Lessons from past seasons helping Colts, Chiefs in 2016
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) Andrew Luck prefers looking ahead.
He knows the Indianapolis Colts face a serious challenge Sunday against Kansas City, a team in the middle of the AFC West title hunt.
He understands the Chiefs possess a ball-hawking defense and win games by forcing turnovers and limiting mistakes.
That's enough to keep Luck on message this week - even if everyone else wants to discuss the 28-point comeback he led the previous time he faced the Chiefs.
''I believe it was in the playoffs a couple years ago and it was a good win,'' Luck said, drawing laughter as he discussed his memories of the second-largest rally in playoff history.
While the low-key response was pure Luck , his comeback and the Colts' first playoff win in the post-Peyton Manning era was not.
Indy punter Pat McAfee calls it the moment Colts players understood they would never be out of a game when Luck was in uniform. Coach Chuck Pagano called it the best of the 17 comeback wins on Luck's resume, including three this season.
Even in Kansas City (4-2), the game has impact.
''You can still turn on that tape in the third quarter and the fourth quarter and there's a point where you look at the scoreboard and we somehow lost that game and just try to use it as a teaching example and keeping your edge all the way through the end,'' Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith said. ''Obviously, to jump out like that and to not finish it off, it was tough looking back at.''
But as stinging as that defeat was in January 2014, the Chiefs have rebounded nicely .
After missing the playoffs by one game in 2014, they returned last season despite a 1-5 start and are now playing as well as just about any team in the league outside of New England.
The Chiefs are even in the loss column with defending Super Bowl champion Denver and Oakland in the division race, and are looking to make another statement Sunday in Indianapolis.
''We control our own destiny now, that's the big part - we definitely want to beat them, but we're trying to win our division, so that's our goal right now,'' defensive tackle Jaye Howard said. ''I'm quite sure they're going to show us some clips of us to motivate us, but we don't need the motivation.''
And after a slow September, it's the Colts (3-4) who are trying to learn from some of the lessons Kansas City provided last season.
''Some things happen, the ball starts to bounce your way, you might get some guys back healthy, a number of things and things start clicking and you win a couple games in a row and get on a roll,'' Pagano said. ''There is nothing like momentum, so it (the Chiefs turnaround) is a great example for our guys.''
Here are some other things to watch Sunday:
AUTOMATIC ADAM: Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri has the franchise record for consecutive field goals after breaking Mike Vanderjagt's NFL record last week. The 43-year-old Vinatieri has made 43 in a row, hasn't missed a field-goal attempt in 14 months and will try to extend his mark at Lucas Oil Stadium. Vinatieri also needs two field goals from 20 to 29 yards to tie Morten Andersen's NFL record (176) from that distance, and one field goal from 40 to 49 yards to tie Andersen (147) for No. 2 in NFL history at that distance.
PENALTY OPPOSITES: Given that the Colts rank among the league leaders with 58 penalties in seven games, perhaps it shouldn't be a surprise that Indianapolis is under .500. The Chiefs, meanwhile, have been flagged 33 times, tied with San Diego for the league low. If these trends continue Sunday, it could be easy to pick the winner.
TOWERING HILTON: With 45 catches for 689 yards, Indy receiver T.Y. Hilton is on pace to shatter his previous career highs. Even with injuries to Donte Moncrief, Phillip Dorsett and Dwayne Allen, Hilton hasn't slowed down. He caught long TD passes for go-ahead scores in Indy's first two wins and did it again last week - only to have the TD catch nullified by a penalty.
TAKEAWAY ADVENTURES: Kansas City doesn't just force turnovers, it takes advantages of them. They are tied for second in the NFL this season with 14 takeaways, have a plus-7 turnover margin and have scored 41 points off those takeaways. In addition, the Chiefs' six defensive scores since 2015 are No. 1 in the NFL.
HOME SWEET HOME: Since moving to Indy in 1984, the Colts are 6-1 on their home turf against the Chiefs. Indy's only loss came in 2011, when Peyton Manning missed the entire season.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and AP NFL Twitter feed: www.twitter.com/AP-NFL