Ma­homes, Chiefs roll past Colts to reach the AFC ti­tle game

Centre Daily Times (Sunday) - - Sports - BY DAVE SKRETTA

The Kansas City Chiefs’ de­fense had heard the cho­rus of crit­ics all sea­son, the ones claim­ing that their sieve-like line and shaky back­field would spoil young su­per­star Patrick Ma­homes and cost them a chance to chase their first Su­per Bowl ap­pear­ance in decades.

Well, that de­fense is a big rea­son why the Chiefs are one step away.

With per­sis­tent snow turn­ing Ar­row­head Sta­dium into a win­ter won­der­land, the Chiefs suc­cess­fully shut down An­drew Luck and the po­tent In­di­anapo­lis Colts on Satur­day.

Ma­homes and the rest of their own high-pow­ered of­fense took care of the rest, rolling to a 31-13 vic­tory in the di­vi­sional round to end 25 years of play­off frus­tra­tion.

“We’re such a dif­fer­ent team,” said Ma­homes, who threw for

278 yards and ran for a score. “We have such con­fi­dence we’re go­ing to win ev­ery sin­gle game.”

Damien Wil­liams ran through snow and muck for 129 yards and a score, and Tyreek Hill had 72 yards re­ceiv­ing and a touch­down run, as the Chiefs beat In­di­anapo­lis for the first time in five play­off meet­ings to earn their first AFC ti­tle game ap­pear­ance since Jan­uary 1994.

The AFC West cham­pi­ons will play the win­ner of Sun­day’s game be­tween the divi­sion-ri­val Los An­ge­les Charg­ers and the New Eng­land Pa­tri­ots next week­end for a spot in the Su­per Bowl in At­lanta.

An­drew Luck was held to 203 yards pass­ing for the Colts, while Mar­lon Mack was a non-fac­tor on the ground. He had 46 yards rush­ing be­fore leav­ing in the fourth quar­ter with a hip in­jury.

“They out­coached us, they out­played us,” Colts coach Frank Re­ich said. “We just gave them too many op­por­tu­ni­ties.”

The Chiefs set out to change his­tory from the open­ing min­utes, when they forced a three-and­out and then waltzed right over a Colts de­fense that nearly shut out the Tex­ans a week ago. Ma­homes and Co. scored on their first three pos­ses­sions , then again just be­fore half­time, to take a 24-7 lead.

If there was any ques- tion whether this would be Kansas City’s day, it was an­swered when Colts kicker Adam Vi­natieri missed a 23-yard field­goal try off the up­right just be­fore half­time. It was the first time in 22 post­sea­son at­tempts that he’d missed from that close.

Not that the Chiefs thought they had it wrapped up.

They’ve had big­ger play­off melt­downs against the Colts.

There was the 10-7 loss in which Lin El­liott missed three field goals when the Chiefs were the No. 1 seed, and the loss at Ar­row­head Sta­dium in 2003 in which no­body punted. Five years ago, they blew a 38-10 sec­ond-half lead against Luck and the Colts to spoil Andy Reid’s first sea­son.

Not with this Kansas City quar­ter­back.

After shat­ter­ing nearly ev­ery fran­chise pass­ing record, Ma­homes picked up where he left off in his reg­u­lar-sea­son fi­nale. He led the Chiefs on touch­down drives of 90 and 70 yards to open the game, quickly iden­ti­fied a fa­vorite tar­get in Travis Kelce, and scram­bled for a touch­down late in the first half to give his team a big cush­ion.

Of course, the Chiefs (13- 4) didn’t need it the way their de­fense played.

The Colts (11-7) went three-and-out on their first four pos­ses­sions, were out­gained 185-12 in the first quar­ter, and Luck didn’t com­plete a pass un­til he found T.Y Hilton early in the sec­ond. Their lone bright spot came when Zach Paschal re­cov­ered a blocked punt for a touch­down.

Even when Sammy Watkins fum­bled the ball to the Colts late in the third quar­ter, they were quick to give it back. Dee Ford stripped Luck and fel­low line­backer Justin Hous­ton plopped on the ball, ru­in­ing an­other red-zone op­por­tu­nity.

The Colts fi­nally scored an of­fen­sive touch­down with 5:31 left in the game. But in the per­fect sum­ma­tion of their lousy af­ter­noon, their star kicker missed the ex­tra point.

By that point, the party in the stands had be­gun.

The Chiefs had lost six straight home play­off games, in­clud­ing heart­break­ers to Pitts­burgh and Ten­nessee the past two years. But a proud fran­chise that won its only Su­per Bowl ti­tle with Len Daw­son in 1970, and last played for a spot be­hind Joe Mon­tana, is once more one step away.

JOHN SLEEZER [email protected]­star.com

Chiefs out­side line­backer Justin Hous­ton cel­e­brates after sack­ing In­di­anapo­lis Colts quar­ter­back An­drew Luck in the third quar­ter.

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