heat turning up, but then again, he's still masterful in reading defenses before the snap.

Kansas City entered the game with the 25th ranked passing defense, allowing about 238 yards through the air. They allowed a little bit more than that against Manning, but they still made him nervous in the backfield before he took his chances downfield. Late in the game, Manning started to hike the ball with as many as 13 seconds left in the play clock, showing that he was getting nervous.

A spectacular leaping deflection from Brandon Flowers stopped Manning in what would have been his longest pass of the day to Pierre Garçon. The play very well could have put the Colts in the red zone a lot quicker than they were expecting. It just may have given the Chiefs' offense enough time to find their footing and try and fight back to tie the game. Regardless, the play was nullified by Flower's antics and showed once more that the Colts were facing a legitimate top-five defense.

Great defensive coverage by the Chiefs secondary shut Manning down and just about ruined the game by my fantasy football team (led by Manning and Reggie Wayne). The Colts' passing attack looked more pedestrian than powerful against cornerbacks Brandon Carr and Brandon Flowers, and while there were still some holes found which led to big gains, both players showcased that they're a dynamic duo in the secondary.

Carr stopped Manning from connecting with Wayne on a touchdown early in the game. Manning again looked to strike in the back of the end zone later on, but overthrew a well-covered Pierre Garçon. Flowers wasn't bluffing against Garçon on that play and again in his aforementioned leaping deflection later in the game.

For the most part, the Chiefs defense kept the action in front of them.
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No matter how impressive they are the defense isn't going to be on the field for a full 60 minutes. It would be impossible both technically and physically for their players to do such a thing. Had the offense scored when given the opportunity thanks to an interception by McGraw, the team may very well have left Indy with their heads high.

However, this team can't regurgitate its magic from previous games where Brandon Flowers had a pick six and Tamba Hali and Derrick Johnson's forced fumbles set up prime field position.

For the first three games of the season, the Chiefs' defense was key in shutting down their opponents, and while it was the case for much of the game on Sunday, the end result just wasn't the same. There's going to come a time where the Chiefs' offense has to win a game outright and this defense cannot go another 12 games expecting for lucky breaks or turnovers. When a player like McGraw picks off the league MVP, the offense has to be ready to catch passes and capitalize on those turnovers.

The Chiefs' defense showed on Sunday in Indianapolis was that they can play with the big dogs. The thing is, in years past, defense had been the Chiefs' weakness in trying to stop Manning and company, but this time, Crennel's defenders stood toe-to-toe with the best around.

Crennel was once again the one to credit for a strong game plan in stopping Manning, just like all the efforts he showed while with the New England Patriots. It's because of Crennel that the Chiefs can finally muster enough life to stay competitive in any game.

He has this defense energized. Energized to the point that they'll be spitting blood and limping on a bad leg in order to keep feasting on momentum. An interception from McGraw may just be as rare as seeing a shooting star, but regardless, things were falling into place for the Chiefs' defense to have yet another fantastic showing.

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