Chiefs wide receiver Jason Avant entered the Saturday’s AFC Divisional playoff game with 15 receptions on the season.
He provided nearly one-third of that total in the 27-20 loss to the Patriots.
On a day when all of their top offensive weapons were needed to keep up with the defending Super Bowl champions, the Chiefs had to make due with some reserves like Avant.
Avant, a 10-year veteran, was up to the challenge and was one of the team’s offensive bright spots.
Avant’s bounty of four receptions for 69 yards included a remarkable play in the third quarter. Facing a third-and-7 from the Chiefs 23, quarterback Alex Smith spun away from trouble, pulled out of a sack and fired an off-balance pass down the sideline where Avant reached up high behind cornerback Logan Ryan and made a spectacular two-handed catch.
The play went for 26 yards — the longest from scrimmage on the day for the Chiefs — and kept alive what became the team’s first touchdown drive.
He added another terrific catch for 13 yards on a fourth-and-8 to keep another touchdown drive alive.
To Avant, the plays and the performance weren’t enough.
“When you lose, you lose as a team,” Avant said. “We just didn’t play very well. I wish we had a couple more healthy people on our team.”
Avant was getting opportunities because the team’s top wide receiver Jeremy Maclin provided limited action with an ankle sprain.
As for his tremendous catch, Avant said it happened because Smith extended the play.
“The defensive end knocked me down at the line of scrimmage,” Avant said. “I saw Alex scramble, I was just trying to stay alive for him.”
An Albert Wilson touchdown reception capped the drive and the Chiefs added another touchdown late on Charcandrick West’s run, but they lost other chances to add points, like settling for a field goal in the red zone late in the first half.
“Zero yardage or negative yardage on first down, those things hurt you and limit you in the red zone,” Avant said. “It also cuts the running game out of the equation.”
But when the Chiefs needed a go-to receiving target, Avant stepped up, sometimes in highlight fashion.