Colts prepare for high-powered Chiefs, and might be without Clayton Geathers
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Frank Reich already is adjusting a game plan that must keep track with the Patrick Mahomes Express.
That means being “even more aggressive’’ than normal. And we all know how aggressive Reich is by nature. He consults his trusty analytical charts when making snap in-game decisions.
“Those charts aren’t an absolute guide or rule,’’ he said Monday. “They’re suggestions. They’re giving you information.
“Those charts, I’m sure, will be more aggressive this week.’’
Bet on it.
Mahomes is the NFL’s reigning MVP and directs the league’s most electric offense. It ranks second in yards per game (474.8) and points (33.8). In Mahomes’ 23-game career, including the playoffs, the Chiefs have averaged 33.1 points and have breached the 30-point level 17 times.
For perspective, consider the Colts have scored at least 30 points 28 times since 2011, a stretch of 136 games.
But while the offensive preparations are underway for Sunday night’s prime-time meeting with Mahomes and the Chiefs in Kansas City’s Arrowhead Stadium, the Colts also might find themselves lacking not one, but two veteran safeties.
Strong safety Clayton Geathers began experiencing concussion symptoms following Sunday’s loss to Oakland and is in the NFL’s concussion protocol. That automatically makes him iffy for the Chiefs. He missed two games last season with concussion/neck issues.
His absence would be compounded by the continued rehab of free safety Malik Hooker, who suffered a knee injury in week 3 against Atlanta that could sideline him for a month.
The Colts last dealt with Mahomes and the Chiefs in Arrowhead Stadium Jan. 12 in a second-round playoff game. They were outmanned 31-13, and without Hooker, who missed the game with a foot injury.
If the Colts are without their starting safeties, they’ll have to lean on rookie Khari Willis, George Odom and Rolan Milligan. Willis made his first career start against the Raiders. Odom has been a special teams standout but has only two starts among his 20 appearances in two seasons. Milligan has appeared in two games.
It’s likely the Colts will look to add a safety to the roster this week, although Reich indicated they might consider adjusting from within.
“If Clayton can’t go, we’ll make the appropriate moves,’’ he said. “We have some versatility. Quincy’s (Wilson) very versatile.’’
Regardless the available personnel, the Chiefs figure to be a handful. They’re one of the NFL’s three unbeaten, joining New England (4-0) and San Francisco (3-0).
Mahomes is the catalyst. He leads the NFL in yards (1,510), yards per attempt (9.7) and passer rating (120.4). He’s tied for the league lead with 10 touchdowns, hasn’t suffered an interception and has been sacked just three times on 159 drop-backs.
That latter stat caught Reich’s eye.
“I typically always look at sacks as a percentage of passes thrown, and I think Mahomes is No. 1 in the league as far as fewest sacks percentage-wise,’’ he said. “It will be a good challenge. He’s tough to get to.’’
Not that it was any consolation, but the Colts sacked Mahomes four times in January.
After posting four sacks in each of their first two games, the Colts’ pass rush has disappeared. It’s had just one sack – by Anthony Walker against the Raiders when he chased Derek Carr out of bounds for no gain – and four QB hits the last two games.
All-Pro linebacker Darius Leonard remains in the NFL’s concussion protocol, and his availability for Sunday won’t be known until later in the week.
“He is making progress through the steps of the protocol,’’ Reich said. “Obviously, that’s something we’re really going to treat delicately and be very conservative on.’’
Also, Marlon Mack is dealing with an ankle injury that limited his playing time against Oakland, and rookie wideout Parris Campbell suffered an abdominal injury during the game.
Reich: NFL right on Burfict decision
Reich fully endorsed the NFL’s decision Monday to suspend Raiders linebacker Vontaze Burfict for the remainder of the season. The decision was made after Burfict was penalized for unnecessary roughness and ejected from the game for his helmet-to-helmet hit against tight end Jack Doyle.
Reich described the hit as “vicious.’’
“I was just thankful that the league took the action that it did and support the league in that decision,’’ he said. “When someone does something like that – attacks one of your players – that’s just not supposed to be in the game.
“And when it’s against one of your players, you naturally have a reaction. I’m just glad they did what they did at the game, and the follow-up action seems very appropriate.’’
And be sure to catch the Colts Blue Zone Podcast: