It’s hard to know where to put Saturday’s Kansas City Chiefs loss on the list of their all-time crushing playoff defeats because there are so many disappointments to pick from.
But this one will sting for a long, long time. The Chiefs somehow blew a 21-3 lead to the Tennessee Titans and fell 22-21 in a wild-card showdown. Even when it seemed the Chiefs got a miracle touchdown off a Derrick Henry fumble in the final two minutes, a replay review showed that Henry was clearly down before the ball came loose. It was just a tease.
Andy Reid, forever criticized for not winning the big one, will wear this one for a while. Alex Smith, doubted even during a season in which he led the NFL in passer rating, might have seen his Chiefs career end in one of the most unsatisfying ways possible.
The Chiefs led 21-3 at the half. Smith was nearly perfect in the first half, going 19-of-23 for 231 yards and two touchdowns. Even without tight end Travis Kelce, who was knocked out with a concussion, the Chiefs couldn’t possibly lose to an overmatched Titans team at home.
Then the Chiefs stopped moving the ball and the Titans used a fluky touchdown pass as a springboard to take a fourth-quarter lead. Marcus Mariota threw a pass that was batted in the air, and he caught it and dove into the end zone for a touchdown. It’s only the second time in NFL history a quarterback has thrown a touchdown to himself, and the first time in playoff history, according to Elias Sports Bureau. Brad Johnson did it for the Vikings in 1997.
The Titans took off after that. Henry ran for a touchdown. Eric Decker gave them the lead on a touchdown catch from Mariota, who had a gutsy game including a big block on Henry’s first-down run that finished the game. All the while the Chiefs suddenly couldn’t move the ball. Titans defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau is a legend at adjustments, but it was still ridiculous that the Chiefs were shut out after halftime.
The Chiefs’ final offensive play was a tease too. On fourth down, Smith threw deep to Albert Wilson. It was just a bit too long, glanced off Wilson’s fingertips and the Titans took over on downs with 2:09 to go.