The Indianapolis Colts won't face a great team, but they will enter hostile environment. This is a group of fans, remember, that seemed to cheer when former starting quarterback Matt Cassel didn't immediately bounce up from a hit. They're not reserved.
“They have very passionate fans,” Colts outside linebacker Robert Mathis said. “They're going to get on you, talk about your mommas and try to do whatever they can to get into your head. You just have to play football.”
The Colts (9-5) play the Chiefs (2-12) at 1 p.m. Sunday in Arrowhead Stadium.
“It's the No. 1 outside stadium I've ever been in,” Colts interim coach Bruce Arians said, citing Buffalo as the only comparable outdoor stadium. “Arrowhead Stadium has a very unique flavor to it. It was built state-of-the-art at its time and it's still state of the art. The parking and the tailgating and the whole thing they have out there is fabulous. It's great.”
This Colts team has played in Chicago, New York, New England and Houston. All of those teams, at least at the time, were much better than the Chiefs.
Fans can only account for so much of an advantage.
If they Colts win, they make the playoffs.
If they take the Chiefs lightly and lose, they could still make the playoffs. It'd be ugly, though.
“It's the NFL, you can't underestimate anybody,” Mathis said. “Last year, we were sitting in the same spot, not many wins, but at the same time we came to play each and every week. That's what they do. They get paid to do a job and they do it very well.”
Plenty of people would disagree with Mathis' assessment of how well the Chiefs do their job. They are a much better defensive team (18th in total defense) than offensive team (25th). They have a strong running game with Jamaal Charles (1,230 yards), but a tepid passing game with Brady Quinn.
But Mathis makes a valid point with his comparison to the 2011 Colts. Indianapolis was 1-13 entering a home game against far superior Houston at his point last season. The Colts won 19-16.
In another similarity, the Chiefs are in position for the No. 1 draft pick in next spring's draft, tied with Jacksonville for the worst record. The Colts lost their last game last season to clinch the No. 1 pick, which they used to draft quarterback Andrew Luck.
If there's one theme Arians will continue to stress, it's the importance of respecting the Chiefs regardless of their record.
“Defensively, they play much better than their record indicates,” Luck said. “(They're) one of the top defenses that I think we've faced all year. They play hard, they are fast, physical, they make plays. It's going to be a great challenge for us, offensively.”
Luck took a step forward on the road last week, even in the loss at Houston by not turning the ball over. He threw two touchdowns with no interceptions and had the Colts within a score in the fourth quarter.
He was sacked five times, something the offensive line hopes to correct on the road this week. The Chiefs do bring some pass rush: linebacker Justin Houston has 10 sacks and Tamba Hali has eight sacks.
“We came in and watched the (Houston) film with a critical eye and we all realized we made some mistakes,” Colts left guard Joe Reitz said. “We needed better technique and to a man, we owned up to our mistakes. Now we're going on to Kansas City and making sure to practice well.”
Kansas City's defense will present challenges, Reitz said.
“They have a lot of talent and a lot of guys playing well,” Reitz said. “You just take it from the film, you see a good defense. We all need a better performance this week.”
A quick scoring drive or two would helps the Colts' cause, but whether it would quiet the Kansas City fans remains to be seen.
Colts at Kansas CityKickoff: 1 p.m. Sunday in Arrowhead Stadium
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