By Sam McPherson
It was an amazing run, but the Kansas City Chiefs winning streak came to an end Saturday against the New England Patriots in the AFC Divisional Playoff round. Without their best receiving threat for most of the game, the Chiefs offense bogged down, while the Patriots offense did almost everything it wanted to against the Kansas City defense.
The Chiefs had their chances in this game, but multiple first-half drives into New England territory resulted in zero points, and Kansas City committed the key turnover of the game which led directly to a Patriots touchdown. In the end, New England's 27-20 win ended both the Chiefs 11-game winning streak and their 2015 season.
The Kansas City offense just wasn't functioning on all cylinders without a 100-percent Jeremy Maclin. Missing that consistent downfield threat, the Chiefs offense just shortened up and was unable to move the ball consistently throughout the game. Multiple times, K.C. punted inside New England territory, and that conservatism was a killer as the Patriots built a 15-point lead in the third quarter.
Knile Davis' fumble into New England territory was also a killer; it was also his first fumble of the season, no less. The passing game didn't work well without Maclin, although the running game was mostly effective (32 carries, 135 yards). With QB Alex Smith pressured and missing a favorite target, the Patriots did a good job shutting down the Chiefs offense. Kansas City held the ball for most of this game (37:51), but the small chunks of yardage weren't enough to win the game in the end.
The worst moment of the game for the Kansas City defense was giving up a 98-yard TD drive in the second quarter after the special teams had pinned Tom Brady & Co. at their own two-yard line. In truth, most of the second half was tough on the Chiefs defensively, as the Patriots scored seemingly at will - not very good halftime adjustments from the coaching staff, for sure.
That long TD drive noted above was aided by a dumb roughing-the-passer penalty, and Kansas City's defense couldn't come up with the big plays to stop New England. When the Patriots scored on a TD off the Davis fumble, that was just about the back-breaker for the Chiefs. Overall, Kansas City really couldn't get to Brady at all in this game, and that's never a good recipe for victory against the three-time Super Bowl MVP.
Special Teams: B
One of the highlights of the K.C. special teams on Saturday was downing a punt inside the five-yard line and drawing a penalty on New England's Danny Amendola for unnecessary roughness which moved the ball even closer to the goal line.
Amendola should have been ejected for his helmet-to-chin hit on a defenseless player, but the refs weren't on top of the moment, evidently. Later, however, the punt-return team gave up a return to Amendola deep into Chiefs territory which set up a New England field goal.
Placekicker Cairo Santos did a good job with his two field goals, but perhaps he should have been given more chances in the first half instead of settling for short punts inside Patriots territory. That's on the coaching staff.
It's hard to play the field-position game against Brady and the Patriots, yet that's what Head Coach Andy Reid tried to do against New England with multiple punts inside New England territory in the first half. He lost those gambles as the Patriots put together a 98-yard drive against Reid's defense to take a 14-6 lead in the first half.
Without Maclin, Reid also didn't really open up the offense much, settling for a ball-control offense that was ineffective in moving the ball well enough for regular scoring chances until it was too late to do anything but ditch the conservatism in the fourth quarter. Reid and the offensive staff didn't have enough faith in their other WRs, evidently.
Chiefs On The Rise With Reid And Smith In 2016
The Chiefs had a great season, but in the end, they were undone by injuries and conservative postseason play calling. If Kansas City fans had been told their team would have an 11-game winning streak and make the postseason back in August, most of them would have been happy with that. But right now, it feels like a letdown.
All things aside, the Chiefs should be the AFC West Division favorites in 2016, especially if Peyton Manning retires in Denver. Kansas City just needs to work on staying healthier throughout the season, so they can peak in January 2017 next season. Adding another explosive WR would help the offense even more, as will the return of a healthy Jamaal Charles.
Sam McPherson is a freelance writer covering baseball, football, basketball, golf, hockey and fantasy sports for CBS, AXS and Examiner. He also is an Ironman triathlete and certified triathlon coach.
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