When a team gets a big lead in the NFL, there is an expectation that they will be able to hold on to it and win the game. That expectation is based on thousands of such football games in the past. When teams do make big comebacks, it’s usually a good team that had a couple early turnovers against a really bad team.
No matter how many injuries the Kansas City Chiefs suffered, there is absolutely no excuse for blowing a 28-point lead to the Indianapolis Colts. Head coach Andy Reid, his coaches and his players should be absolutely ashamed of their performance after a great start.
Chiefs’ fans deserved much better than another postseason loss. They especially didn’t deserve an embarrassing loss that saw their team choke away what should have been a sure victory.
The Chiefs now haven’t won a playoff game since January 16, 1994 and have lost their last eight. In four of those games, their opponent was the Colts. In all eight, the opposing team was named after an animal.
Perhaps the Chiefs need to get in touch with Mother Nature and ask her if there is some kind of curse on them. Sunday’s meltdown would be a lot easier to stomach for the fans if they knew some kind of supernatural force was involved.
In the history of the NFL, there have been 1,081 regular season games in which a team had a 21-point halftime lead or greater and the team with the lead won 1,057 of those games. In the playoffs, teams with such a lead were 46-1 until the Chiefs blew a 21-point halftime lead against the Colts Saturday. The Chiefs even extended the lead to 28 points early in the third quarter, but couldn’t hold on.
It took the combination of terrible clock management, injuries, bad coaching and bad play on both sides of the ball to become some of the biggest chokers in postseason history. There were so many mistakes that the Chiefs should probably just burn the game tape.
The first thing that went wrong for the Chiefs was losing Jamaal Charles to a concussion just six plays into the game. While the Chiefs still scored 44 points without Charles, having one of the best running backs in the league could surely have come in handy when they trying to bleed clock and seal the victory. Charles could also have been useful on the team’s final offensive drive after the team fell behind.
The Chiefs also lost wide receiver Donnie Avery to a concussion in the first half. Surely a guy that hauled in a 79-yard touchdown pass at the start of the second quarter was also a significant loss. Charles’ 104 first downs during the regular season combined with Avery’s 25 accounted for 39.9 percent of the team’s season total.
Reid had called a magnificent game in the first half, but couldn’t keep the chains moving in the second half without Charles and Avery. Reid’s middle screens, 1-man routes and everything in between were widely praised in the first half.
There was one decision by Reid in the first half that drew the ire of the non-traditional fans. The New York Times 4th Down Bot calculated that the right call was to Reid to go for it on fourth down from the 1-yard line instead of kick a 19-yard field goal in the first quarter.
|Chiefs' Fourth-Down Decisions|
|Distance||Yard Line||Quarter||Time Remaining||4th Down Bot||Andy Reid|
|1 yard||Colts 1||1st||0:57||Go for it||Field Goal|
|8 yards||Colts 41||4th||14:47||Go for it||Punt|
|6 yards||Colts 25||4th||5:40||Go for it||Field Goal|
|The New York Times|
The tool also calculated that the Chiefs should have gone for it on fourth down up by 10 with 14:47 remaining in the game and when they were up by three with 5:40 remaining. Reid opted for the conservative route in each case, but it was kicking the field goal from the 1-yard line was the call that came back to haunt him.
The decision to kick the field goal was a lot harder to second guess when the Chiefs were up big, but Reid’s other blunders allowed the Colts to get back into the game and make it an issue.
With a huge lead, all the Chiefs really had to do to win was keep the clock running. Instead, Reid and his offense poorly managed the clock.
The Chiefs’ final six offensive possessions were a total disaster: a fumble by quarterback Alex Smith, a three-and-out, a 4-yard drive that resulted in a field goal after three plays and no first downs, a punt, a field goal and the final drive that ended on a fourth down pass that wide receiver Dwayne Bowe couldn’t catch inbounds.
|Chiefs' Second-Half Drives|
|5||38||2:21||4||1||Turnover on Downs||44-45|
Despite great play from Smith and Charles’ replacement Knile Davis early in the game, the Chiefs’ poor clock management in the second half allowed the Colts enough time to back into the game. The offense was hardly the biggest issue, but Reid didn’t do his team any favors by calling just eight runs to a running back in the second half.
Reid also burned timeouts that would have been very useful at the end the game. Reid burned a timeout before a pivotal 3rd-and-7 in the fourth quarter, but then burned a second one after converting it with 6:49 left to play in the game and leading by six.
Late in a close game, timeouts are precious; Reid burned two timeouts in a span of a single play. Reid also wasted his last one by calling it coming out of the two-minute warning just before the Chiefs’ fourth-down conversion attempt failed and the Colts sealed the victory. The last one wasn’t that bad, but only because he wasted the other two.
Even though the offense didn’t do a great job bleeding the clock in the second half and Reid misused his timeouts, the victory would still have been secured with an average defensive performance. After forcing three turnovers and going up by 28 points, the Chiefs’ defense gave up far too many big plays.
Colts quarterback Andrew Luck did throw another interception, but on every other possession after going down by 28, the Colts scored quickly. In fact, the Colts scored in under two minutes four times and had another drive that lasted just over four minutes.
The biggest problem for the Chiefs was coverage breakdowns. The Chiefs allowed four pass plays of 20 or more yards—three after cornerback Brandon Flowers was knocked out of the game with a concussion.
Defensive backs Husain Abdullah, Kendrick Lewis, Sean Smith and Eric Berry were all burned on long gains in the second half. Dunta Robinson was burned repeatedly for sizeable gains.
Despite having pass-rushing outside linebackers Justin Houston and Tamba Hali on the field nearly the whole game, the Chiefs couldn’t muster much of a pass-rush in the second half. Houston was knocked from the game just before the Chiefs allowed a 64-yard touchdown pass from Luck to wide receiver T.Y. Hilton to take the lead.
Hilton caught 13 passes for 224 yards and two touchdowns against the Chiefs. Big plays like the ones Hilton made are the exact thing every defense with a lead must prevent at all costs. If the Colts don’t score so quickly nearly every time they got the ball in the second half, their comeback attempt likely falls short.
Injuries were certainly a factor, but the Chiefs don’t have any excuse for this loss. They lost as a team. One or two more plays on either side of the ball would have been enough. A touchdown instead of a field goal at any point would have made a difference. A full stock of timeouts at the end of the game may have given the team a chance to get the ball back and win.
What's sad is that the Chiefs wasted what was probably the finest game of Smith’s career. Smith went 30-of-46 for 378 passing yards, four touchdowns and added 57 yards rushing. A playoff opportunity combined with that kind of performance from Smith just doesn’t happen all the time.
It’s going to be a very long offseason in Kansas City.