Campbell's Keys - On To Indy

Three long weeks ago most Kansas Citians had come to grips with the fact the Chiefs would likely be missing the playoffs for the third consecutive year. Coming into the final week of the regular season I would venture to say even some of the players had come to the same resolution.

The likelihood that the red-hot Titans, explosive Bengals and opportunistic Broncos would all drop games in week 17 to push the Chiefs into the postseason seemed a little far fetched. So far fetched, in fact, that it would be like Lloyd Christmas successfully wooing Mary Swanson and then winning the powerball jackpot on the same day. Well, the improbable happened, and this afternoon the sixth seed Kansas City Chiefs will now face their old postseason nemesis in Indianapolis.

The good news for the Chiefs is the Colts team they face today is not the same team that eliminated them from the playoffs in 2003. While the Colts are still an offensive powerhouse (third in total offense, second in passing, third in scoring), they've shown themselves to be much more vulnerable than they've been in the past. As the 20th ranked overall defense in the league, they also happen to be the NFL's worst against the run. This makes for a very favorable matchup for KC's offense and their trademark power running game.

On the opposite end of the spectrum the Chiefs will want to stay out of passing situations as often as possible. The bookend speed rushers of Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis are far too talented for the Chiefs struggling tackles to handle. Newcomer Anthony McFarland has made their interior rush a formidable part of their game as well.

To make matters worse the Chiefs no longer have Jason Dunn or Kyle Turley to use in max protect situations (both were placed on IR last week). This will force the Chiefs to be awfully creative with their third-and-long play calling because their fullback (Kris Wilson) and pass catching tight end (Tony Gonzalez) will now have to fill in for Dunn. Anybody seen Willie Roaf?

Regardless of what the Chiefs do on offense, I think everyone realizes that Kansas City's real challenge is going to be on defense. Peyton Manning is the ultimate field general and the Chiefs will have to employ a variety of tactics to slow him down. Gunther Cunningham and Herm Edwards will have to pull out all of the stops and approach this game with even more "desperation" than they did one week ago. With that being said, here are the keys to this week's game.

Offensive Keys:


Stick With It - The Chiefs need to stick to their offensive game plan and run the ball. Even if the Colts jump out to an early lead the Chiefs need to remain steady and continue to plug away with the run. Kansas City's offensive line is not equipped to protect Trent Green from the Colts pass rush so it is imperative that they play to their strength and put the burden of success on the shoulders of the defense.

Don't Get Cute - Keep it simple. There is no need to go "Al Saunders" and run gimmick plays like the triple reverse and the fake-reverse-halfback-option-pass-end-around-double screen. The Chiefs can destroy the Colts defense by simply running north and south. Their defensive front seven is highly undisciplined and this opens the door for an even greater number of big runs by Johnson and Bennett.

Defensive Keys:


Make Manning Play Blind - Two years ago, prior to back to back losses to the Colts in the playoffs, the Denver Broncos actually disassembled Indianapolis during the regular season. How'd they do it? The Denver defense never allowed Manning to get a good read on what they were doing prior to the snap. Upon breaking the defensive huddle the Broncos would stay closely grouped and never really lined up in formation, at least not until Manning had completed his audibles. As a result, Manning was not his usual self and struggled to do many of the things we have grown accustomed to seeing him do.

Bring Back The Falcon – The Falcon? That's right, the defense we haven't seen since 1998 (not counting this years preseason game against the Rams). The Chiefs defensive tackles just aren't getting enough pressure up the middle and this is a game where they'll need it worse than ever. Now, I'm not advocating the Chiefs sit in a base 3-4 defense, but I am suggesting that Tamba Hali, Jared Allen and Derrick Johnson each switch up taking the role as a mobile "gap rusher" in order to confuse and overwhelm the Colts offensive line.

Man Up – If there is one team in the NFL that is perfectly equipped to beat a Cover Two defense it is the Indianapolis Colts. Solution? Ty Law and Patrick Surtain will have to play a lot more man coverage than they are used to. This will keep the Colts from flooding the Chiefs zones and matching up Wayne or Harrison against Kansas City's linebackers. It would also be a good idea for the Chiefs to sit in a nickel defense for most of the day with Jarrad Page as the nickel back. Page is much better in coverage than any of the Chiefs linebackers (when the Colts go three wide), but also brings a lot more bulk to the field than a cornerback (you can't run at him as easily).

Mobile, Agile, and Hostile – When the Chiefs safeties are coming out of their zone drops and tackling, it is a must that they drop the hammer and intimidate the Colts receivers. The Colts are built on finesse and the Chiefs have to re-introduce the fear of physicality to Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne.

Special Teams Keys:


Little Things – As a kick returner you have one primary job: CATCH THE FOOTBALL! Dante Hall has been somewhat careless when fielding punts and kickoffs, particularly kickoffs. Hall has to start taking care of the little things and that starts with securing the football. A single turnover could spell doom against a team as talented as the Colts.

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