Indianapolis Colts: Jamaal Charles

Time to step up: LaRon Landry

July, 9, 2014
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INDIANAPOLIS -- It's no secret the pressure players such as quarterback Andrew Luck and linebacker Robert Mathis are under to be at their best every week for the Indianapolis Colts. But you don't have to wonder if those players will show up to play on a week-to-week basis.

The same can't be said for some other players on the Colts' roster.

Landry
With the start of training camp less than two weeks away, we're going to take a look at a number of players who are under pressure to step up this season.

Time to step up: Safety LaRon Landry

Why he needs to step up: Colts general manager Ryan Grigson gave Landry a four-year, $24 million contract in 2013. Landry led the NFL in tackles after the first two weeks of the season, but then an ankle injury shut him down for four straight weeks. He wasn't the same player once he returned from the injury. Landry ended up being a disappointment in his first season in Indianapolis. He finished with only 87 tackles and no interceptions. Landry needs to be the veteran leader in the secondary because Antoine Bethea is no longer back there playing alongside of him. And the Colts need Landry to bounce back from a poor first season in order for their inconsistent defense to improve.

What he has to do: Too often Landry went for the big hit instead of making the simple tackle. See Kansas City's Jamaal Charles' touchdown run in Week 16 and New England's LeGarrette Blount's touchdown run in the playoff game if you need further proof. Landry is used to playing in the box, but Grigson likes for both of his safeties to have range. Landry needs to show more of that.

Outlook: The Colts haven't even started training camp and Landry already has an injury problem. He missed the mandatory minicamp last month with what the Colts described as a "soft-tissue" injury. It also doesn't help Landry did not attend any of the voluntary workouts during the offseason. Grigson and coach Chuck Pagano both acknowledged it would have been good if Landry attended at least part of the workouts.

Quotable: "The thing with LaRon is and I know Chuck (Pagano) alluded to it is he's a guy that his throttle is always full-bore. He's out there in parts unknown working out. We trust him in the fact that we know he's going to go harder than anyone." -- Grigson
INDIANAPOLIS -- Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck is one step away from reaching the finals of the race to be on the cover of EA Sport's "Madden NFL 15" video game.

Luck beat out Philadelphia Eagles running back LeSean McCoy in the quarterfinals of the fan voting.

Next up for Luck is Carolina quarterback Cam Newton, who beat Kansas City running back Jamaal Charles in the quarterfinals. Newton is in the running to become the first player to reach the finals of the cover voting for Madden twice.

The other semifinal matchup also features two of the NFL's best young players.

Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman will face San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

Voting for the semifinals runs through May 30, and the finals are May 30-June 6. The winner will be announced June 6 on "SportsCenter."
INDIANAPOLIS -- There were likely a lot of Indianapolis Colts fans crossing their fingers and toes hoping that quarterback Andrew Luck and receiver T.Y. Hilton were eliminated in the first round of the fan voting for the right to be on the cover of EA Sport's "Madden NFL 15" video game.

Here's the good news for the superstitious fans thinking about the Madden Curse: Hilton was eliminated by Philadelphia Eagles running back LeSean McCoy.

Here's the bad news for those same superstitious fans: Luck easily beat out Washington running back Alfred Morris to advance to the next round against McCoy.

Here's a breakdown of the quarterfinal matchups:
Voting for the quarterfinals runs through May 22. The semifinals are May 22-30 and the finals go May 30-June 6. The winner will be announced on "SportsCenter" on June 6.

Click here to vote.
INDIANAPOLIS -- It only took two playoff games -- or a handful of plays if you really want to narrow it down -- to see an area the Indianapolis Colts needed to address in the offseason.

You had your options to choose from.

Quarterback Alex Smith and the Kansas City Chiefs offense, without running back Jamaal Charles, scoring 44 points against them in the playoffs. Then there was New England running back LeGarrette Blount running over the Colts for 166 yards the following week.

[+] EnlargeD'Qwell Jackson
Winslow Townson/USA TODAY SportsThe Colts will look to D'Qwell Jackson to bolster the middle of the defense in 2014.
Putting all the pressure on quarterback Andrew Luck's 24-year-old shoulders is the last thing the Colts want, even if his ability for the dramatic comebacks make for good television.

That’s why it’s not surprising the Colts' first free agent signing was on defense. Indianapolis agreed to a four-year, $22-million deal that includes $11 million guaranteed with former Cleveland Browns linebacker D'Qwell Jackson on Thursday.

Jackson has had at least 100 tackles in five of his seven NFL seasons.

The Colts didn’t get Jackson to come in and compete for the starting inside linebacker spot alongside Jerrell Freeman. They want Jackson to start. That should not be a problem since Pat Angerer, the starter there most of last season, won’t be back.

Jackson was rated as the NFL’s 42nd best inside linebacker by Pro Football Focus last season. He has played in a 4-3 and 3-4 scheme, but he’s viewed as a better 4-3 inside linebacker. Only time will tell if the 30-year-old Jackson can flip that thought process around since Colts coach Chuck Pagano runs a 3-4 scheme. Jackson played in a 3-4 scheme with the Browns last season when he had 141 tackles.

The Colts held their opponents to a combined 20 points, forced eight turnovers, and had 11 sacks during a three-game winning streak at the end of the regular season.

But two of those teams -- Houston and Jacksonville -- have the No. 1 and 3 picks, respectively, in the NFL draft this year. A real indication came against the Chiefs (513 total yards) and Patriots (234 rushing yards) in the playoffs.

The Colts finished 20th in the league overall and 26th against stopping the run last season, which is why Jackson’s signing is just a start.

“We certainly had times during the season where we played very, very good defense. Played smothering defense, especially down the stretch,” Pagano said during the NFL scouting combine last month. “I know the playoffs didn’t turn out, obviously we didn’t play like we are capable of. We’ve just got to be more consistent. As we add pieces to the puzzle and guys get better at their craft, I think we’ll certainly one day say we play defense like [Seattle] on a consistent basis.”

Re-signing cornerback Vontae Davis still sits at the top of the Colts’ priority list for their own players. Safety Antoine Bethea is also a free agent and getting a wide body at nose tackle to help clog up the middle of the line is an option, too.

The process in improving the defense started Thursday for the Colts. Now they have to keep going.
The 2014 free agency is just days away. The Indianapolis Colts had no problem spending last year, signing players to contracts that totaled more than $100 million. First-year results weren't overly impressive. Colts general manager Ryan Grigson and coach Chuck Pagano talked about needing consistent play during the scouting combine in Indianapolis on Feb. 21.

Some of it was because of injuries. Some of it was simply because of lack of production.

Before the Colts go out and decide how they want to spend their $41 million in salary-cap space this year, let's look back and see how the 2013 free-agent signings performed.

Landry
Safety LaRon Landry (4 years, $24 million)

2013 stats: 87 tackles, 0 interceptions

The Colts signed Landry to be their big hitter and to have the same kind of impact Bob Sanders had when he was dominating in the secondary. Landry was one of the NFL's leading tacklers after the first two weeks of the season, including two impressive chase-down tackles to save a touchdown in each of the first two games. But then an ankle injury sidelined him four games. Landry lacked consistency in his first season with the Colts. He missed on two touchdown-saving tackles late in the season. The first was on Kansas City Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles' 31-yard touchdown run in Week 16. The second was against New England's LeGarrette Blount on his 73-yard touchdown run in the Colts' AFC divisional playoff loss.

Staying healthy and not always going for the big hit are key for Landry going forward.
Robert Mathis, Richard Sherman and NaVorro BowmanAP Photo, USA TODAY SportsIndianapolis' Robert Mathis, Seattle's Richard Sherman and San Francisco's NaVorro Bowman have all put up numbers that could result in defensive player of the year honors.
Denver's Peyton Manning broke passing records with his arm. Kanas City's Jamaal Charles was a treat to watch running the ball and catching it out of the backfield. Detroit's Megatron (Calvin Johnson) was simply incredible with his freakishly athletic skills at wide receiver.

But there were some players on the other side of the ball who deserve to be honored for their play this season.

The problem is deciding who deserves it more than the other players.

The NFL's Defensive Player of the Year will be named this weekend.

ESPN.com Colts reporter Mike Wells and 49ers reporter Bill Williamson discuss the top candidates for the award.

Wells: Bill, it appears that defensive player of the year is a wide-open race this season. There are a number of different players who deserve to win it. Robert Mathis in Indianapolis, Carolina's Luke Kuechly, St. Louis' Robert Quinn, Seattle's Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas, San Francisco's NaVorro Bowman, who you cover on a regular basis. Who do you think deserves the award?

SportsNation

Who deserves to win NFL defensive player of the year honors?

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Williamson: Yes, Mike, there are some very solid candidates. But I have to go with the player I saw dominate for 19 weeks. Bowman is simply unbelievable. He stood out in every game. He set the tone for one of the NFL's finest defenses with his dominant play from a 3-4 inside linebacker position. Bowman had 143 tackles, five sacks, four forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and two interceptions, one he returned 89 yards for a touchdown to seal the 49ers' playoff-clinching win. Bowman excelled against both the run and the pass. He's a football player's player. Sadly, his season ended in the fourth quarter of the 49ers' loss at Seattle in the NFC title game when he suffered a torn ACL. In typical Bowman fashion, he was hurt by stripping the ball at the goal line. Mike, a player you cover, Mathis, is considered the favorite to win the DPOY. Do you think he deserves it?

Wells: I'm sure some people will call you and I homers, but I've got to give the edge to Mathis because he was a one-man wrecking crew on defense. It was personal and team oriented for Mathis. He wanted to prove the he could still be a force without playing alongside of Dwight Freeney. Mathis had no problem talking about how that added fuel to his already flaming fire. He backed it up by leading the league in sacks with 19.5. He ended up accounting for 46.4 percent of the Colts' sacks this season because they only had 42 as a team. Mathis used his infamous chop down on the quarterback's passing arm to force a league-leading eight fumbles. Those eight forced fumbles led to 35 points for Indianapolis. The Colts struggled at times defensively during the season. They would have been really bad if they didn't have Mathis on the roster. You covered games involving Seattle's Earl Thomas and Richard Sherman three times, including the NFC Championship Game. Is there a legitimate argument for either one of them to be DPOY?

Williamson: Oh, certainly on both Seattle players. Again, lots of great candidates here. Sherman and Thomas are among the best defensive players in the league and they are a big reason why the Seahawks are preparing to play in the Super Bowl. Thomas is a tone-setter at the back end of a special defense. Sherman is probably the best cornerback in the NFL and one of the best players in the game regardless of position. The 49ers tested him with the game on the line in the NFC title game and they lost because of it. There are really no wrong answers here. I can't knock Mathis or any of the other candidates. But I just think Bowman deserves to win the award because of his overall impact on the game. There's really no way for offenses to avoid him. Mike, do you think Mathis is a complete player or is he a top candidate solely on his pass-rush prowess?

Wells: This is where the argument doesn't favor Mathis. He rarely dropped back into coverage because he's a pass-rushing linebacker. I'm not saying he isn't capable of being in pass coverage, but I haven't seen him do it enough because coach Chuck Pagano's 3-4 defense is all about getting after the quarterback with Mathis. His ability to pressure the quarterback trickles down to players like linebacker Jerrell Freeman and the entire secondary. It allows them to gamble on the ball more defensively. Some may consider Mathis a one-dimensional defensive player, but he does that one thing well. Seattle's Russell Wilson and Manning, the two starting quarterbacks in this weekend's Super Bowl, can validate that because Mathis sacked both of them during the regular season.

Is Bowman's ability to defend pass coverage the main reason you give him the edge over Mathis?

Williamson: No, it's just his overall game. Again, he impacts it in every way. Look at his stat line: There's nothing he didn't do. He was making plays on first, second and third down. And, yes, he was just as apt to make a play 15 yards downfield as he was at the line of scrimmage. In fact, on his interception return for a touchdown, he was supposed to blitz but he read the play and darted back into coverage. He had 118 solo tackles, the second most in the NFL this season. Again, there are no wrong answers here, but for me Bowman is the best answer.
The Indianapolis Colts couldn’t stop the Kansas City Chiefs through the first 33 minutes of the AFC divisional playoff game. And what made it even more embarrassing is that the Chiefs were without do-everything running back Jamaal Charles (concussion). They had racked up 38 points and quarterback Alex Smith looked like he was back at the University of Utah, beating opponents with his arm and feet.

Then, it happened.

Key play No. 6: Linebacker Robert Mathis pulls out his trademark move.

The Chiefs had the ball on second-and-6 at their own 46-yard line early in the third quarter when Mathis, standing up on the left side, shook off two blockers, chased Smith down from behind and chopped down on his arm to get the sack and the fumble. Linebacker Kelvin Sheppard recovered the ball and the Colts scored six plays later, as they continued their 28-point second-half comeback. The Chiefs only scored six more points, and the Colts' defense forced an intentional grounding and cornerback Josh Gordy did a good job defending receiver Dwayne Bowe on fourth down to clinch the game.

NFLN survey/player safety: Colts

January, 27, 2014
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As I walked around the locker room asking several Indianapolis Colts players if they would play in a game with a concussion as part of the NFL Nation survey, I was expecting at least some of them to say they would not play with one, even if it meant missing the Super Bowl.

It was the complete opposite.

All 10 players said they would play in the Super Bowl with a concussion because they feel like the NFL’s policy is too strict. And there was no hesitation from any of them in answering the question.

Safety is obviously important, but I understand why the players would be willing to try to play with a concussion. That could be their only chance at reaching the Super Bowl in their career.

The Colts had their fair share of players who dealt with concussions this season.

Tight end Coby Fleener had one in the preseason. Offensive lineman Joe Reitz and safety LaRon Landry suffered concussions during the regular season. Each of them had to pass the league’s concussion protocol before being able to play in a game.

Kansas City Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles suffered a concussion on their opening drive in the playoff game against the Colts. The Chiefs led by 28 points in the third quarter, but they ended up losing the game 45-44. It’s uncertain how severe Charles’ concussion was, but the Chiefs would have likely won the game if he had been able to return.
Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck was on the same team as his coach, Chuck Pagano, but it was linebacker Robert Mathis and long snapper Matt Overton who were on the winning Pro Bowl team that earned a $53,000 check compared to the $26,000 for the losing team.

Mathis' team, Team Jerry Rice, beat Luck's team, Team Deion Sanders, 22-21 in Honolulu.

Luck was the No. 1 overall pick in the Pro Bowl draft and started at quarterback over Carolina's Cam Newton, who had more votes than him. But it's understandable that Luck started since he was playing for his head coach.

Luck was 5-of-7 for 80 yards, a touchdown and an interception. His lone touchdown pass came on a flea flicker play where Kansas City's Jamaal Charles tossed the ball back to Luck, who launched a pass to Philadelphia's DeSean Jackson that looked like it would be intercepted . Jackson went up into double coverage and hauled the pass in.

Luck's interception happened when St. Louis' Robert Quinn tipped his pass and Cincinnati's Vontaze Burfict picked it off. It's a good thing Luck won't have to see Quinn anytime soon again. Quinn sacked the Colts' quarterback twice during the regular-season meeting that St. Louis won 38-8.

The NFL did away with the traditional AFC-NFC Pro Bowl teams in favor of a draft. That meant there would be opportunities for teammates during the regular season to go against each other on Sunday.

Mathis didn't get an opportunity to sack Luck. Mathis, who led the league in sacks with 19.5, finished with four tackles.
So much for Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck not having to worry about teammate Robert Mathis sacking him in the Pro Bowl.

The two started out as teammates on Team Deion Sanders, which will be led by Colts coach Chuck Pagano and the rest of his coaching staff, but Mathis was later traded to Team Jerry Rice.

Now it’s Mathis, who led the NFL with 19.5 sacks this season, and long snapper Matt Overton are on Rice’s team, which will be coached the Carolina Panthers staff. Luck will be with Pagano and also have to look out for Mathis coming from behind trying to strip-sack him in the game.

Luck is used to being the top player chosen in the draft. He was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 draft and he was the No. 1 overall pick in Day 2 of the Pro Bowl draft over players like Carolina’s Cam Newton and San Diego’s Philip Rivers. This is the first year that the Pro Bowl did away with the traditional AFC-NFC teams, electing to have a draft instead.

Luck will have plenty of offensive weapons to turn to, as he has Kansas City running back Jamaal Charles to hand the ball off to and pass to and A.J. Green from Cincinnati and Dez Bryant from Dallas at receiver.

Luck was 12-of-19 for 205 yards, two touchdowns and an interception in his first Pro Bowl last year. Mathis, voted to six straight Pro Bowls, had five tackles and a sack in last year’s game.

Indianapolis Colts season wrap-up

January, 15, 2014
Jan 15
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Arrow indicates direction team is trending.

Final Power Ranking: 8
Preseason Power Ranking: 10

Biggest surprise: The questions were valid. Was linebacker Robert Mathis' production a product of having sack-machine Dwight Freeney playing on the other side? Could Mathis still be an impact player without Freeney? Mathis silenced the naysayers when he led the league in sacks with 19.5, including seven strip sacks. Mathis didn't hide the fact that he wanted to quiet the doubters. What made his season even more special is that he did it without much help elsewhere, as the Colts had only 42 sacks as a team. Mathis is one of the front-runners to be the league's defensive player of the year.

Biggest disappointment: Safety LaRon Landry was supposed to have the same kind of impact Bob Sanders had when he played for the Colts. That's why general manager Ryan Grigson signed him to four-year, $24 million contract. Landry was good when he was able to come up with the big hits or touchdown-saving tackles, but it was too often that he ended up whiffing on a play. The plays on which he missed running back Jamaal Charles on a touchdown run in the regular-season game against Kansas City and New England's LeGarrette Blount on his touchdown run last weekend are two examples that quickly come to mind. It also doesn't help that Landry missed four games because of injury this season.

Biggest need: Help on both lines -- offensive and defensive -- should be at the top of Grigson's list during the offseason. The Colts are set at offensive tackle with Anthony Castonzo and Gosder Cherilus. Donald Thomas will be back to take one of the guard spots after he missed most of the season with a quad injury, but the other guard spot and center could use upgrades. The Colts need a defensive tackle who can clog the middle of the line.

Team MVP: This is a no-brainer. Quarterback Andrew Luck was mentioned as a league MVP candidate at one point in the season. The second-year quarterback overcame injuries to five key offensive starters -- including future Hall of Fame receiver Reggie Wayne -- to cut his interceptions in half, increase his completion percentage and throw the same number of touchdown passes despite 52 fewer attempts. Take Luck out of the lineup and the Colts would have won maybe six games this season.

 
INDIANAPOLIS -- The frustration was there for the Indianapolis Colts' defense. So were some ‘R-rated’ words after a brutal defensive performance for more than a half.

The Kansas City Chiefs didn’t have running back Jamaal Charles (concussion) but quarterback Alex Smith roasted the Colts' secondary by coming up with big plays with his arm. They converted seven of their first nine third-down attempts.

Mathis
“I’m not going to say there wasn’t any frustration because there was,” Colts linebacker Robert Mathis said. “No finger pointing, we just have to play ball. That’s why you play the game, you play until the end.”

The Colts needed something to happen to show that their defense had some kind of life in them.

It started with Mathis doing what he does best -- getting a strip-sack of Smith -- in the third quarter. The Colts scored five plays later.

After quarterback Andrew Luck completed the 28-point comeback by throwing a 64-yard touchdown to receiver T.Y. Hilton, Mathis barreled in and hit Smith. Smith tried to throw the ball away, but he was called for intentional grounding because he was still in the tackle box.

Then, with the game on the line, the Colts sealed the game when cornerback Josh Gordy, playing in place of the injured Greg Toler, defended Chiefs receiver Dwayne Bowe perfectly along the sideline on fourth-and-11. Bowe caught the pass, but he couldn’t get both feet inbounds.

“All great defenses want to be out there on that last drive,” safety Antoine Bethea said. “Be out there on the last drive and be able to close out teams. That’s what we were able to do.”

Those three key plays helped ease the fact that the defense gave up 44 points, 513 yards and 30 first downs to Kansas City. All three were season highs allowed by the Colts.

“We just decided we didn’t want our season to end today,” Mathis said. “Knowing what type of team we have and just getting the job done.”


Something will have to give when the Indianapolis Colts and the Kansas City Chiefs meet in an AFC wild-card playoff game at Lucas Oil Stadium on Saturday.

The Chiefs have lost seven straight playoff games, tying them for the longest playoff losing streak in NFL history. The Colts have lost three straight wild-card playoff games.

This is the second time the teams will meet in a three-game period. The Colts, who are on a three-game winning streak, beat the Chiefs 23-7 at Arrowhead Stadium on Dec. 22.

ESPN.com Colts reporter Mike Wells and Chiefs reporter Adam Teicher break down the matchup.

Teicher: The Colts were wobbling coming into Kansas City a couple of weeks ago but seem to have righted themselves that day. What can you point to as the reasons?

Wells: Most fans would say it's because of quarterback Andrew Luck. Don't get me wrong, Luck has been as good as expected, but the change has been led by the defense. The Colts have 12 sacks and have forced eight turnovers, including four against the Chiefs in Week 16, during their three-game winning streak. That's where Luck and the offense come in. You give Luck a short field to work with, and the odds are pretty good that he'll lead the Colts to a score. They scored a quick 17 points in the first quarter against Jacksonville last week.

Chiefs coach Andy Reid decided to rest most of his starters against San Diego in the finale. Do you think that was the right thing to do?

Teicher: Undoubtedly. The Chiefs didn’t get a bye in the playoffs, but Reid created one for eight defensive and seven offensive starters who didn’t play against the Chargers. I would expect that to be reflected in how those guys play against the Colts. Momentum going into the playoffs is overrated. The NFL is such a week-to-week deal that it’s almost impossible for a team to carry anything over from one game to the next, and even at that, the starters were able to get in some practice time last week. Not that this is a huge thing with the playoffs beginning, but the Chiefs got a good look at some of their backups under game conditions against an opponent that needed to win. In several cases, they liked what they saw.

Donald Brown was the Colts’ playmaker against the Chiefs a couple of weeks ago. He obviously is fast and has more power than you would think by looking at him. Why don’t the Colts use him more as their featured back and why did they trade for Trent Richardson?

Wells: Brown took over the starting spot from Richardson against Tennessee on Dec. 1 because Richardson was having a difficult time finding a rhythm. I still think the Colts made the right move in trading for Richardson, because Brown has been inconsistent for most of his five seasons with the Colts up until now. Richardson is still the future for the Colts; they have no intention of parting ways with him after the season. They still envision him and Luck having a great future together. And Brown said it best earlier this week, “There are only a handful of teams that only use one running back. We’re going to need two, three running backs to get through the playoffs.”

Speaking of running backs, it looked like Jamaal Charles was going to have a huge game against the Colts (not that 106 yards is a bad game) after the first series. He ended up with only 13 carries. How come the team’s best player didn’t have more carries or more catches, for that matter?

Teicher: Reid messed up that one and he beat himself up for it afterward. You can count on that not happening again this time around. Charles was given the ball 18 times (13 carries, five receptions) against the Colts two weeks ago. That actually wasn’t a season low for him. He had 16 touches (and a monster game) the week before in Oakland and 18 touches in two other games (both Chiefs losses). Another thing to remember is the Chiefs had only 53 offensive plays against the Colts, their second-lowest total of the season. They didn’t have the normal amount of opportunities to get him the ball. But whether or not the Chiefs have a limited amount of snaps on Saturday, they will get him the ball more often. He’s their best offensive player, so they’re making a huge mistake if they don’t.

Linebacker Jerrell Freeman is another player who had a big game for the Colts when they played against the Chiefs. Has he had other games like that this season? Give us a little scouting report on his strengths and weaknesses.

Wells: You have to credit Colts general manager Ryan Grigson for finding Freeman. Grigson is known for finding players in different parts of the world. He’d probably go to Antarctica to scout if there were a football team there. Freeman is a former Canadian Football League player. He led the Colts in tackles as a rookie and would be the team’s defensive MVP if not for a player named Robert Mathis. Freeman reached double figures in tackles in 12 of the 16 games this season. He has no problem being matched up against a running back out of the backfield, a tight end or even a wide receiver if he has to, because he’s athletic enough to defend them. An argument could be made that Freeman deserved a Pro Bowl nod.

This is not a knock against Charles, but how come the Chiefs had a running back lead them in receiving this season? I would have said Dwayne Bowe led them in receiving if you asked me to take a guess on their leading receiver this season.

Teicher: It’s a number of factors. The Chiefs wanted to use Charles more in the open field and get him in favorable one-on-one matchups, and it’s easier to do that by throwing him the ball. Ideally, the Chiefs would go down the field to their wide receivers more often, but Bowe, Donnie Avery and Dexter McCluster haven’t been able to get open consistently and have delivered few plays. Quarterback Alex Smith has tended to do the safe thing and opt for the checkdown to Charles rather than take a chance down the field. It’s something the Chiefs will need to correct next season. They’ll find another receiver or two in the draft or through free agency.

INDIANAPOLIS -- The Indianapolis Colts had the ball nearly 17 minutes longer than the Kansas City Chiefs in the first meeting between the two teams on Dec. 22. They also rushed for 135 yards and had nine different players catch a pass from quarterback Andrew Luck in their 23-7 victory.

“They played way better than us,” Chiefs do-everything running back Jamaal Charles said. “They beat us in all phases. Defense, they played harder and tougher than us and we didn’t do that on offense. We just got to play to their level.”

You would think the Colts would want to stick to the same blueprint in Saturday’s wild-card playoff game between the two teams, right?

Nope, that’s not the plan.

“We started from scratch, we didn’t just copy and paste the game plan from a couple weeks back,” offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton said. “We went back and we looked at how they played us defensively in the first game and went back and studied some of the earlier games that they played in the season and just hit the reset button. I think it’s important that we do that just so that we have the right mindset going into it and we feel good about the plan.”

You have to like that the Colts are going with the frame of mind that they can’t do the exact same thing this weekend. Doing that would set them up for possible failure because Kansas City’s Andy Reid is too good of a coach to get beat the same way by the same team twice in two weeks.

It’s not to say the Colts won’t repeat some of the same things from that game. They’ll add some different wrinkles, too.

The Chiefs were without linebacker Justin Houston, who tied for the team lead in sacks with 11, during the first meeting. Houston missed the final five games, but told Kansas City reporters that he’ll play Saturday.

“We’re assuming that they’re going to have one of the best pass-rushers in the National Football League back in the mix,” Hamilton said. “So we've got to prepare for their front seven. Not to discount the guys that play on the back end, because [Eric Berry] is a really good football player as well.”

Quick Take: Chiefs at Colts

December, 29, 2013
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Three things to know about next week's Kansas City Chiefs-Indianapolis Colts wild-card playoff game at Lucas Oil Stadium:

1. Containing Jamaal Charles. The Chiefs running back finished with 106 yards on 13 carries in the first matchup between the two teams on Dec. 22. But those yards don't tell the whole story. Charles gained 37 yards on Kansas City's opening series. That means the Colts held one of the NFL's premier all-around players to only 69 yards the rest of the game. Indianapolis will have to do the same again because Charles has proved that he can run the ball -- he ran for 226 yards against the Colts in 2012 -- and he had 195 yards receiving against the Oakland Raiders in Week 15 this season. Charles finished the season with 1,287 yards rushing, 693 yards receiving and 19 touchdowns.

2. Do it on defense. Yes, Andrew Luck is the Colts' most valuable player, but they'll need their defense to play well. They're heading into the playoffs with the defense getting 11 sacks and forcing eight turnovers during their three-game winning streak. The Colts sacked Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith four times to go with four turnovers in the game. Indianapolis held Kansas City to 287 yards of total offense.

3. Continue to protect the quarterback. The offensive line has done a good job protecting Luck. He was sacked only three times in the final three games of the season. The ability to keep the young quarterback on his feet has helped the Colts' passing game, as he was 26-of-37 for 282 yards in the season finale against Jacksonville on Sunday. Luck also completed 67 percent of his passes to receivers with six touchdowns and only one interception in the final four games of the season. He had completed only 50.5 percent of his passes to his receivers in the first five games without Reggie Wayne.

You know what you're going to get out of receiver T.Y. Hilton. But fellow receivers Da'Rick Rogers, LaVon Brazill and Griff Whalen are about to step into unfamiliar territory. The three have developed a nice continuity with Luck. The playoffs aren't the time for them to have a setback by showing their inexperience. The Colts won't be able to run their no-huddle offense if Luck can't depend on them to get open and catch the ball.

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