Any team in a championship season has to have a balance of young and experienced players as well as players who have been around three or four years with skills to execute a winning game plan in each of the playoff situations that may arise. The 2017 Kansas City didn’t have that right mix and consequently lost another home playoff game, this time to the Tennessee Titans, 22-21.
By halftime of this game, the Chiefs were up by a score of 21-3 and looked in command of the game. Then the Titans shut the Chiefs offense down in the second half and the normally reliable rookie kicker Harrison Butker missed a FG by hitting the left upright, a FG that would have been the deciding points. However this loss can’t be pinned on Butker alone. Speedy WR Tyreek Hill offered up three dropped passes. It’s hard to tell what a catch on each of those throws might have meant to the game but, he certainly wasn’t the “difference-maker” we were hoping to see on this day.
Chiefs Windows Closing
When the Titans finally slammed the door shut on this game, they also shattered the Super Bowl window for several Chiefs. Now, we don’t know what life may be like without: OLB Tamba Hali, ILB Derrick Johnson, and possibly even QB Alex Smith… but we’re soon to find out. After all, HC Andy Reid used the word “re-build” in his post game comments.
While many fans are hoping that QBOTF Patrick Mahomes II will take over at QB, there is no guarantee that he’ll perform up to the standards that Alex Smith has established this season. There’s no telling if he’ll ever reach this level again.
While we have all witnessed DJ growing older and slower… once again, there is not guarantee that his replacement will perform up to his standards. Plus, with DJ, it’s not just about the performing, he’s also a terrific locker room presence and leader and no one will ever truly replace him.
Dominating When Dominating is Necessary
The Chiefs loss was not about the Chiefs. In reality, it was about the Titans. In post game comments, Titan RB Derrick Henry stated exactly what it took to beat the Chiefs and dominate the 4th quarter: “Grit. It’s just grit.” Now, that’s the gene that the Kansas City Chiefs don’t — and haven’t — possessed. My 11 year-old grand daughter knew what was coming in the 4th quarter, a heavy dose of RB Derrick Henry toting the ball, yet the Chiefs couldn’t stop him.
The Chiefs M.O. has always been, “get ahead and hang on for dear life.” How may times have you seen them dominate the way the Titans did in the second half? What’s the definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results. That’s why so many Chiefs fans entered the last quarter of the game with a sense of impending doom. It was way, way way too predictable. That’s also why this game was all about the Titans.
However, that really only includes a conversation about the Chiefs Defense.
Offense Monopolizes, Then Goes Limp (Impotent)
After one successful drive after another for the Chiefs, in the first half, the Titans began the second half by scoring on a long 8-and-a-half minute drive making the score 21-10 and totally changing the complexion of the game. How did the Chiefs offense respond? A fruitless 3-and-out drive in while running less than two minutes off the clock and just as importantly, forcing the defense back out onto the field when they were already worn down. Punter Dustin Colquitt was hit on the punt forcing a re-kick but when the Titans fumbled the return and the Chiefs recovered, they went 3-and-out AGAIN. Harrison Butker missed the 48 yard field goal to end the Chiefs real chances.
On the Chiefs next drive, they were 5-and-out. That was also the last moment the Chiefs held an advantage on the score board. By the time that K.C. touched the ball after that, they were behind 22-21 and their fate was sealed.
While I’ve previously stated that I place the primary blame for this loss on the lack of strength along the offensive and defensive lines… the truth is, it’s takes a village to construct a collapse like we witnessed on Saturday. Sure, any number of plays could have turn this game in favor of the Chiefs… but… that didn’t happen. K.C. was built to lose this game, and they ever so generously followed suit.
The Injury Reason or Excuse
S Eric Berry, RB Spencer Ware, WR Chris Conley, OLB Dee Ford, WR De’Anthony Thomas, C Mitch Morse, TE Travis Kelce, and DL Chris Jones. It’s a formidable group to have missing from any game much less a playoff game. Can we say with certainty that this was the reason for the loss? Well, most all of those players were on the field last year when the Chief lost at home to the Pittsburgh Steelers… so the answer may be closer to, no.
Rough Ref Riffraff
I can completely agree with anyone who thinks the Chiefs got a bum deal from the referees in this game. I’m usually one who thinks that a team makes their own positive energy with the referees but some of the calls in this game were toally suspect. We’ve recently seen a number of plays called dead when Alex Smith has drawn DL into the neutral zone and even though they weren’t proceeding “unabated to the QB” the whistle has sounded and consequently… no free play for the Chiefs. However, in this game, Andy Reid had to bite his tongue after the game but a mammoth hit by Derrick Johnson on Marcus Mariota jarred the ball loose and the ball came out before he (Mariota) hit the ground and then the ball was recovered by Justin Houston. However, the ref said Mariota’s forward progress was stopped so the play was immediately dead. I’ve never heard of a strip sack being called a dead play before so, Chiefs fans have reason to be upset. But believe me… this is not “the” reason the Chiefs lost this game.
Playing the God-Blessed Curse Card
How may times are we going to hear that “the Chiefs are cursed” and that is the reason the Chiefs lost this year’s playoff game? Let’s consider:
1. Andy Reid has just become the first coach to ever blow multiple 17+ point leads in the playoffs,
2. Jeff Triplett, the head of officiating on Saturday, has retired. So much for accountability. BTW… the former head of NFL officials Mike Pereira called the officiating, and I quote, “Horrible.” Not to beat a dead horse, but that play where the Titans QB is hit so hard the ball comes lose and then it’s ruled a dead ball… that happened more than once in this game. Un-lucky in love… or a curse? You decide.
3. When is the last time you ever heard, or saw, a QB throw a TD to himself? And looking at Jon Gruden’s cell phone video doesn’t count. FYI, I’ve looked at the tape of that play again and again and each time, Mariota is over the LOS before he releases the ball.
4. Perhaps USA Today put it best, “Despite having one of the proudest traditions in the NFL, and their stadium having a certain mystique about it, the Chiefs are miserable when the postseason rolls around.” Now, if the Chiefs win a postseason game next January, it will have been 25 years since the last time K.C. has won a home game in the playoffs.
Conclusion of Conclusions
While this game’s score turned out to be a complete disappointment, WR DeMarcus Robinson’s 4 catches for 57 yards has me excited to see what he can do next season. He’ll certainly be competition for Chris Conley and hopefully will become a regular contributor to the offense.
While I am still in the Patrick Mahomes camp as far as giving all the Chiefs gave to draft him last year, if the GM Brett Veach can find a way to keep Alex Smith at least one more year, it would be the best thing he could possibly do for this team’s offense.
The Chiefs are obviously going to need someone to feature opposite of Justin Houston and I’m still not sure that player is Tanoh Kpassagnon. At the very least, the defensive line must be bolstered. Bennie Logan hasn’t done anything to indicate he deserves another $10M contract. The run defense must be addressed. If DC Bob Sutton is fired, I’d be in favor of that, especially if Reid can bring in someone more dynamic.
Andy Reid mentioned more than once that several of these players would not be back next year and that the team that was on the field on Saturday… is no more. So, it’s clear to me that when the Titans slammed the door, windows shattered. Any thoughts?
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