Chiefs vs. Steelers: Game Takeaways

The Kansas City Chiefs lost 20-12 to the Pittsburgh Steelers Sunday afternoon at Heinz Field

If someone would have said Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger would be held to roughly 100 yards below his season average, running back Le'Veon Bell would be held to half his total yards from scrimmage, and the NFL's leading receiver, Antonio Brown, would have the lowest receiving total of his season, there's a good chance it'd mean the Chiefs would have won the game.

And that would have been wrong.

All of those things happened and the Chiefs still fell 20-12 to the Steelers Sunday afternoon in Pittsburgh.

Roethlisberger, who came into Sunday's game ranked second in the NFL in passing yards with 4,415, finished the game 18 of 25 for 220 yards with one touchdown, well below his season average of 315 yards per game.

Bell finished with 72 yards from scrimmage on 21 carries for 63 yards and one touchdown, including one catch for nine yards, which put him well below his average of 145 yards from scrimmage per game.

And finally, Brown was held to seven catches for 72 yards, the lowest total from him this season, which goes to show the kind of season Brown has had to this point.

The Chiefs offense actually outgained the Steelers in total yards 327 to 282, but the one key area the Chiefs really struggled with was in the red zone, where they went 0 for 4, which isn't normal considering they ranked second in the NFL in red zone touchdown efficiency at 67.5 percent coming into the game.

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The Chiefs actually had the ball inside the Steelers 30-yard line on six different occasions and didn't score a touchdown, walking away with just 12 points total on those six drives.

"They got us today," Chiefs coach Andy Reid explained of the offense's struggles inside the red zone. "Initially they showed us a little different look. I thought we came back and adjusted decently for it. But they got us, played better than we did and made plays."

Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith said it was a few mistakes that really hurt them inside the red zone.

"I think we got ourselves in some bad situations," Smith said after the game. "A couple of times on those drives things were flowing and then we would get into the red zone and have a negative play or sack and then you're fighting uphill after that."

Of the six times Smith was sacked on Sunday, three of them came inside the Steelers 15-yard line.

One critical sequence happened at the end of the first half, when the Chiefs faced a fourth-and-1 from the Steelers 12-yard line with under a minute to play. 

The Chiefs trailed 10-6 at the time.

The fourth down came just after a De'Anthony Thomas reception that was initially ruled as a first down but was brought back a yard after the spot was challenged.

It resulted in a short fourth-down situation for the Chiefs, and Reid decided to go for it.

"You score," Reid explained of his decision to go for it on fourth down. "That's what we were trying to do—get a touchdown."

On fourth down, the Jamaal Charles rushing attempt was stopped for no gain and the ball was turned over on downs.

"Hindsight, you say we probably should have kicked it," Reid said. "I felt like we had a lot on the game plan sheet there to take advantage of in the red zone.

"We had a pretty good beat on what they were doing at that point and we had been down there and seen how they were operating and so, I figured we could get inches. It wasn't even a yard, it was about the length of a ball, if that. We just came up a little short."

Charles finished the game with nine carries for 29 yards and also had five catches for 48 yards.

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But it was a fumble midway through the third quarter by Charles that really changed the complexity of the second half for the Chiefs.

Trailing 10-6, the Chiefs offense had driven down inside the Steelers 30-yard line when the ball was forced loose from Charles.

"I am upset about the fumble," Charles said after the game. "At the end of the day, I made a mistake and I cost my team a turnover today."

The Steelers then took the ball 75 yards down the field on 10 plays and finished the drive with a 3-yard touchdown pass to Brown from Roethlisberger, which extended the Steelers lead to 17-6.

"It hurt because they scored on the drive," Charles said. "I had the ball in the wrong arm. That hurt me and it hurt the team. They know that I'm sorry for losing the game for us today."

The Chiefs averaged just 2.8 yards per rush against the Steelers defense, but that wasn't the only area in which they struggled to control the line of scrimmage.

"They had six sacks," Reid said of the Steelers. "That's too many. A lot of things go into sacks, but the end result is they had six sacks. That's tough to do some things there offensively when you're throwing the ball and your guy is getting hit like that."

Smith took a lot of hits on Sunday but finished the game 31 of 45 for 311 yards, which is the most yards he's thrown for in a regular season game during his two seasons in Kansas City. 

The Steelers managed to get eight quarterback hits on Smith in the game.

Kansas City Chiefs vs the Pittsburgh Steelers on December 21, 2014

"He's a warrior," Reid explained of Smith. "He hung in there. He continued to try to make plays back there. I wouldn't expect anything less. That's how he rolls and that's why he's the leader of the football team."

After the game, Smith will be the first one to point out the mistakes he made in the game.

"It's a handful of plays that changed the game," Smith said. "The fourth-and-1 [attempt], me an Albert (Wilson) connect on the post and it changes the game, a couple of those other third downs down there and all of a sudden, in a game like this, two teams in the hunt going after it. That's kind of to be expected in the NFL. That's what it's going to be.

"There are going to be a handful of those things and we didn't get them done."

Reid's message to the team after the game was simple.

"We can learn from this," Reid said. "We're going to do that. We're going to make sure we become a better football team from that. That's where we're at right now. That's what we'll do and whatever happens, happens."

What the Chiefs need to do is pick up a win on Sunday when they host the San Diego Chargers at Arrowhead Stadium. With playoff scenarios alive, the Chiefs need to take care of business against their divisional rival regardless.

They haven't swept a season series from the Chargers since 2003.

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