A squandered lead and devastating loss in the Wild Card round of the AFC Playoffs continues the unfortunate M.O. for the Kansas City Chiefs under coach Andy Reid.
In the first quarter of the 2017 NFL season, the Kansas City Chiefs appeared were ready to finally make their long-awaited run at the Super Bowl after years of postseason heartbreak. The Chiefs were the NFL’s final unbeaten team and boasted an impressive road win over the New England Patriots to their resume.
Unfortunately for Kansas City, the same woes that have followed them throughout the Andy Reid era reappeared in the second half of 2017. An injury to Eric Berry began the downturn of the Chiefs’ fortunes and a large division lead was conceded at one point late in the season.
A December win over the Los Angeles Chargers salvaged the division title and gave the Chiefs a lifeline to save their once promising season with a home playoff game in the AFC Wild Card.
It was a favorable matchup for the Chiefs against a Tennessee Titans team that also skidded themselves into the playoffs and were without veteran running back DeMarco Murray in their dangerous running back tandem.
On a cold Saturday evening at Arrowhead, everything favored the Chiefs going into Saturday. It appeared that way throughout the first half with Alex Smith starting red hot with two first-half touchdown passes.
A deep pass from Smith to DeMarcus Robinson put the Chiefs in command, going into halftime ahead 21-3; A lead that appeared safe for Reid and his team in a game wherein every bounce went in their direction through two quarters.
In the second half, a Chiefs team without Travis Kelce after a bone-jarring hit put him out of action with a concussion began to slip. The Titans – who left points on the board in the first half with an Eric Decker third-down drop and a Mariota red zone interception – began to finish drives.
Scary moment. Travis Kelce has trouble standing up after taking a big hit to the helmet. pic.twitter.com/b1uvHtO1VH
— 360°FantasyFootball (@360FFB) January 6, 2018
Mariota began the comeback with the most fortuitous of bounces as a deflected pass on a scramble bounced back into to the mobile quarterback’s hands for the Titans first touchdown.
After stops from the scrappy Titans defense – led by linebacker Wesley Woodyard and the masterful defensive mind of Dick LeBeau – Derrick Henry put the Titans within striking distance with a long touchdown run that put further pressure on the Chiefs.
With the Tennessee defense getting stop after stop, the Chiefs gave Mariota the ball with the score at 21-16 and a chance for the Titans to complete the comeback.
Mariota capitalized on the opportunity and finished another perfectly executed second-half drive, this time with a dart to Eric Decker to put the Titans in front with a 22-21 lead late in the fourth quarter.
Provided with a final opportunity to avoid the collapse, Smith and the Chiefs offense could not get the ball rolling downfield in the final moments. Reid’s once-explosive offense theme of not showing up when it counts continued in an appalling second half display that will be the likely end of at least Alex Smith.
After such an embarrassing second-half collapse and a home playoff meltdown, the end of the Alex Smith era in Kansas City appears inevitable entering the postseason. Patrick Mahomes was electric in Week 17 preceding the debacle against the Titans and the calls to run with the 2017 first round pick are now fully warranted from Chiefs fans frustrated with periods of lengthy offensive stagnation, as marked the Chiefs’ second half Saturday.
Saturday’s offensive ineptitude out of the locker room also falls on Andy Reid’s confusing use of breakout rookie star Kareem Hunt. Hunt carried the ball just 11 times, but reached the end zone once in those attempts. He was also targeted just three times in the passing game.
Whether Andy Reid will follow Smith out of town remains to be seen. After another early playoff exit at home it would be a deserved decision from the Chiefs to move on from Reid, but his consistency in coaching playoff teams is a hard asset to walk away from.
The question this winter and summer for the Chiefs will be if they want Reid to be in charge for the start of Patrick Mahomes run as their franchise quarterback. If so, there will be serious pressure to win right away with a rookie quarterback and finally get over the hump.
If Reid remains in control as head coach, he will need to produce a Super Bowl run and put aside a now painfully long list of failures in the postseason since coming over from Philadelphia to Kansas City. In 2018, there will be no excuses for failure from Andy Reid after yet another January of heartbreak and embarrassment for the passionate fans of the Chiefs.