If the Kansas City Chiefs’ 2014 season were an amusement park ride, it would be a roller coaster with plenty of peaks and valley.
The team ascended to a 7-3 start before a bank turn dropped them to 9-7. Kansas City did not finish the circuit in ideal fashion and below are five culprits.
All of these moments lead to the Chiefs sitting at home during the postseason. The roller coaster can turn into a smooth cruise down 1-70 in 2015 if Kansas City can learn from these experiences:
1. DERRICK JOHNSON, MIKE DeVITO, JEFF ALLEN GO DOWN
The Chiefs had to reassess their track just two quarters into the regular season against the woeful Tennessee Titans.
Johnson, the patriarch of the defense, crumbled to the ground untouched midway through the second quarter after sustaining a season-ending right Achilles rupture. DeVito suffered a similar injury eight plays later.
The defense lost two key cogs of the run defense that would haunt them all season. Kansas City gave up an average of 4.7 yards per carry on the season and ranked 28th against the run.
Jeff Allen filled in at right tackle for a suspended Donald Stephenson before he endured a season-ending elbow injury.
The Chiefs were down three key starters before the final whistle blew in a 26-10 loss.
2. FOURTH-AND-INCHES IN PITTSBURGH
The clock read 27 seconds in the second quarter after Kansas City marched 72 yards in eight plays with the Steelers holding a 10-6 lead. All that stood in the way of the Chiefs and their first lead of the game was 12 yards.
The offense needed to convert a first down the length of a football, and coach Andy Reid called a counter play to the left side. Tackle Eric Fisher and guard Jeff Linkenbach both took reach steps to their right, but Fisher tripped on Linkenbach’s foot before stumbling to the ground.
Inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons is unaccounted and met Jamaal Charles near the line of scrimmage. Charles is held to no gain after that game-changing play.
Kansas City dropped s to 8-7 following the 20-12 defeat in Week 16.
3. TRAVIS KELCE FUMBLE
Kansas City gets the ball back with 6:51 left in regulation trailing 17-14 to the Arizona Cardinals, and must drive 76 yards for a tie or the go-ahead score.
Quarterback Alex Smith connects with Kelce for a 29-yard pickup on the first play. Three plays later, Smith finds Kelce for an apparent 19-yard pickup on third-and-4, putting the Chiefs at the Arizona 23-yard line.
While the ball seemed to move as Kelce was going down, he appeared to regain control before hitting the ground. The football came loose as he rolled on the ground and was picked up by Cardinals cornerback Justin Bethel, but the officials pointed to the ground.
Cardinals coach Bruce Arians chucked a red flag onto the field requesting rookie referee Craig Wrolstad to review the play. Wrolstad went under the hood and determined Kelce did not regain possession of the football. Arizona was rewarded possession of the football at its own 16.
The Chiefs offense doesn’t threaten again, leading Kansas City to fall into a four-way tie for an AFC wild-card spot with Baltimore, Pittsburgh and San Diego.
4. AN OAKLAND RALLY
The Chiefs on a short week are coming off a 28-24 win over the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks. Kansas City stands at 7-3 with Denver and Arizona on the horizon.
The Raiders entered the game without a win in 368 days, but built a 14-point lead in the first half. The Chiefs grind their way back from a 17-3 deficit with three unanswered scores, including a 30-yard angle route touchdown from Jamaal Charles, to take a 20-17 lead.
The defense needed to deny Oakland a score with 9:03 remaining in the game, but rookie quarterback Derek Carr proceeded to lead a 17-play, 80-yard drive that consumed 7:21 off the clock. The Raiders finish the series on Carr’s 9-yard touchdown strike to James Jones with 1:42 remaining to take a 24-20 lead.
Kansas falls to 7-4 on the season and began a three-game skid.
5. FINAL DRIVES
The four-minute drill was not kind to the Chiefs in 2014.
Kansas City had an opportunity for a go-ahead touchdown or tie in five games the past season.
The offense was 1-of-4 on those opportunities with its lone success coming on a Cairo Santos game-winning kick in a 23-20 victory against San Diego in Week 7.
The Chiefs fell short 24-17 during Week 2’s game in Denver on a 4th-and-goal pass from Alex Smith to Dwayne Bowe after the pass was tipped at the line of scrimmage with less than 20 seconds remaining in the game.
Smith in his San Francisco homecoming in Week 5 and down 22-17 gets intercepted on a pass intended for Anthony Fasano shortly before the two-minute warning in the final quarter.
Smith comes up short against the Raiders in Week 12 with 28 seconds remaining in the game on a fourth-and-13 pass to Frank Hammond on a comeback route.
Smith is hurried in the waning seconds of Week 14 on a fourth-and-long throw that falls at the feet of Jason Avant on a hook-and-ladder attempt in Arizona.