Late clock mismanagement costs Chiefs in comeback attempt
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The Kansas City Chiefs' comeback attempt came up short -- and took way too long.
Trailing the New England Patriots by two touchdowns, Alex Smith and the offense burned more than 5 minutes off the clock to score, a mismanaged try that left the Chiefs with a 27-20 loss on Saturday that ended their 11-game winning streak.
"It's a fine line of getting into the best play and just keep going at the line of scrimmage," Smith said. "It would've been nice to get a score before the two-minute warning. It would've helped tremendously with three timeouts. It probably hurt us there."
The Chiefs (12-6) were at the Patriots' 20-yard line with 3 minutes left when Smith completed a 19-yard pass to Albert Wilson. Andy Reid called for a run, and Charcandrick West lost a yard.
Then came the two-minute warning.
"We wanted to get a play off right there. We had 20 seconds," Reid said. "It was 2:20 on the clock. We wanted to make sure that we got our best personnel in for that play and we didn't get that done."
A false start penalty on left tackle Eric Fisher followed. Jason Avant caught a 4-yard pass to put the ball at the 3, and a defensive pass interference penalty on Logan Ryan put the Chiefs back at the 1.
After an incomplete pass, West ran it in for a touchdown -- but there was only 1:13 left in the game.
"We went hurry-up offense," Reid said. "You normally do that when you're down by two scores. Time was of the essence. We got down to the 1-yard line and ended up going backward."
A desperation onside kick by the Chiefs was recovered by Rob Gronkowski, and Kansas City never got another chance.
"It gives us a great example of where we need to be," Reid said.
The Chiefs were trying to get to the AFC championship game for the first time since the 1993 season, but there were simply too many mistakes -- the type Kansas City rarely made during its franchise-record streak. And the Patriots capitalized.
"There were probably a lot of opportunities that we left out on the field," safety Eric Berry said.
In Kansas City's first five trips into New England territory, the Chiefs managed just two field goals by Cairo Santos.
There was also the 19-yard punt return by Frankie Hammond Jr. that gave the Chiefs the ball at the New England 36. They lost a yard and were forced to punt on the three-and-out.
"You've got to be able to take advantage of that when it comes," Smith said. "You don't know when you're going to get opportunities like that with that kind of field position, right on the fringe of field-goal range. I mean, if you get any yards there, you've probably got points and we weren't able to do anything."
Smith finished 29 of 50 for 246 yards with a touchdown, but clearly missed a healthy Jeremy Maclin, who was in and out of the lineup after being questionable with a sprained ankle. Maclin was limited to two catches for 23 yards.
"I appreciate him for going out there and trying to go," Smith said of Maclin. "No one expected it. It was pretty gutty."
Maclin said he pushed his ankle as far as he could, considering the season was on the line.
"I tried to play, and I did," he said. "And then it came to a point where the pain kind of took over and it was time for me to come out of the game."
Travis Kelce led the Chiefs with six catches for just 23 yards, while Wilson had five receptions for 57 yards and a touchdown. Chris Conley also had five catches as Smith connected with 10 receivers.
New England (13-4) will meet the winner of Sunday's game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Denver Broncos for a spot in Super Bowl 50. The Patriots are trying to become the first team to win back-to-back NFL titles since they did it in 2003-04.
"It's pretty special to get back to another AFC championship game," said Tom Brady, who will play in his 10th conference title game. "It's pretty cool. It's hard to do, man."
After spending the past two weeks recovering from knee and back injuries, Gronkowski caught seven passes for 83 yards, including touchdowns from 8 and 16 yards. Julian Edelman returned from a broken foot to catch 10 passes for 100 yards for New England.
After trading punts twice, the Patriots started on their 2 when punt returner Danny Amendola was flagged for a helmet-first hit to coverage man Jamell Fleming. The drive was in danger of stalling at the Kansas City 35 when Chiefs linebacker Dezman Moses hit Brady late and was called for roughing the passer.
Four plays later, unable to find an open receiver, Brady sprinted -- sort of -- for the corner of the end zone. The Chiefs managed to keep him out, but only for one more play. On the next snap, Brady leaned forward and reached into the end zone to make it 14-3.
Patriots defensive lineman Chandler Jones forced Knile Davis' fumble on the Chiefs' first possession of the second half, then Brady added another touchdown pass to Gronkowski to make it 21-6.
"I never felt we were out of it," Reid said. "That's not how I felt in this game. That's why I look forward to the next opportunity that we have like this."