All the talk leading up to the Kansas City Chiefs Wild Card playoff game against the Indianapolis Colts was how it had been 20 years since their last victory in the postseason. Well, now it will be at least 21 following the 45-44 loss at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Of course, the Chiefs couldn’t just lose the game. They had to do it in a way that would completely tear the hearts out of each and every one of their fans.
It all started in a way that made it look like a good old fashioned ugly loss when Jamaal Charles was knocked out with a concussion on just the sixth play of the game. But Kansas City didn’t fold in the aftermath and instead finished that drive with a 6-yard touchdown to Dwayne Bowe from Alex Smith.
After the Colts responded with a touchdown drive of their own, the Chiefs offense ripped off 17 straight points to build a 24-7 lead. Included in that run were huge plays from Bowe (63 yards), Donnie Avery (79), Anthony Sherman (a shovel pass!) and two turnovers courtesy of Justin Houston (fumble recovery) and Brandon Flowers (interception).
The Kansas City offense managed to move the ball on the ground without Charles thanks to a solid effort from rookie Knile Davis and Smith showing why he was the team’s second leading rusher during the regular season.
The second half even started well, with the Chiefs getting another pick of Colts quarterback Andrew Luck and turning that into seven points and a 38-10 lead.
After that things sort of get blurry for me.
Luck and Indy’s offense caught fire, led by Donald Brown (?!) and T.Y. Hilton. The combo of Hilton and Luck was nearly unstoppable, with the two hooking up at will in the second half.
No matter what Chiefs defensive coordinator Bob Sutton dialed up, Hilton was able to run free. He finished the game with 13 catches and 224 yards, both franchise records.
On top of the Colts being able to march up and down the field, they also got the bounces… quite literally. Brown had the ball down on the goal line in the fourth quarter and fumbled. But the ball bounced right into the hands of Luck as he was able to stretch the ball into the end zone.
Even with everything going the way of the home team, the Chiefs had the ball in the final minutes with a chance to win the game. Kansas City’s final drive, however, was hurt by a intentional grounding penalty as the Chiefs offense was at the Colts 39 yard line.
That drive came down to a 4th and 11 pass to Bowe down the right sideline that the wide receiver managed to haul in… out of bounds. And with that play, the Chiefs improbable season was over.
The Colts were suddenly owners of the second biggest comeback in NFL playoff history, only topped by the Bills beating the Oilers in 1993 after being down by 32.
No matter how long this loss lingers — and it sure feels like it’ll be a while — the Chiefs need to start focusing on what is in store for them in 2014. But before all eyes start looking towards the offseason, here is a look at the best players from the last game of the season on offense, defense and special teams.
Offense: Alex Smith
Despite the trouble the Chiefs offense had at times in the second half, Smith sure stepped up Saturday and showed he was a lot more than the “game manager” most have labeled him.
Smith not only put up 378 yards, four touchdowns and 44 points, but when the game was on the line on that final pass play, the quarterback stepped up.
That pass to Bowe couldn’t have been placed more perfectly. If Bowe — who had a heck of a day himself with 150 yards — had worked a little more on getting that second foot in bounds, we’d be talking about Smith as the hero instead of Luck.
There will be plenty of talk about Smith missing a wide open Cyrus Gray in the second half for a touchdown that would have sealed the game. But Smith was the most consistent Chiefs player on offense Saturday and he should come back next season ready to roll.
Defense: Husain Abdullah
There was no one on the Chiefs defense that played an error free game. Abdullah and the rest of the secondary were some of the biggest offenders. After such an embarrassing effort, I thought about not even singling out someone here for the first time ever. But if the Chiefs taught me anything Saturday, it was that some things can’t change.
So Abdullah gets the nod for his tow interceptions of Luck and finishing with six tackles.
With fellow safety Kendrick Lewis constantly proving to be a black hole, Abdullah should get a chance to compete for the open spot that will be in the starting lineup next season next to Eric Berry.
Special Teams: Ryan Succop
After missing a potential game-winning field goal last week, Succop hit every kick he was asked to make Saturday. That included three field goals and five extra points.
The one kick he never got a shot at could have ended up providing the winning points for Kansas City. That was at the end of the first half when a Luck interception helped put the Chiefs offense on the Colts 41 yard line with just six second remaining.
Instead of letting Succop take a shot at a 59 yard field goal, head coach Andy Reid opted for a Hail Mary to Bowe that fell incomplete.