For all but the final five minutes it looked as if the Chiefs’ defense would help the visitors pull out a victory. The Kansas City players on that side of the ball would have carried the Chiefs on a day when the offense sputtered and special teams was a disaster.
Then Chris Jones couldn’t keep his mouth shut.
His unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for jawing with Matt Ryan — while Jones was on top of Ryan on the ground after a sack — kept alive the Colts’ game-winning touchdown drive. They were going to punt the ball back to the Chiefs with five minutes remaining until the penalty was assessed.
Instead of the Chiefs celebrating a close victory, a terrific defensive effort was wasted as they lost 20-17.
Here are the grades:
KC STAR OF THE GAME
Cornerback L’Jarius Sneed helped turn around a game that was leaning the Colts’ way early. His strip-sack on a fourth down set up the Chiefs’ first short-field touchdown drive. And his fumble recovery off a Carlos Dunlap strip-sack set up the second.
Next: The Chiefs return to prime-time against a familiar foe. They travel to Tampa Bay to take on the Bucs on Sunday Night Football. It will mark the sixth meeting between Patrick Mahomes and Tom Brady. Brady leads the head-to-head 3-2 and has won both playoff meetings, one with the Patriots and the Super Bowl LV triumph with the Bucs.
The Sunday kickoff is slated for 7:20 p.m. The game will be televised by NBC (Ch. 41 in Kansas City).
Passing offense: D
Not a great day for the Chiefs’ offensive line. Orlando Brown Jr. nearly got Mahomes sacked when he fell, allowing Indy a free pass rush. Mahomes’ best pass was a 29-yard feather to Travis Kelce that set up the first touchdown.
Loved the “trickeration” — Mahomes throws behind the line to Jerick McKinnon, who tossed it back to Mahomes. He found Noah Gray for a 26-yard gain. It’s good know the Chiefs can pull off a gadget play somewhere beyond the goal line. But the Chiefs came up empty on the drive.
For a while, a late 53-yard strike to JuJu Smith-Schuster looked like the play that could clinch the game.
Rushing offense: D
Tough going on Sunday, but the Chiefs punched in a 1-yard touchdown run by Clyde Edwards-Helaire, who went behind guard Joe Thuney. Two plays earlier, defensive tackle Khalen Saunders entered at fullback and threw a big block. But Edwards-Helaire couldn’t get in. It’s never a good day when Mahomes is the team’s leading rusher. He had 26 yards.
Passing defense: B
Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo called a great game. He dialed up blitzes at the right times and took advantage of a stationary quarterback. A Nick Bolton sack for 11 yards forced the Colts into a long field goal. Frank Clark, on a bull-rush, joined the sack list along with Dunlap and Sneed.
But the unsportsmanlike-contact penalty on Jones falls under this category. The Chiefs got a team sack and were about to get the ball back, but Jones mouthed off to Ryan. The flag was tossed and drive ended up in the end zone. This has to be Jones’ worst moment in a Chiefs uniform.
Bolton’s stuffing of Jonathan Taylor on a fourth-and-1-a play was set up when the Chiefs challenged a spot and the review took away a Colts first down. That was a defensive highlight of this young season season that will be forgotten because of Jones’ big mouth. Taylor finished with 71 yards, but the Chiefs kept him bottled up most of the game.
Special teams: F
It’s a failing grade only because there isn’t a lower grade. Let’s list the fiascoes:
Skyy Moore’s inexperience as a punt returner proved costly. His muff on the Colts’ first possession set up a short-field touchdown. Moore went back out for a second chance a short time later and seemed to lose the ball in the sun, letting the ball bounce to the 1.
Special teams coordinator Dave Toub didn’t give up on Moore. The rookie returned a punt at the end of the second quarter and returned it 12 yards.
Was Isiah Pacheco wearing the right shoes? He slipped on the turf during a kickoff return and cost the Chiefs field position late in the third quarter.
After the Chiefs punched in their first touchdown, substitute kicker Matt Ammendola (Harrison Butker, the Chiefs’ starter, missed his second straight game) pulled the extra-point attempt. He later missed a 34-yard attempt in the fourth quarter. There was a reason he was available when Butker was injured.
We could add the botched fake field goal here. But even if holder Tommy Townsend had completed the pass to Justin Watson, it would have come back on a flag. Lineman Geron Christian was called for being downfield. But the optics of the play were terrible anyway.