In the aftermath of his first NFL postseason appearance, Chiefs rookie running back Kareem Hunt was expectedly subdued. As he analyzed the keys of a one-point playoff loss to the Titans, he spoke softly and briefly.
It was fitting of the manner in which his season ended.
As the Titans made their comeback in the second half Saturday, Hunt was a virtual non-factor. At least some of that, though, can be attributed to opportunity. Hunt carried the ball only five times after the first quarter in the Chiefs’ 22-21 loss.
Following a postseason defeat, when everything is scrutinized by a large multiple, Chiefs coach Andy Reid acknowledged the legitimacy in that being on the list.
“Could we have called him more? Yeah, we look back at it and maybe we could have. Maybe we could have handed it to him more,” Reid said of the running plays for Hunt.
Hunt, who led the NFL in rushing as a rookie, had six carries for 25 yards and a touchdown in the first quarter, when the Chiefs ran 17 offensive plays.
But only five of the final 36 snaps finished included a handoff to him. Twice, on third-and-short situations, the Chiefs went elsewhere. They ran an option play in which quarterback Alex Smith kept the ball. And they called a passing play that finished with a drop by tight end Orson Charles.
The Chiefs ran only 20 offensive plays after halftime.
“We had those (run-pass options) in there,” Reid said. “Some of what they were doing dictated a little bit more throws than runs.”
Hunt was a key to the Chiefs’ success throughout the season. In victories, he averaged 105.2 rushing yards on 19.8 carries per game. In losses, including the playoff defeat Saturday, those averages dipped to 45.3 rushing yards and 12.1 attempts.
Saturday represented a departure from a season-long storyline. Hunt typically produced better numbers after halftime. He ran for 517 yards in the first half of games this season on 4.4 yards per carry. In the second halves, he totaled 842 yards on 5.2 yards per carry.
“Early in the season … usually a lot of our success was due to (quarterback) Alex (Smith) making big plays in the first half, and then we were able to lean on Kareem in the second half,” right tackle Mitchell Schwartz said.