ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — The Indianapolis Colts’ offense took the field with nine minutes and two seconds to play in the first quarter of a Week 5 game against the Kansas City Chiefs.
Indianapolis’ offense hardly left the field the rest of the game.
The Colts dominated Chiefs in time of possession as they held the ball for 37:15 to the Chiefs’ 22:45.
With four drives of at least 11 plays, Indianapolis kept its offense on the field and Patrick Mahomes on the sideline.
The Colts didn’t score on every drive, but they did limit Mahomes’ chances. As a result, they left Arrowhead Stadium with a 19-13 win.
A week later, the Houston Texans used a similar strategy as they held the ball for 39:48 and beat the Chiefs 31-24. Kansas City was limited to its lowest time of possession in its home regular-season history.
As the Broncos prepare to try to hand Kansas City its third consecutive loss and snap a seven-game losing streak to the Chiefs, Head Coach Vic Fangio isn’t convinced that time of possession means everything.
“Every game has its own personality to it,” Fangio said Tuesday. “The Colts played well on that day in all three phases of the game and got some critical takeaways that stopped some drives. Kansas City wasn’t at full strength, but I think the Colts just played well. I think the main thing is every game has its own personality.”
But however cliché it may sound, it’s true that the Chiefs’ fifth-ranked scoring offense can’t score if it’s not on the field. And both Indianapolis and Houston limited Kansas City’s opportunities while their own offenses thrived.
That, perhaps, may be even more important. No matter how few possessions the Chiefs get, Mahomes and Co. will likely find a way to score points.
Denver’s offense must respond.
“We’re going to have to move the ball and score points,” Fangio said. “It’s going to be hard to really slow their offense down a lot. Our offense is going to have to have a good game, no two ways about it.”
Will the Broncos employ a rush-heavy attack like they did in Week 3 against Green Bay? The Broncos rushed for 149 yards and limited Green Bay’s time of possession.
Or, instead, will Denver push the ball down the field through the air, like the team did against Jacksonville in Week 4? Joe Flacco tallied a season high three touchdown passes that afternoon.
It doesn’t much matter to Offensive Coordinator Rich Scangarello.
“You’re always trying to play complementary football, so however we’ve got to win, we’re going to do what we have to do,” Scangarello said Tuesday. “That’s take care of the football, and if it’s grinded out like last week, run the ball and know that your defense is playing well, we’ll do it that way. If we have to score points because of something different or because they pose a different threat, we’ll adapt to that. We have to do our part if we’re going to beat a really good football team like Kansas City.”
Scangarello said he’d be happy with either a 10-0 win or a 42-35 win. That is to say, the yardage and touchdowns and big plays are ultimately secondary to the final result.
Third downs, though, will be key.
“Third downs, you’ve got to convert,” Scangarello said. “If you’re not great on third downs and you’re not going to stay on the field, you’re going to give Kansas City an advantage and you’re going to be in for a long day. You have to score touchdowns and not field goals. If we can do those kinds of things, I feel really good about our chances, but it’s going to be a big challenge.”
The Broncos’ offense can’t afford, however, to think too much about what Mahomes is doing when he’s on the field. The focus, rather, must be on itself.
“It’s tough not to think that a little bit, but honestly this game’s about doing your job and everybody doing their own individual job and doing it for the guy next to him,” Flacco said. “As long as we can kind of keep our focus right here and everybody can do that, I think that’s the best way to win football games. It doesn’t really matter who you’re going against and how you think things are going to go. You just have to go play your game and let things fall where they may. It’s obviously easier said than done. You always know who you’re going against as a team.
“It’s always in the back of your head, but I really do think the best way to win football games is to focus on what you’re doing and everything else will take care of itself.”