With the loss at New England in the divisional round of the AFC playoffs, the Kansas City Chiefs headed home after winning 11 straight including their first playoff game in 22 years.
That monkey on their back was rapidly becoming a gorilla that grew larger each year the Chiefs went one-and-done in the postseason. Because of the size of that monkey, many Chiefs’ fans were unwilling to call the 2015 season a success despite simply making the playoffs after a 1-5 start. After the 30-0 drubbing of the Houston Texans in the Wild Card round, all was forgiven and things look very positive for 2016.
It took a very experienced and brilliant Patriots team to bring the Chiefs back down to earth. After the live version of the game, there were a lot of things going through my head. I saw Alex Smith struggle to hit the deep ball and the awful final Chiefs’ drive that used five minutes of the fourth quarter down two scores. I felt the sting of another playoff loss. But I also couldn’t wait to dive into the replay and see just where the Chiefs fell short.
It seemed that predominately the moment was just too big for the inexperienced Chiefs on the field. Andy Reid has coached in many playoff games but the Chiefs only have six players on the active roster over the age of 30 and most had no winning playoff experience.
Put that up against the all-time best playoff quarterback in terms of winning percentage and his equally legendary coach and you might have some difficulty. The pressure definitely got to a few of the Chiefs’ players like Eric Berry, Marcus Peters, and Demetrius Harris. On the other side, experienced players like Jason Avant, Derrick Johnson and Anthony Sherman stepped up in the face of pressure.
Once again, winning in the playoffs comes down to who is healthiest. The Patriots got healthy at just the right time on offense while the Chiefs had to limit two of their best players while continuing to miss several others on IR. Yet, despite the unreal amount of injuries to key players and a lack of experienced stars, the Chiefs managed to push the Patriots to a one score game at home and were a deflected pass away from possibly going to over time.
The narrative for the 2015 Chiefs could have easily been much like 2011, where without Jamaal Charles they sputtered and missed the playoffs. But the narrative changed this season with a resilient coach and quarterback. They were able to overcome the injuries and horrible start to win their first playoff game.
Next: Best and Worst of 2015