INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Coach Frank Reich expects the Indianapolis Colts to run efficiently each week. So after being grounded for two consecutive games, Reich went back to the basics.
He challenged his players to clean up mistakes, clear out running lanes and re-establish their edge. The response: a head-turning win Sunday night in Kansas City.
"The best teams I've been on have always been able to run the football and run it effectively," Reich said Monday on a conference call with local reporters. "It's never easy. You get excited about what we just did and then the next week you play somebody - you really have got to go out and prove it every week."
The Colts (3-2) appeared headed in that direction after opening the season with 370 yards rushing in road games against the Los Angeles Chargers and Tennessee Titans. Over the next two weeks, home games against Atlanta and Oakland, Indy ran for just 160 yards.
But instead of changing the game plan, Reich stuck with it — and the results were even better than the Colts expected.
Third-year running back Marlon Mack logged 29 carries for 132 yards. The traditionally pass-happy Colts ran 45 times for 180 yards and Indy controlled the ball for all but 7½ minutes in the second half, steamrolling the Chiefs' injury-battered defensive line.
Meanwhile, reigning MVP Patrick Mahomes spent most of the second half watching harmlessly from the sideline as Mack attacked holes like a speeding truck.
"That's the best way (to win)," quarterback Jacoby Brissett said. "That's when you know you take a team's will, when they know you're running the ball and we know we're running the ball. But we believe our guys were better and (Sunday night) that was the case."
Reich believes the Colts can now win consistently by grinding out yards and wearing down defenses.
When general manager Chris Ballard plugged All-Pro Quenton Nelson in between two first-round draft picks, left tackle Anthony Castonzo and center Ryan Kelly, the offensive line started establishing itself. And when Ballard struck gold with right guard Mark Glowinski, a waiver wire pickup, and second-round pick Braden Smith at right tackle, the Colts suddenly had one of the league's strongest units.
The combination convinced Reich that the Colts had the perfect ingredients to be a top-five rushing offense — long before Andrew Luck suddenly retired in August.
Now, everybody appears to be on board.
Brissett didn't mind throwing 29 passes for 151 yards Sunday, given the outcome. And Reich explained Pro Bowl receiver T.Y. Hilton and Pro Bowl tight end Eric Ebron were as excited to throw blocks in Kansas City as they were catching passes.
It could be the Colts' new blueprint for success.
"What's a reasonable 'perfect' game? It's 150 yards rushing, 250 passing and mixing it up like that," Reich said. "When you get in the game and you factor in how good their offense is and the idea of controlling the ball, controlling the line of scrimmage, playing in that environment to take the crowd out of it, all of those factors, then that's when you have to move that dial the other way. The perfect game in Arrowhead (Stadium) is probably something more like what we saw last night."
Throwback football. In a league where wide-open, high-octane offenses have become all the rage, the Colts are winning with an old playbook: running the ball and stopping the run.
WHAT NEEDS HELP
Stretching the field. While Brissett has kept the turnovers down and put points on the scoreboard, he's averaging 6.4 yards per throw and ranks near the bottom of the league in yards passing (212.4 per game).
Justin Houston. The longtime Kansas City pass rusher had quite a homecoming, recording four tackles including a first-half sack of Patrick Mahomes and a fourth-down stop to set up the field goal that gave Indy an insurmountable 19-10 lead late in the fourth quarter.
Colts receivers. Hilton caught four passes for 37 yards Sunday night but the receiving corps as a whole had six receptions for 52 yards.
DE Kemoko Turay will miss the rest of the season with a broken and dislocated left ankle. He will finish his second NFL season on injured reserve after becoming an emerging threat in the Colts' pass rush.
36 — The Chiefs' rushing total was the fewest yards allowed by an Indy defense since the Minnesota Vikings rushed for 34 yards in December 2016.
The bye week comes at a perfect time for players like Hilton (quad) and All-Pro linebacker Darius Leonard (concussion) to get healthy. But the Colts also need to take advantage of the next four games on the schedule: hosting AFC South co-leader Houston and the Denver Broncos before heading to Pittsburgh and returning home to face Miami.