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Eberflus: Colts D has 'hands full' facing Chiefs offense

The Indianapolis Colts defense entered the 2018 season with low expectations given their nondescript depth chart.

The unit blasted those assumptions out of the water and streaked into the playoffs. Since Week 7, the Colts defense ranks first in points per game allowed (16.4), sixth in yards per game allowed (311.0), tied for eighth in takeaways, and ninth in passing yards per game allowed (212.5) and rushing yards per game (98.5).

On the backs of Defensive Rookie of the Year candidate Darius Leonard and a bevy of unheralded defenders, the Colts have become a complete unit behind defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus.

Saturday's shutdown of Deshaun Watson exemplified the Colts' team-defensive effort. Watching Pierre Desir smother DeAndre Hopkins (albeit battling injury) was just head-turning phase of Indy's thorough defensive effort. The Colts' defensive effort this season could land Eberflus a head coaching job after just one season as an NFL defensive coordinator.

The caveat for the Colts during their 10-1 defensive run has been the quality of opponents, especially quarterbacks.

Here is a list of signal-callers Indy faced down the stretch:

Derek Anderson, Bills
Derek Carr, Raiders
Blake Bortles, Jaguars
Marcus Mariota/Blaine Gabbert, Titans
Ryan Tannehill, Dolphins
Cody Kessler, Jags (loss)
Deshaun Watson, Texans (twice)
Dak Prescott, Cowboys
Eli Manning, Giants
Blaine Gabbert, Titans

Not exactly Murderers' Row.

Now the Colts face the ultimate offensive threat: the Kansas City Chiefs.

"You're dealing with an offense that is above everybody else in the stats," Eberflus said, via WXIN Indianapolis. "We've got our hands full."

The Chiefs enter the Divisional Round ranking first in points per game scored (35.3) and yards per contest (425.6).

MVP favorite Patrick Mahomes represents by far the best quarterback the Colts have faced during their late-season run.

"The thing that jumps out at you is arm talent,'' Eberflus said of Mahomes. "The great quarterbacks of the game, if you go all the way back to the beginning and watch those guys, the two things they have is timing and accuracy. They have varying degrees of arm strength, but, man, the timing of which they throw the ball and it gets there on time, and the accuracy they have.

"This is what this young man has.''

If it was just Mahomes, perhaps a game plan could be devised to slow the dynamic, side-arm slinging, tight-window puncturing, dive-bomb diming quarterback. However, the Chiefs also boast three other first-team All-Pro players outside of the quarterback: receiver Tyreek Hill, tight end Travis Kelce and right tackle Mitchell Schwartz. The crew compiled the third most points in NFL history this season.

"Yeah, just their weapons," Eberflus said. "They've got several All-Pro players ... and a lot of players that didn't get that recognition. A lot of skill on that side of the ball for them."

Don't forget Andy Reid dialing up creative plays to keep any defense off balance -- oh, and he's had an extra week to prepare some new wrinkles.

"The scheme's a little bit unique, too, in terms of what they do and how they do it," Eberflus said. "They really spread the field horizontally and vertically with your defense and make you tackle in space. That's what they do."

If the Colts' cast of unsung defenders can't make plays in space, Indy doesn't stand a chance of slowing down Mahomes on the road.

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