KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The Chiefs entered Week 16 on a roll, scoring 101 combined points in the previous two games.
The momentum appeared to carry on the first possession when running back Jamaal Charles scored on a 31-yard run, but then the wheels came off.
Two Kansas City turnovers opened the floodgates to the Colts scoring 23 unanswered points, which led to a 23-7 defeat and arguably the worst game of the season for the Chiefs.
“I would expect our players to be upset over this and that’s what I sensed in that locker room,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. “A lot of time and effort went into preparing, same thing with the coaches and if you’re not, then there’s something wrong with you.”
After Charles gave the Chiefs an early 7-0 lead, the Colts (10-5) shut down the Chiefs (11-4) offense, holding the unit to 146 first-half yards.
The domination continued in the third quarter when the Chiefs gained just 22 yards from scrimmage.
Charles was the lone star Sunday, finishing with 144 total yards (106 rushing) and the touchdown.
Meanwhile, the Chiefs had four total turnovers on the game in the form of two lost fumbles, and two interceptions from quarterback Alex Smith, who completed 16-of 29 passes for 153 yards.
However, Smith accounted for three of the team’s four giveaways.
“You can’t have those, especially in good games against good teams,” Smith said after the game.
Chiefs tight end Anthony Fasano agreed.
“It’s hard to win with that many turnovers against a good team,” Fasano said. “We have to go back and scrutinize the film technically what went wrong. But glaring, it’s just the turnovers and not taking advantage of opportunities. Three-and-outs are not the way to win football games.”
Chiefs running back Knile Davis accounted for the first turnover of the game with a fumble.
And the Colts struck fast, using just :16 off the clock when Colts quarterback Andrew Luck found running back Donald Brown for a 33-yard pass out of the backfield to take a 10-7 lead.
Luck finished the game completing 26-of-37 yards for 241 yards and a touchdown.
The Colts would take a 13-7 lead into the half behind Brown’s touchdown and two Adam Vinatieri field goals.
Smith’s first interception in the third quarter led to another Brown touchdown, this one coming on a 51-yard run to put the Colts up 20-7.
Brown’s run highlighted another area of concern from Sunday that reared its head in the form of sloppy defense.
The Colts running back ran through missed tackles at the line of scrimmage and scampered by cornerback Dunta Robinson inside the 10-yard line even though it appeared Robinson had a chance to push him out of bounds.
“We had some – myself, included – some errors on D at times,” Chiefs linebacker Derrick Johnson said. “Speaking just defensively, we had some mistakes and they capitalized off them every single time.”
Penalties also hurt the Chiefs.
A week after getting flagged eight times, the Chiefs were penalized seven times Sunday, including a 15-yard taunting penalty that kept a Colts drive alive.
The Colts capitalized with a 30-yard field goal by Vinatieri to put the final points on the board.
“You can’t have those,” Reid said of the penalties. “We haven’t had those up to this point; you do have to stay disciplined.”
Ultimately, Sunday’s matchup was billed as a first-round playoff preview between the Chiefs and Colts.
With the loss and the Denver Broncos’ win against the Houston Texans, the Broncos clinched the AFC West, meaning the Chiefs are locked in at the No. 5 seed.
Still, the Chiefs aren’t looking too far ahead.
“I don’t think you can think about that right now,” Fasano said. “We have to learn from this loss, this disappointing performance from our team and get ready for San Diego.
“Yeah, we’re in, but we have a good team ahead of us that we need to go out and work hard to get a win to get some momentum heading into the playoffs no matter who it might be in the first round.”
The Colts apparently feel the same way.
“We’ll look at the tape and make an evaluation from today’s game,” Colts coach Chuck Pagano said of potentially facing the Chiefs in two weeks. “And then if that’s the case, whether that comes to fruition or not, then we’ll deal with it when we know for sure who we play.”
Notes: Chiefs coach Andy Reid said outside linebacker Tamba Hali has a sore knee and an MRI will be done Monday morning … “It was a sore a bit before the game and it swelled up on him a little bit,” Reid said … With 47 yards rushing, Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith now has 431 yards rushing on the season, a new single-season team record for rushing yards by a quarterback previously held by Tyler Thigpen … Chiefs linebacker Derrick Johnson recorded a sack Sunday, giving him 4.5 sacks on the season and tying his career-high in a season, which he set in 2006 … Of the Chiefs’ four losses this season, three have come at Arrowhead Stadium.