Semi-tough

Chiefs ad­vance to con­fer­ence fi­nal:

Sunday Sports - - FRONT PAGE - DON BREN­NAN

KANSAS CITY — The snowy and slip­pery con­di­tions made it dif­fi­cult to drive in Mis­souri’s largest city on Satur­day.

For ev­ery­body, that is, ex­cept the Kansas City Chiefs of­fence.

With their first pos­ses­sion, the Chiefs drove 90 yards on five plays for a touch­down. With their sec­ond, they drove 70 yards on eight plays for an­other ma­jor score. And on their last pos­ses­sion of the first half, they capped a 75-yard, 10-play drive with their third visit to the end zone.

Their 24-7 half­time lead turned into a 31-13 fi­nal over the In­di­anapo­lis Colts that puts the Chiefs into the AFC cham­pi­onship game, as hosts, against ei­ther the New Eng­land Pa­tri­ots or Los An­ge­les Charg­ers in one week.

It was the first play­off home vic­tory for the Chiefs since 1993, a drought that cov­ers six dis­ap­point­ments.

“This is a new era,” said Chiefs de­fen­sive line­man Chris Jones. “New team, new mind­set. We’re chang­ing the cul­ture here.”

In­deed, the real story was the Chiefs de­fence. Ranked 31st in yards al­lowed and 24th in points sur­ren­dered dur­ing the sea­son, the Chiefs stymied the In­di­anapo­lis Colts in a 31-13 vic­tory that chased demons from Ar­row­head Sta­dium.

The de­fence kept An­drew Luck off-bal­ance all day. The Colts didn’t pick up their first, first down un­til there was just over a minute left in the open­ing half. Their only score was on a blocked punt. Luck, who didn’t com­plete his first pass of the day un­til the Colts were down 17-0, had just a mis­er­able time. He fin­ished with 19 com­ple­tions on 36 at­tempts for just 203 yards.

“I think some of the young guys are ma­tur­ing right in front of our eyes and play­ing well,” said Chiefs coach Andy Reid.

First-year start­ing quar­ter­back Pa­trick Ma­homes — ex­pected to be named the league’s reg­u­lar sea­son MVP — was sim­ply out­stand­ing in his play­off de­but in steer­ing the Chiefs to their first home play­off win since 1993 (a slump that cov­ered six games). Ma­homes com­pleted 27 of 41 passes for 278 yards, 195 of which were in the first half.

Sur­pris­ingly, he didn’t throw a sin­gle TD pass, but he scored the third Chiefs touch­down on a four-yard run around the right end.

“It was a great win,” said Ma­homes. “The de­fence stepped up big, played great all game. On of­fence, we started fast and had kind of a dry spell, but we fin­ished it off in the end.”

It started right af­ter the open­ing kick­off. On the Colts first snap, run­ning back Mar­lon Mack was tack­led for a three-yard loss. Two plays later on third down, usu­ally re­li­able tight end Eric Ebron dropped a Luck pass at the first down marker.

On his next series, Luck had two throws knocked down at the line and a third bat­ted away by cor­ner­back Char­var­ius Ward.

“Some bat­ted balls hurt, some in­com­ple­tions and some throws that I am not happy about, that I wish I could have back,” Luck said.

In be­tween, Ma­homes pecked away with short passes be­fore con­nect­ing with for­mer Buf­falo Bill Sammy Watkins on a 34-yard gain that was ex­tended by a horse col­lar tackle out of bounds.

One play later, run­ning back Damien Wil­liams had a strong 10-yard touch­down run, cut­ting up the mid­dle and past tack­lers af­ter ini­tially start­ing to­wards the right. On the field, the Chiefs have missed Ka­reem Hunt since last year’s NFL rush­ing leader was re­leased in Novem­ber af­ter be­ing caught abus­ing a woman. On this day, they did not.

Wil­liams, the for­mer Mi­ami Dol­phin, han­dled all ball car­ry­ing du­ties when Spencer Ware’s ham­string in­jury didn’t heal in time.

He fin­ished with 25 car­ries for 129 yards.

“The of­fen­sive line, they’ve been great all year,” said Wil­liams. “Hav­ing the op­por­tu­nity to start a play­off game and be be­hind that line, it was in­cred­i­ble. The lanes they opened up, All I could do was just hit it.”

The Colts open­ing half touch­down was scored with 5:56 left in the sec­ond quar­ter. With Kansas City punt­ing from its own 19-yeard line, line­backer Na­jee Goode burst through the pro­tec­tion to get the block, while Zach Pas­cal jumped on the loose ball for the score.

It was the only Goode thing hap­pen­ing for the Colts. They tried to put some more points on the board be­fore the break, but kicker Adam Vi­natieri hit the left up­right with a field goal at­tempt from 23 yards out on the last play.

The name of Bears kicker Cody Parkey’s was men­tioned by a few peo­ple in the press box.

The Colts had a cou­ple of op­por­tu­ni­ties in the the third quar­ter, in­clud­ing once when Watkins fum­bled and they took over on the K.C. 20, but in each case the de­fence stepped up with big sacks against an Indy line that al­lowed the fewest all sea­son.

Luck fi­nally put to­gether a scor­ing driv­ing in the fourth quar­ter, end­ing it with a 29 yard TD pass to T.Y. Hilton. By then, how­ever, it was too late.

“I’m just happy for ev­ery sin­gle guy in this locker room,” said Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce. “We’ve worked ex­tremely hard to get to this point, to give our­selves an­other chance to play in an ex­tra foot­ball week next Sun­day.”

The fans, many of whom en­ter­tained them­selves by throw­ing snow­balls through­out the day, could fi­nally go home to cel­e­brate a play­off win. The first one if five tries for the Chiefs against the Colts, no less.

GETTY IM­AGES

Chiefs quar­ter­back Pa­trick Ma­homes points to the side­lines in cel­e­bra­tion af­ter throw­ing a touch­down against the In­di­anapo­lis Colts dur­ing their AFC di­vi­sional round play­off game last night at Ar­row­head Sta­dium in Kansas City.

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