If this was Alex Smith’s last stand with the Kansas City Chiefs, it will have ended with perhaps his most painful loss.
The Chiefs went scoreless in the second half of their 22-21 defeat to the Tennessee Titans in the Wild Card playoff round on Saturday at Arrowhead Stadium.
Gone was a deep playoff run from a team that seemed to have found its bearings after a midseason slump. The Chiefs entered the postseason with a full head of steam after peeling off four straight victories, and the momentum carried into Saturday’s game when they jumped to a 21-3 halftime lead.
“Yeah, it felt like the opportunity we had in front of us, the talent we had, the group, when we play the way we’re capable of playing, I knew the sky was the limit,” Smith said.
But sky came crashing down the Chiefs in the second half. Make no mistake, this was a team-effort collapse. But it hit Smith harder simply because the game was in his control and he could do little to stop the nightmarish finish.
One year remains on Smith’s contract and the Chiefs must determine if he’s the quarterback for 2018, or if it is Patrick Mahomes, who flashed promise in his start in the regular-season finale.
If Smith’s Chiefs career is over, it ended with an incomplete pass, a deep ball over the middle intended for Albert Wilson on a fourth-and-9 from the Titans’ 44.
The Chiefs went for broke on the play. If successful, they’d have been in easy field-goal range for Harrison Butker.
The ball got to Wilson but he couldn’t corral it, and Tennessee ran out the clock.
What started so promising for the Chiefs and Smith on Saturday ended in disaster.
Smith was on fire early. He passed for 154 yards in the first quarter, which included a 13-yard touchdown pass to tight end Travis Kelce. It was the first scoring reception of Kelce’s playoff career.
But it was Smith’s second touchdown pass that seemed to indicate things were going his way.
With time running out in the first half, Smith completed a pass to Demarcus Robinson near the sideline, but Robinson failed to get out of bounds. Eight seconds remained when Smith took the next snap from the 14.
He found Robinson again, this time the second-year receiver from Florida made a move to reach the end zone. Three seconds remained in the half.
But not everything went the Chiefs’ way in the first half. Earlier on the drive, Smith completed a 12-yard pass to Kelce. It would be the Pro Bowl tight end’s final play of the game after his helmet collided with safety Johnathan Cyprien’s helmet.
Kelce was gone for the game with a concussion, and that impacted the Chiefs in the second half.
“A player of his caliber, not having him out there (hurt),” Smith said.
Smith added another strong statistical line to his career postseason chart. Saturday he completed 24 of 33 for 264 yards, and the NFL’s leader in passer rating during the regular season, had another strong number in the playoff game at 116.2.
His two touchdowns gave him nine in the postseason for the Chiefs, surpassing Len Dawson for the team lead.
In the second half, those numbers sank to 5 of 10 for 33 yards.
And his record as a starter fell to 1-4 in postseason games for the Chiefs, and his future here is in question. Smith stiff-armed the topic
“I mean the game just ended,” Smith said. “I’ll get into that here in the next couple of weeks.”
But when asked if Kansas City is where he wanted to be, Smith didn’t hesitate.
“I mean, are you kidding?” he said. “I signed a contract, I’m under contract for another year. So like I said, I’m not thinking about anything else. I’m obviously disappointed. I felt like we had a good chance, and it’s gone. It’s over.”