Mistakes end Chiefs season in 18-16 playoff loss to Pittsburgh

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Chiefs season hung in the balance on a dozen plays during Sundays night’s 18-16 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, but a holding call on tackle Eric Fisher that negated a successful two-point conversion to tie the game stung the most for Kansas City after the game.

The Kansas City Chiefs offense lines up against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the AFC divisional playoff game at Arrowhead Stadium Jan. 15, 2017. (Photo courtesy Chiefs PR, Chiefs.com)

The Kansas City Chiefs offense lines up against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the AFC divisional playoff game at Arrowhead Stadium Jan. 15, 2017. (Photo courtesy Chiefs PR, Chiefs.com)

“Obviously I’m frustrated with the call,” Fisher said. “With the game on the line and for me to let the team down, it’s going to be a hard one to let go.”

The Chiefs found themselves flagged six times for 60 yards, with penalties, turnovers and other miscues stymying offensive drives all night long.

But no penalty loomed larger than the holding call on Fisher defending against Steelers Pro Bowler James Harrison.

Spencer Ware plunged into the end zone from 1-yard out with just 2 minutes and 43 seconds remaining. Quarterback Alex Smith connected with tight end Demetrius Harris for a successful two-point conversion to seemingly tie the game. But the flag on Fisher forced the Chiefs to try again from the 12-yard line, and a pass from Smith to Jeremy Maclin fell incomplete.

Coach Andy Reid said he’s curious to see replays of the holding call.

“Unfortunately we had them down the stretch,” Reid said. “Fish got called for one that when you’re playing against a shorter player that can go either way. I don’t know.”

Fisher’s teammates stood behind him, led by tight end Travis Kelce.

“That wasn’t a hold on my guy Eric Fisher, and sure enough I hope (he) doesn’t go the entire offseason thinking it was his fault,” Kelce said. “That was horse sh*t flat out.”

Center Mitch Morse hugged Fisher in the locker room. He said he told Fisher not to shoulder the blame for the loss.

“He’s a great left tackle, competitive  and we love him to death,” Morse said. “And I have have his back, always.”

Indeed, the Chiefs had numerous opportunities to win the game before the two-point conversion. The team scored touchdowns on its opening and closing drives of the game, but in between stumbled and sputtered, failing to sustain drives leading to points and keeping the Steelers off the field.

“Then, obviously, everything in between, not so good,” Smith said. “I felt like everybody kind of hard a part in it. Just off the top of my head, everybody — myself, the guys up front, the guys outside — everybody had a turn.”

Fisher agreed.

“We shot ourselves in the foot a bunch,” Fisher said. “To win that game, we got to play better.”

The mistakes began piling up late in the first quarter. A holding call against Morse put the Chiefs into a second-and-16 from their own 19-yard line. The Steelers declined a penalty against guard Laurent-Duvernay on the next play for an ineligible receiver downfield. The Chiefs couldn’t dig out of the hole and were forced to punt.

“It comes down to execution,” Morse said. “Offensively we had those struggles and made mistakes. The truth is we shouldn’t have had to put ourselves in that situation at the end.

Midway through the third quarter the Chiefs faced a third-and-2 at the Steelers 39-yard line. A delay of game penalty set the offensive back 5 yards. Harrison beat Fisher on the left side and sacked Smith for a 6-yard loss, and the Chiefs punted.

“There were too many errors that we made,” Reid said. “That’s my responsibility to make sure those are right and we didn’t do it.”

On their next drive, the Chiefs burned a valuable timeout as the play clock ran down. Kelce shoved a defender to the ground just after the play was stopped, drawing a 15-yard penalty. The Chiefs rallied, however, thanks to a 20-yard pass from Smith to Jeremy Maclin, and settle for a field goal to cut the deficit to 15-10.

Fisher said he could stand in the locker room apologizing to his teammates for the holding call, but he knows his teammates didn’t want that.

“We’re a tight-knit group in this locker room, and the support we have for each other,” Fisher said. “We have each other’s backs, we don’t point fingers around here. It’s a group effort and just came out on the low end today.”

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Matt Derrick is the lead beat writer for ChiefsDigest.com. Use the contact page to reach him or find him on Twitter: @MattDerrick.

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