KANSAS CITY, Mo. — It took defensive end Chris Jones time to compose himself following the Chiefs' 37-31 overtime loss to the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship game.
The normally effervescent and optimistic Jones took the loss hard. He remained at his locker when head coach Andy Reid walked in following his postgame press conference. Reid stopped to pat Jones on the back and give him a message.
"Hold your head up,” Jones replied when asked what Reid told him. “Just hold your head up. You had a great year, but this is something we'll learn from, we'll definitely get the opportunity again, and it will actually build the character of the team up.”
Jones certainly had no reason to hold his head down after this season. The third-year defensive line delivered a breakout performance, collecting a team-high 15 1/2 sacks. He delivered a sack in 11-straight games, the longest streak since sacks became an official statistic in 1982.
But the individual success doesn't make the team's loss sting any less for Jones.
“Just all our work, commitment we put in it for six or seven months of football,” Jones said. “You get these opportunities to get in the championship and play a high-quality game. It just hurts.”
What hurt, Jones said, is he and his teammates felt the could beat the Patriots.
“When you know you can beat a team and you have them right at the grip at the end and you don't seal it,” Jones said. “It leaves an odd feeling in your heart when you know you can get the job. They didn't just outplay us, we kind of beat ourselves.”
Jones left the game in the fourth quarter with an apparent ankle injury. Reid didn't specify the extent of the injury. The absence of Jones diminished the team's ability to pressure Patriots quarterback Tom Brady during their march down the field for the game-winning score in overtime.
“When Chris goes out, he's a big part of that with the other two guys there of putting pressure on,” Reid said. “I don't think that helped us a bunch. He tried to go with it and he just couldn't push off.”
Jones ended the 2017 season on the sidelines with a knee injury watching his team fall to the Tennessee Titans in the Wild Card round. He set a goal to make sure he had the fitness and the stamina to make himself a force in 2018. Now he's ready to do it all over again for 2019.
“Train even harder, come back even (more) dominant this season,” Jones said. “I look forward to start training, getting my body right and be a dominant aspect for this defense next year.”