Chiefs Experience Post-Season Beat Down

From Arrowhead Stadium

Going into Sunday’s game in the wild card round of the AFC playoffs the Baltimore Ravens held a huge advantage in post-season experience over the Chiefs. Head coach John Harbaugh’s team had 42 players that were no longer virgins in the sense of the NFL playoffs.

The Chiefs had only 21 players with that experience, but added a 22nd player during the week. Todd Haley said several times during the run up to the game that experience was a factor only if the Chiefs allowed it to become one with the way they played.

Well … it became one. The Ravens looked like a team that had been there and done that. The Chiefs spent the second half appearing as a team that had no idea of how to handle the magnitude of the game it was playing.

And thus Baltimore put together a 30-7 victory and moved on in the AFC bracket for the playoffs. The Ravens will visit Pittsburgh next Saturday to face their AFC North division rival Steelers for the third time this season.

The Chiefs will go home, wherever home might be. They will gather on Monday and hear form their head coach and position coaches and then they’ll scatter to contemplate how a game that had them down by three points at half-time could get away from them so fast.

“The message to our guys was don’t let a tough thing at the end overshadow what we’ve done,” said head coach Todd Haley. “We made some really good progress. Now we have to build on it and take the steps you have to take to win a couple of these. 

“We clearly got the ship turned around and going in the right direction. We were able to have a lot of fun. Now, we just have to keep building, keep adding, keep creating competition, and keep getting better. It was a tough ending to a really fun year.”

Football in the playoffs is different than football in the regular season much like football in the regular season is different than football in the pre-season. The intensity level is higher and to have success a team must raise the level of its play. Even then they can still lose to a superior team. But to have any chance to win, they have to play their best game of the season.

Baltimore got a lot closer to that than the Chiefs did. Their performance would not rank among their top five games in the season.

“I don’t feel like they are such a superior team to us that we didn’t have an opportunity in this game,” said QB Matt Cassel, who struggled throughout the game and finished with a 20.4 passer rating. “We went into half at 10-7 and the game was in reach. In the second half, it was a lot of bad football on our part. ”

There’s no mystery to that bad football. The Chiefs did all those things that will get a team beat, whether it’s the pre-season or the post-season. They were simply awful in the second half, being outscored 20-0 because they:

  • Turned the ball over four times with three Cassel interceptions and a fumble by WR Dexter McCluster.
  • They allowed three sacks, costing them 17 yards of offense.
  • There were four penalties for 39 yards.
  • On third down, they converted one of six on offense in the third and fourth quarters.

“It started to unravel and things started to go bad for us,” Cassel said. “It was one thing after another and somehow you have to try and stop the bleeding and we weren’t able to do that.”

They also failed to convert a 4th-and-1 play in the third quarter that wiped out any momentum they had built coming out of the half-time locker room down by three points. A Jamaal Charles run was stopped for a four-yard loss.

“It was not a well executed, or conceived play,” Haley said. “It’s probably what started to turn the game in the situation we ended up in.”

Baltimore got on the scoreboard first when the Chiefs won the opening coin toss, but elected to differ to the second half. Behind QB Joe Flacco and TE Todd Heap, the Ravens moved the ball to the Chiefs 1-yard line for 1st-and-goal. On three plays the Baltimore offense didn’t gain a yard and Billy Cundiff came in and kicked a 19-yard field goal for a 3-0 Ravens lead.

It was a great stand by the defense that throughout the game was bent, but seldom broke.

“I thought that was a good start to the game,” said LB Derrick Johnson. “We were able to keep them out of the end zone and that gave us a lift.”

Not that it showed up on the first offensive possession that went for six yards on three plays. But the Chiefs defense rose up again and got the ball back for the offense, as OLB Tamba Hali sacked; stripped and recovered Flacco’s fumble and the offense took over at the Baltimore 46-yard line.

On the second play, Charles ran off left guard and was touched, brushed and waved at, but was not tackled for the next 41 yards into the end zone. The Ryan Succop PAT gave the Chiefs their only lead of the afternoon, 7-3.

Right at the end of the first half, the Ravens put together an 11-play, 80-yard scoring drive where Flacco and Heap were again the stars. Those two hooked up for three passes for 46 yards and the touchdown came on a nine-yard Flacco to RB Ray Rice touchdown pass. Cundiff’s PAT gave Baltimore a 10-7 lead headed to the locker room.

Despite giving up the late score, the Chiefs felt confident at the intermission.

“At half-time the guys felt good about where we were in the game,” said Haley. “We knew we were going to get the football to start the half. Much like 16 other games this year, we knew it was important to go down the field and get something positive to happen, make some first downs first and foremost and turn it into points.

“I thought we were doing a good job of tempo and moving the football and we get into a fourth and inches and we’d probably like to have that one over. ”

The Chiefs got lucky on that first possession in the second half. A third down pass by Cassel was high. TE Tony Moeaki leaped and got his hands on it, but deflected the ball into the air. There it was picked off by S Haruki Nakamura. But as he was returning the interception, he was hit by Charles and fumbled the ball. Charles recovered for the Chiefs and it turned out to be a nice 13-yard gain and a new set of downs.

Eight plays later, the Chiefs faced 4th-and-inches at the Ravens 33-yard line. The play call was a sweep to the right side that was smashed by the Baltimore defense led by S Dawan Landry.

Grabbing the ball, the Ravens went down and put another field goal on the board. That was followed by McCluster’s fumble and another Cundiff field goal. That gave Baltimore a 16-7 lead. The Chiefs weren’t out of the game, but it wasn’t long before they were.

Another Cassel interception, this one by Landry, set up a Flacco to WR Anquan Boldin four-yard TD pass. In the fourth quarter came another score as RB Willis McGahee ran 25 yards on a 4th-and-1 play for a touchdown that set the final score at 30-7.

It also put the wraps on the Chiefs 2010 season.

“We just didn’t execute in the first half well enough,” Haley said. “We could have been in a much better situation. In the second half we didn’t execute a whole bunch. There were good things and there were bad things, and the bad things clearly outweighed the good things.”

4 Responses to “Chiefs Experience Post-Season Beat Down”

  • January 9, 2011  - newyork says:

    What a season! Thank you Chiefs, and thank you Bob for a really great year. Not how I wanted it to end, but all in all so much better than expected!

  • January 9, 2011  - Edward says:

    Great season. Tough loss. No question we need to start to build this offense. Defense has more than enough talent. We could use a nose tackle but going forward the draft need to be focused on getting two explosive receivers that can strech the field and has good hands. Also need center and another you offensive guard. Either no one predicted us to be in this situation hats off to Chiefs for good season 2012 playoff streak of consecutive losses will be broken right it down.

  • January 9, 2011  - aPauled says:

    Picking up Kevin Curtis and basically annointing him the #2 for a game 5 days later says it all about the Chiefs WRs. Bowe is not an elite receiver and really needs a speed compliment on the other side. Without someone stretching the field deep, McCluster is going to continue to get his head taken off on those short patterns.

    Loved the fight from the D but still needs some work. Berry, Hali, Belcher, Dorsey, Flowers played well today. Arenas was a Round 2 pick…very average as the Nickel back all season and hasn’t had a decent return in months. Step up man.

    John McGraw played like a wimp today. Corey Mays came in late for Belcher and watched McGahee run by for the TD. Time to move on from these guys…very poor leadership. Probably time to move on from Vrabel as well and see if Studebaker is the guy. Need a run stopper ILB, a NT and one of the guys to develop at the nickel.

  • January 10, 2011  - RW says:

    Right now, for the 2011 draft I’d take the BPA at the following positions in the first round, and in no particular order:


    And yes, I put QB on that list.

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