Maybe the Kansas City Chiefs and their fans were secretly expecting the worst after an impressive but unpredictable season, but the 45-44 loss to the Indianapolis Colts Saturday marked the end of the Chiefs’ playtime for a while.
What comes to mind at the moment is the line from the poem “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas” where ‘a long winter’s nap’ is about to be welcomed.
Then what comes to mind is a Chiefs team collectively and quietly slinking away to take that nap after losing that AFC Wild Card playoff game, especially in light of the fact that Kansas City led at one point by 28 points. The Chiefs let the Colts slowly but surely chip away at that lead.
Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith had arguably – and ironically – the best game of his professional football career (44 points with Smith throwing for 378 yards and four touchdowns, a career-best for him, also setting new Chiefs single-game playoff records) and begrudgingly acknowledged missed opportunities. Head coach Andy Reid was at a loss for words afterwards in the locker room.
To Kansas City’s credit, the team had to push forward after losing three of their key starters during the game in receiver Donnie Avery, running back Jamaal Charles, and later Charles’ replacement, rookie running back Knile Davis. Avery left the game due to a concussion following a 79-yard touchdown catch, Charles after getting knocked out cold early on and Davis due to a badly-timed knee injury.
But it was not even the offense that fell apart on Saturday.
During the first nine games of the Chiefs’ season when they went undefeated to the shock and awe of the NFL world, the defense allowed no more than 17 points per game. Things started to slip after Kansas City met the Denver Broncos for the first time in the regular season in Week 11. The defense that once was looked to as the Chiefs’ salvation for the postseason slowly crumbled over the course of the subsequent weeks, allowing an average of more than 32 PPG since Nov. 3, with the exception of their 45-10 win over the Washington Redskins.
And ultimately this defense crumbled in the game against Indy, most notably with the absence of Kansas City’s signature pass rush which solidified their chances early in the season. At the most crucial moment, the Chiefs defense gave up a season-high of 45 points to a Colts offense that they could have easily stopped.
If ever there was a factor to get back on top of for Kansas City it would have to start with getting their defense back, particularly their pass rush, first and foremost.