KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The emotional toll of Kansas City’s 18-16 loss to Pittsburgh with a bid to the AFC Championship game on the line hit the Chiefs hard, and tight end Travis Kelce expressed his frustrations clearly after the game.
“This sucks,” Kelce said, in one of his more politically correct expressions after the game.
Make no mistake, Kelce didn’t fault his teammates or coaches.
“First things first, I want to say that I love my teammates,” Kelce said. “This one hurts.”
The volatile tight end saved his stinging critiques for the officials, specially referee Carl Cheffers. Kelce took exception to a holding call against tackle Eric Fisher during the two-point conversion try that would have tied the game at 18.
“You try and play this game with integrity to the end of the whistle,” Kelce said, “and when refs want to take over the game and make it their own platform there is nothing you can do about it.”
Kelce did not believe Fisher committed holding.
“It’s ignorance,” Kelce said. “The ref — No. 51 — shouldn’t even be able to wear a zebra jersey ever again. He shouldn’t even be able to work at f*cking Foot Locker.”
Kelce’s emotions also boiled over on the field. He incurred a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for pushing a Steelers defender just after the Chiefs called a timeout.
The penalty came right after Kelce dropped a deep pass from Alex Smith that would have set the Chiefs up for a possible touchdown. Coach Andy Reid felt the tight end’s anger at himself for dropping the pass led to the penalty.
“Those are the little things like that when you’re playing here against good competition, you can’t have things like that,” Reid said. “You learn from that.”
MITCHELL, BROWN TUSSLE IN POSTGAME
— Josina Anderson (@JosinaAnderson) January 16, 2017
Chiefs cornerback Terrance Mitchell and Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown exchanged words and shoves on the field following the game.
Brown blamed the exchange on Mitchell.
“That’s what happens when guys lose,” Brown said. “They take it personally.”
Brown said Mitchell tried to provoke him.
“I’m not an MMA fight,” Brown said. “I’m a football player and we leave it all on the field.”
Mitchell did not address the incident after the game.
Brown encountered more controversy after the game, streaming a Facebook Live video from the Steelers locker room. Portions of coach Mike Tomlin’s speech to the team after the game can be heard in the video. Brown recorded the video during a portion of postgame activities when the locker room is not open to the media.
The Chiefs suffered a scare on their final drive when receiver Chris Conley took a hard hit near the goal line. The officials flagged safety Sean Davis for hitting a defenseless receiver.
Conley remained on the ground while the training staff attended to him. While the injury appeared serious at first, Conley quickly returned to the game.
“It was mostly a hit to my back and ribs, not my head,” Conley said. “They just had to check me out and do some x-rays on my ribs.”
Reid said Conley’s collision was the only injury news for the team following the game.
BERRY TELLS TEAMMATES TO LOOK IN MIRROR
Safety Eric Berry often talks to his teammates at critical moments, and the aftermath of the playoff loss proved no exception.
“Everybody just be honest with their self,” Berry said when asked what he told his teammates after the game. “Look in the mirror and ask themselves if we did everything we could to win this game. That’s it. Just be honest with yourself.”
Berry said he wasn’t passing judgment on whether any teammates did not do enough to win the game.
“I can’t answer that,” Berry said. “That’s why I told them to look in the mirror.”