The Kansas City Chiefs did something they haven’t done all season—and that’s lead a game.
Unfortunately a 10-point lead wasn’t enough against the Pittsburgh Steelers, but not because it was the blowout many expected. The Chiefs actually pushed the game into overtime before falling by a score of 16-13 and dropping to 1-8 on the season.
The strengths were familiar, but so were the weaknesses. The Chiefs rushed for 142 yards on 35 carries, but Matt Cassel threw an inexplicable interception in overtime to give the Steelers the win. For a change it wasn’t multiple turnovers, but the one interception came at a moment in the game that was absolutely back-breaking.
With Ben Roethlisberger out for most of the second half, the Chiefs had a golden opportunity to take command of the game, and they blew it. The Chiefs committed untimely penalties, went three-and-out on four of six second-half possessions and missed a chip-shot field goal. It took a field goal as time expired just to force overtime.
The Chiefs were the victim of questionable officiating, but the biggest errors were undeniable.
A holding penalty wiped out a 22-yard Dwayne Bowe touchdown prior to Ryan Succop missing a 33-yard field goal, and a roughing-the-passer penalty by Tamba Hali turned a potential 44-yard field goal attempt in sloppy conditions into a 31-yard field goal that put the Steelers up 13-10.
The offense just couldn’t get going in the second half after the missed field goal and the four three-and-outs were consecutive. Of the 12 plays on those drives, Cassel attempted six passes, completed one for two yards and was sacked; Jamaal Charles ran the ball four times for 11 yards and Peyton Hillis ran it two times for two yards.
Prior to the four three-and-out drives in the second half, the Chiefs had run the ball nearly twice as much as they passed and had been fairly effective. Things changed when the Steelers clamped down on the running game and were daring the Chiefs to pass. Cassel just couldn’t get things going until the final drive of the fourth quarter.
With the offense struggling, it was the defense that kept the Chiefs in the game—and they limited the Steelers to just a field goal in the second half. Some of the defensive performance may be attributed to the absence of Roethlisberger, but he wasn’t much better in the first half than his replacement Bryon Leftwich.
The defense allowed just 13 points through four quarters; even the touchdown pass the Chiefs allowed in the first half was good coverage and took a circus catch by Mike Wallace to be completed.
Brandon Flowers and the rest of the secondary blanketed Pittsburgh’s receivers and limited Pittsburgh’s passing game to just 157 yards.
Derrick Johnson was particularly good against the run with 12 tackles and a forced fumble. Justin Houston was also dominant and forced a fumble, had a sack and five tackles.
The loss can be boiled down to an offense that couldn’t convert on third down to extend drives, penalties at the wrong times and Cassel’s interception in overtime. The Chiefs had the right game plan they just could execute it. The Chiefs ultimately had no choice but to put the ball in Cassel’s hands late in the game and in overtime.
Cassel got the Chiefs into field-goal range to send it to overtime, but that's when his luck finally ran out. It didn’t work out for the Chiefs this time, but this game is a blueprint for how they can play spoiler and win a few games down the stretch.