The Chiefs’ playoff curse is real — real, spectacular, cruel and horrible
I don’t believe in Santa Claus. I don’t believe in the Easter Bunny. I don’t believe in the Tooth Fairy.
I believe in the Kansas City Chiefs’ Playoff Curse.
I believe in an invisible, intangible beast that comes alive every winter, right after the Christmas lights get put away and just before the drugstore pulls out the Valentine’s Day cards.
I believe in a monster that feasts on your wishes and hopes, riding a chariot pulled by January’s nightmares.
I believe in an apparition that turns good coaches into fools, good defenses into frauds, and kickers into mush.
It’s the only way to rationalize the inexplicable, the only way to come to terms with the unfathomable.
How else do you explain Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles, the best player on the field, getting knocked out of Saturday’s AFC wild-card round game in Indianapolis six plays into the tilt?
Or the fact that his replacement, Knile Davis, had to leave in the fourth quarter?
How do you explain Brandon Flowers getting hurt? Or Donnie Avery? Or Justin freaking Houston?
Or a 38-10 third-quarter laugher turning into a 41-38 nail-biter with 10 minutes left?
Or Colts tailback Donald Brown getting the ball knocked free at the Chiefs’ 2-yard line — only to have it land right in the arms of Andrew Luck, who then belly-flopped his 6-foot-4 frame into the end zone?
Or a fourth-and-11, do-or-die throw from Chiefs QB Alex Smith to Dwayne Bowe up the right boundary being on the money — only to end with Bowe failing to get two feet inbounds?
Or Colts 45, Chiefs 44?
The Curse, the Curse, the Curse, the Curse, the Curse, the Curse, the Curse, the Curse, the Curse.
It’s bigger than Andy Reid. It’s bigger than Alex Smith. It’s bigger than John Dorsey. Together, those men helped to turn the S.S. Minnow, with Gilligan Pioli at the wheel, into a watertight battleship, more quickly and more demonstrably than almost anyone thought possible. They always will be the ones who transformed 2-14 into 11-5, the ones who brought back the pride and the noise and the fun, the ones who dared you to dream big again.
They’re good men. All of them.
But the Curse doesn’t care about good men.
It just destroys. Without logic, without conscience, without mercy.
Without a bloody soul.
The Chiefs have dropped eight postseason games in a row now, an NFL record, winless in the playoffs since Joe Montana had the reins back in 1993-94. Half of those losses were to the Colts.
And this one just might have been the most painful of all.
Because it was there. Right there. All of it.
The Chiefs and Colts combined for 1,049 yards and 58 first downs, both NFL single-game playoff records in regulation. They left it all out there. Blood. Sweat. Tears. Bodies.
Mostly bodies. With no Houston, no Flowers, it was only a matter of time before Luck stepped on the Andy Gang’s collective hearts, floating a rainbow over safeties Kendrick Lewis and Quintin Demps and into the mitts of T.Y. Hilton for a 64-yard score with 4:21 left in the tilt. That tied the game at 44-all, and wiped out the earlier efforts of a Chiefs defense that had sacked Luck once and picked him off three times.
When Charles left the field, the rookie Davis (18 carries, 67 yards, one TD) did yeoman’s work in his stead. Smith threw for 378 yards and four scores — a new single-game Chiefs record — while picking up 57 more yards on the ground. Bowe (8 catches, 150 yards) played like a man possessed, if not outright challenged. Reid and coordinators Doug Pederson (offense) and Bob Sutton (defense) brought in a good game plan, only to be forced to adjust on the fly as stars such as Charles, Flowers and Houston left the stage, one by one.
Kansas City led 17-7. Then 24-7. Then 31-10. Then 38-10. A date with Denver next weekend was so close, so tangible, you could almost smell the legalized marijuana.
But then this thing became a Chiefs playoff game again, in all the evil, cruel, nonsensical Chiefs-playoff-game ways.
And maybe none more cruel than the one with 10:45 or so left in the contest, and the Colts at the Chiefs’ 2, down 41-31. Brown took a handoff and a step before the ball was knocked free. Surely, it was a repeat of the Buffalo game; surely, it was a turnover that would swing momentum back to the visitors.
Only Brown’s fumble popped out with such ferocity that it somehow flew behind the first wave of Chiefs defenders and into the waiting lap of Luck, who then scooped it up, secured it, and fell forward for the disaster-turned-touchdown, cutting the Chiefs’ lead to 41-37.
The Curse just laughed. Someday, Chiefs fans will, too. If only to keep from crying.
You can follow Sean Keeler on Twitter (@seankeeler) or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.