The final score from Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, was the Indianapolis Colts 45, and the Kansas City Chiefs 44, eliminating the Chiefs from the playoffs. This will go down as one of the most memorable playoff game in years, but for Chiefs fans, it’s certainly one you’ll try hard to forget, as this game saw the Chiefs blowing a 28 point second half advantage.
The Chiefs finished the 2012-2013 campaign with a dreadful 2-14 mark. Things were bad on and off the field for the Chiefs last season. From the horrific Quarterback play they received from Matt Cassel and Brady Quinn to the murder-suicide of former Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher. Just like Saturday’s Wild Card game, the 2012 season was one Chiefs will want to forget. After posting that 2-14 mark, the Chiefs would earn the number one overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, which was just one of many key moves the Chiefs would make in the off-season.
On January 4th, 2013 (a year ago, Saturday), the Kansas City Chiefs hired former Philadelphia Eagles Head Coach Andy Reid. For most of his time in Philadelphia, Coach Reid was loved by the organization. During his tenure with the Eagles, Reid led the Eagles to ten playoff victories, including 4 appearances in the NFC Conference Championship Game, and a berth in Super Bowl XXXIX in the 2004 season. Eight days later, the Chiefs would hire John Dorsey as their new GM. John Dorsey spent over 20 years with the Green Bay Packers, both as a player and an executive.
These moves in the front office, were followed up with a big on the field move, about a month and a half later. On February 28th, the Chiefs traded for San Francisco 49ers Quarterback Alex Smith, in exchange for two, second round draft picks. One in 2013 and 2014. Smith was playing very well with San Francisco before missing a couple games with a concussion, and eventually losing his starting job to Colin Kaepernick. Alex Smith seemed to be the perfect Quarterback to play for Andy Reid in his West Coast Offense. Adding Alex Smith to a team that already 6 Pro Bowlers, quickly raised expectations for this team. Kansas City would also go on to bring back Left Tackle Branden Albert, and signing their number one Wide Receiver Dwayne Bowe to a five year contract extension. Some other key signings included: WR Donnie Avery, DT Mike DeVito, and TE Anthony Fasano. The Chiefs would also go on to select Tackle Eric Fisher out of Central Michigan with the number one pick in the 2013 NFL Draft.
As the season started, everyone expected the Chiefs to improve on their win total in 2013. And, it didn’t take long to do so. After going 2-14 the previous season, Kansas City raced out to a 9-0 record, the team’s best start since 2003, and became the last undefeated team in the league. The 9-0 start was led by star running back Jamaal Charles, and a defense the featured a terrifying pass rush with Tamba Hali and Justin Houston combining for 20 sacks through the first 9 games of the season. The Chiefs were dealt with some injuries the second half of the season, and fell back to earth a bit, losing five of their last seven, but still finishing with a more than satisfying 11-5 record. A record good enough to win some divisions, but because of the Peyton Manning-led Denver Broncos, the Chiefs were forced to settle for a Wild Card spot and a 5 seed, forcing them to travel on the road for the playoffs.
On Saturday, the Chiefs found them in a spot where most “experts” and probably most fans, would have never imagined them in. The playoffs, a year after finishing 2-14. This game was certainly a roller coaster ride. The Chiefs received the ball first, and were moving the ball right down the Indianapolis defense. Alex Smith went to hand the ball off to Jamaal Charles, who picked up seven yards. Typical Jamaal Charles. Afterwards, probably the worst case scenario hit the Chiefs. Jamaal Charles laid flat on his stomach, lying motionless. He was later helped off the field, taken to the locker room, evaluated with a concussion, and would not return. However, the Chiefs offense would not skip a beat in the first half without their All-Pro running back. Knile Davis did a tremendous job replacing Charles, and Alex Smith was having the game of his life. Previously labeled as nothing more than a “game manager”, Smith completed a 63 yard pass to Dwayne Bowe, and an 80 yard touchdown to Donnie Avery. The Chiefs rolled into halftime, with a 31-10 advantage over Indianapolis. They would carry the momentum into the second half, as Colts Quarterback Andrew Luck was intercepted by Hussain Abdullah. Alex Smith would connect with Knile Davis a few plays later for one of his four touchdowns. The score now, 38-10, Kansas City. It seemed the Chiefs were destined to snap a 20 year playoff victory drought. Andrew Luck, TY Hilton and company thought otherwise. The Colts scored a touchdown, forced an Alex Smith fumble, and scored again. The Chiefs lead was trimmed to 38-24. Each team would add a score before the end of the quarter, and the Chiefs would head into the 4th quarter with a two score advantage, at 41-31. A few minutes into the quarter, the Colts would get Luck-y (get it?). On 2nd&Goal, inside the five yard line, Luck went to hand the ball off to Colts running back Donald Brown, who would fumble the ball. The ball deflected off an Indianapolis linemen, right into the hands of Andrew Luck, who would run in it for a touchdown, trimming the Chiefs lead to just three. At this point, the Colts seemed destined to win. Ryan Succop would hit a 43 yard field goal, pushing the Chiefs lead to 44-38. 3 plays into the next Indianapolis drive, Chiefs outside linebacker Justin Houston, just returning from an elbow injury, would go out with a knee injury. Just one of many key Chiefs players who would exit with injury. The next play Andrew Luck would hook up with TY Hilton for a 64 yard touchdown. Extra point is good. And now, the Colts have completely erased a 28 point deficit, and take a 45-44 lead. Alex Smith and the Chiefs had one more shot. Kansas City would move the ball to the Indianapolis 43 yard line, and were forced with a 4th and 11. Alex Smith lofted it up for Dwayne Bowe along the sideline who would make the catch…out of bounds. There were less than 2 minutes remaining and the Chiefs were without any timeouts, and it had become clear that the season was over. Up 38-10, everything seemed perfect. I could envision the “No Charles, No Problem” headlines tomorrow, and Chiefs fans getting “#ThirdTimesTheCharm” trending on twitter, in hopes of knocking off the Denver Broncos in the Divisional Round. Instead, we’re left wondering what went wrong. Why was a defense that was considered the best in the league through the first 9 games unable to hold a 28 point advantage?
Once everyone calms down, I’m sure we will all go back and look at this season as a big success. A rapid turnaround, going from the laughing stock of the league, to a franchise that is likely just a couple pieces away from being legitimate Super Bowl contenders. This is a heartbreaking loss, and one that you never really get over, just know how to live with it, but nonetheless this one hell of a ride, and we must appreciate what Clark Hunt, John Dorsey, and Andy Reid have done to bring this team back to relevance.