Sideline Report: The “Hunt for Red January” was well worth it, even if it ended abruptly

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Braden Shaw, JagWire editor-in-chief

In the late afternoon on Saturday, I was deeply saddened. The team that had just won 11 straight games, broke a 22 year playoff curse and proved everyone wrong by making the playoffs after a 1-5 start. Now, they’re eliminated from the postseason.

The AFC divisional playoff game against Tom Brady and the New England Patriots wasn’t going to be easy. Brady — who has won four Super Bowls, multiple MVPs and will go down as one of the greatest quarterbacks ever — and the Patriots know how to win the playoffs, legally or not so much.

The Kansas City Chiefs weren’t expected to win this game, but I had hope based on the team’s recent form and the hope that wide receiver Jeremy Maclin would stay healthy enough to make an impact on the game. I also had faith that the defense could hold its own against the “mighty Patriots offense.”

Well, none of that really happened. The defense repeatedly failed to get any real pressure on Brady, and also dropped three to four interceptions that could have changed the course of the game. It’s hard to watch when the secondary is dissected like that frog in biology class.

The offense also couldn’t get anything going as running back Spencer Ware’s injury inserted Knile Davis back into the lineup. Davis — who fumbled, yet again — didn’t play that well, along with Maclin and tight end Travis Kelce who couldn’t get anything going. The run game wasn’t nearly as effective as in the past, and quarterback Alex Smith failed to prove that he could throw the deep ball.

The final straw was Chiefs head coach Andy Reid not being able to properly manage the clock late in the game. The Chiefs were still technically in the game late in the fourth quarter, down by 14 points. Yet Reid failed to instill any sense of urgency into his players as a lackadaisical offense trudged down the field.

It’s not even a question that Reid’s biggest flaw as a head coach is his clock management ability. I honestly don’t think that his team even has a two-minute offense established. He doesn’t know how to protect a lead late or — when a late comeback is necessary — to effectively use timeouts and have a sense of urgency.

All of this culminated in a final score of 27-20 with Brady and the Patriots moving on to the AFC championship game against the Denver Broncos this weekend, Brady’s 10th trip to the AFC title game in 15 years. That scoreline may look close, but that is not telling of how well the Patriots  supremely controlled the game.

To put it simply: everything that the Chiefs did well to get to this game didn’t happen. They failed to convert when they needed to and, as a result, their season is now over. It was extremely disappointing, but they should hold their heads high.

This was a glorious season for the Kansas City Chiefs. I loved watching this team during the 2015-16 season. They hit rock bottom with star running back Jamaal Charles tearing his ACL in week five against the Chicago Bears and the aforementioned 1-5 start. But they also became the hottest team in the NFL, rattling off 11 straight wins and touting one of the best defenses in the league.

It also shouldn’t be overlooked how important it was to win the franchise’s first playoff game since the 1993-94 season. This will create momentum going into next season as now this team knows what it takes to win in the playoffs. The core players who made this all happen will be back, as well as a healthy Charles who will be yet another dynamic playmaker on offense.

There’s a lot to look forward to next season, as well as a lot to be proud of for this previous one. The Chiefs may not get as much love or attention as their neighbors who just won the World Series, but they sure gave yet another reason to love being in Kansas City.

I want to thank Reid and his coaching staff, general manager John Dorsey and owner Clark Hunt for giving us a great time and a fun ride this season. I can’t wait to do it all again next season.

Junior Braden Shaw is a passionate sports fan who follows sports at both the college and professional level. He loves to defend his unpopular opinions on the University of Nebraska, Sporting KC, Chiefs and Royals and is always up for a debate over any game or team.

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