Avalanche of offense is possible
Even in snow, Colts, Chiefs have dangerous weapons
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Eric Ebron has seen the forecast for Saturday’s divisional playoff game between the Colts and Chiefs, for which even the most optimistic of meteorologists are pegging the chances of rain or snow at about 50 percent.
It doesn’t bother him. The Colts tight end played in plenty of cold games in the NFC North.
“You get past it once you get out there,” said Ebron, who started his career with the Lions and remembers frigid games in Green Bay and Chicago. “The worst is the TV timeouts. Once that’s over you will warm back up, but other than that it should be fun . ... I love snow games.”
Even if the cold, wet weather puts a damper on two star-studded offenses.
Most of the attention this week has been on the quarterback showdown between the Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes and the Colts’ Andrew Luck, and rightfully so. Mahomes shattered records by the dozen this year, throwing for more than 5,000 yards and 50 touchdowns, and Luck tossed 39 touchdown passes while taking the Colts from a 1-5 start to the second weekend of the playoffs.
But neither quarterback would have posted such gaudy numbers had he not had a plethora of weapons at his disposal.
Chiefs speedster Tyreek Hill set a franchise record with 1,479 receiving yards, pulled in 12 touchdown passes and had a league-leading 22 catches of at least 25 yards. He had five plays of at least 50 yards, including a 91-yard punt-return touchdown against the Chargers in Week 1.
Hill should have his top running mate back. Sammy Watkins practiced this week after missing a handful of games with a foot injury.
Then there’s Travis Kelce, the All-Pro tight end whose value comes as both a blocker and a dangerous downfield target. Kelce had 103 catches for 1,336 yards and has caught at least one pass in 79 consecutive games.
“I have a big advantage here that I have a lot of great teammates that can make a lot of plays. I don’t have to try to do too much,” Mahomes said. “Just get the ball out of my hands. Get it to Tyreek, get it to Kelce, get it to all these guys who can make plays and let them do what they have been doing all season long. That’s the biggest thing, not trying to do too much.”
Especially considering what they’ve done all season has been good enough.
“I mean, just their weapons — they’ve got several All-Pro players. They have a lot of good players that didn’t get that recognition,” Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus said. “There’s a lot of skill on that side of the ball . ... It’s going to be a big challenge.”
It’s not unlike the challenge the Colts offense presents to the Chiefs, who have been ferocious at rushing the passer but have struggled in just about every other defensive aspect.
T.Y. Hilton shredded the Chiefs with 13 catches for 224 yards and two touchdowns during their 2014 playoff game, in which the Colts rallied from a 38-10 second-half deficit. He had 76 catches for 1,270 yards and six touchdowns in another Pro Bowlcaliber season. His running mate, Dontrelle Inman, has scored in three consecutive games.
And like the Chiefs, the Colts have one of the league’s most versatile and dangerous tight ends in Ebron. He had 13 touchdown catches during the regular season, trailing only the Steelers’ Antonio Brown for the league lead, and added another in the playoff win in Houston.
“Based on the numbers, it’s going to be very challenging,” Chiefs defensive coordinator Bob Sutton said. “It’s like anything, we will have our chances. We have to take advantage of it.”
Tight end Eric Ebron and the Colts are ready for whatever the Chiefs and the weather bring in their playoff matchup.