All good things must come to an end.
This special season for the Kansas City Chiefs came to its conclusion in front of a rowdy crowd at Arrowhead Stadium.
The Chiefs fell to the Pittsburgh Steelers by a score of 18-16 on Sunday night in the divisional round of the AFC playoffs.
Here are 10 observations from the game:
- Chiefs defense forces six field goals
In a game that’s going to be remembered for the fact that the defense didn’t allow a single touchdown, the Steelers still managed to score 18 points by way of six Chris Boswell field goals.
There are a lot of NFL records that were set on account of that statistic—the fact that the Chiefs scored multiple touchdowns, didn’t give up one and still lost the game.
The Chiefs defense stood tall in the red zone, holding the Steelers to 0-4 inside the 20-yard line, which is a major reason why they had a chance late in the game.
- The crowd never gave in or let down
It’s a game that’s going to sting all of the players, coaches and members of Chiefs Kingdom in attendance, but a huge tip of the cap is deserved by all of the fans that braved the weather, traffic and adverse weather conditions and still made an impact in the game.
They were loud, they were passionate and they rarely, if ever, sat down. It was an amazing display by the best fans in the NFL.
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said as much after the game:
- Penalties, drops and lack of execution thwart the Chiefs offense
A few passes that were normally caught fell to the ground, and a handful of key penalties put the Chiefs offense in less-than-ideal spots, and that proved to be the difference on Sunday.
“There were too many errors that we made, and that's my responsibility to make sure those are right and we didn't do it,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said after the game. “You got to see what our football team is all about - the grit. We just came up short. They laid it all out there and we can learn from this. I know that's hard to hear right now, but we can learn from it and be better for it next year.”
The Chiefs were flagged for six penalties that totaled 60 yards on Sunday night.
“When two good football teams are playing each other you can't have penalties and things of that sort,” Reid added. “Unfortunately, we had those down the stretch. Fish (Eric Fisher) got called for one that when you're playing a shorter player, that can go either way. I don't know about that one—I'm curious to see that on tape. That's what it is and we'll move on. We're not making any excuses for anything.”
All the mistakes and self-inflicted wounds, and this team still had a chance late in the game, which is the grit Reid was talking about and not something that was just showing itself tonight, but was the case all season.
They battled to the end and that final drive by the offense was just another example.
- Alex Smith finds Anthony Sherman on a key fourth down late in the game
In a game that had plenty of key plays for the Chiefs to have a chance to pull it out, perhaps no play was bigger for the Chiefs than Smith’s fourth-and-2 conversion on the pass to fullback Anthony Sherman.
That set up a first-and-goal from the 1-yard line, and that’s when running back Spencer Ware took it in and gave the Chiefs a chance to tie the game with a two-point conversion.
On the two-point attempt, Smith found tight end Demetrius Harris in the back of the end zone for a successful attempt, but left tackle Eric Fisher was flagged for holding—his teammates and coach Andy Reid defended Fisher after the game.
On the ensuing attempt, which came from the 12-yard line, Smith’s pass fell incomplete.
Smith finished the game 20 of 34 for 172 yards with a touchdown and an interception, which came on a deflected pass.
- Chiefs get early touchdown on short field caused indirectly by Tyreek Hill
The Chiefs’ first offensive possession began with great field position after a squib kick was picked up by Harris and returned 25 yards to the Chiefs 45-yard line.
It seemed as if the Steelers were actively not trying to let Hill get a chance at a return, although they did pretty well covering their kicks the rest of the game.
- Smith and the offense got it going early
The Chiefs offense showed quite a bit of creativity early in the game with plenty of misdirection and even a shovel pass to tight end Travis Kelce, who finished with a team-high five receptions for 77 yards.
The Chiefs went 55 yards on six plays in just 3:29 on their opening drive, which culminated with a 5-yard touchdown pass from Smith to receiver Albert Wilson.
It was a perfect play design and gave Smith an option to run or pass before Wilson came open in the end zone.
- Ramik Wilson finishes game with career high in tackles
It shouldn’t be a surprise that Wilson finished with a lot of tackles, as the Steelers were going to run the ball with Le’Veon Bell, and Wilson is right in the middle of that Chiefs defense.
That said, Wilson found himself around the action a lot as he finished with a career-high 15 tackles on Sunday night.
Bell finished with 30 carries for 170 yards.
- Eric Berry’s interception gave the Chiefs a chance
It’s a team that had a knack for creating turnovers at the most opportune time all throughout the season, and Berry’s interception of Roethlisberger midway through the second quarter fit right in with the script all season.
With the Steelers facing a first-and-goal from the Chiefs 5-yard line, Roethlisberger’s pass was deflected at the line of scrimmage and into the waiting hands of Berry, who was able to get his hands underneath the ball before it hit the ground.
This play came just moments after Smith’s pass was deflected into the air and gave the Steelers great field position as they held a 9-7 lead.
It kept the Chiefs in it.
- Time of possession was the story in the first half
The Chiefs finished the game having converted just 2 of 9 third-down opportunities, and they were 0-2 in the first half, which combined with the fact that the Steelers were 5 of 9 and finding success running the ball with Bell, the time of possession numbers were largely in favor of the Steelers at halftime.
Through the first 30 minutes of the game, the Steelers had held the ball for more than 20 minutes, and Bell had 101 yards on 18 carries.
- Jeremy Maclin, Chris Conley step up and make a couple of key plays
When the offense really needed someone to step up and make a play, Jeremy Maclin delivered late in the third quarter.
Facing a third-and-20 after a 15-yard penalty for unnecessary roughness by Kelce, Smith stepped up and delivered a 50-50 ball in the direction of Maclin, who somehow came away with the ball on the far sideline for a gain of exactly 20 yards.
A few plays later, Cairo Santos hit from 48 yards and the gap was closed, 15-10.
On the Chiefs’ next drive, Smith would go in Conley’s direction on fourth-and-8, and Conley was able to find a crease and make a catch for a 12-yard gain.
It was eight plays later that Ware would find the end zone, and the Chiefs had a chance to tie with the two-point conversion.
It just didn’t happen for the Chiefs on this night.