The Chiefs defense arguably did its part, limiting the Pittsburgh Steelers, the NFL’s top offense entering Week 16, to 282 total yards.
Kansas City’s offense, however, didn’t hold its end of the bargain after four trips, including three in the first half, inside the Steelers’ 12-yard line resulted in three Cairo Santos field goals.
The Chiefs’ inability to score touchdowns resulted in a 20-12 loss that dropped the Chiefs to 8-7 and a fourth loss in the past five games.
“Lack of execution – I know you guys hate hearing that sometimes – certainly that’s part of it, I think got ourselves in bad situations,” Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith told reporters after the game. “I felt a couple of times on those drives we flowed and were just staying on schedule ahead of the chains, and then all of a sudden we get in the red zone and we got a negative play or a sack or something else, then you’re fighting uphill again.”
The Chiefs had opportunities, including a series of plays before Santos’ second field goal early in the second quarter.
Kansas City originally lined up for a field goal attempt at the 12-yard line, but ran a fake and converted the first down after punter/holder Dustin Colquitt threw a shovel pass to tight end Travis Kelce, who ran across the formation, for a 6-yard gain and the first down.
The next three plays, however, produced a 2-yard gain by running back Jamaal Charles, an incomplete pass into the end zone from Smith to wide receiver Dwayne Bowe, and then a sack on Smith resulting in a 3-yard loss.
Santos came back on the field to make a 25-yard field goal to give the Chiefs a 6-3 lead.
Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell put Pittsburgh ahead 10-6 on a 1-yard touchdown run late in the second quarter.
The Chiefs took the ensuing kickoff and marched down the field on a possession that started on its 16-yard line.
Facing a fourth-and-1 at Pittsburgh’s 12-yard line with 27 seconds remaining in the first half, Chiefs coach Andy Reid opted to go for it instead of attempting a field goal.
A made field goal at the time would’ve made it a one-point game with the Chiefs down 10-9 entering halftime and with the ball to start the second half.
Instead, the Steelers stuffed Charles as he attempted to run on the left side of the offensive line and took over on downs to close out the second quarter.
“I figured we could get inches,” coach Andy Reid told reporters during his postgame media session. “It wasn’t even a yard. It was about the length of a ball, if that. I thought we had a nice short-yardage play right there. I felt very good about it. We didn’t get it.”
The Chiefs have out gained the Steelers 181-160 total yards in the first half and produced more first downs with an 11-9 edge. The Chiefs finished the game out gaining the Steelers 327 total yards to 282 yards and finished with more first downs, 22-19.
But wasted opportunities in the red zone appeared to weigh heavily on Smith, who finished the contest completing 31-of-45 passes for 311 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions.
The Steelers sacked Smith six times on the game.
“So many little things down there, they’re not big things, the little things get magnified,” Smith said. “We had a chance, didn’t covert on a fourth-and-1, I think changed it.”
The Chiefs failed to pose a major challenge in the second half as the Steelers built a 17-6 lead following a Charles fumble.
Pittsburgh took advantage of the turnover when quarterback Ben Roethlisberger found wide receiver Antonio Brown for a 3-yard touchdown late in the third quarter.
Charles, who was in and out of the lineup after appearing to aggravate his left ankle and knee injuries following a tackle, finished the game with 14 touches (nine rushes, five catches) and totaled 77 yards (29 rushing).
Pittsburgh effectively closed the door on any hopes for a Chiefs’ comeback early in the fourth quarter after Santos’ third field goal pulled the Chiefs to within 17-9 with 10:18 remaining in the game.
The Steelers consumed 6:14 off the clock on the subsequent 12-play, 70-yard drive capped off by kicker Shaun Suisham’s 23-yard field goal for a 20-9 lead.
Kansas City’s last score came on Santos’ fourth field goal with 1:40 remaining in the game. Pittsburgh recovered the onside kick and the game was over after three straight Roethlisberger kneel downs.
Pittsburgh (10-5) clinched a playoff berth with the win, while the Chiefs’ postseason hopes are barely alive due to the Baltimore Ravens (9-6) losing 25-13 to the Houston Texans.
The Chiefs must defeat the San Diego Chargers (9-6) in Week 17, and then hope for outside help.
“It completely changes it, for sure,” Smith said. “Certainly we have a lot of character I think inside our locker room and I don’t think it will impact our preparation and how we go about this next week. But, yeah, it definitely changes things.”
DEFENSE LIMITS BIG THREE
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger entered Week 16 averaging averaged 352.8 yards passing in the past eight games, but the Chiefs limited him to 220 yards.
The Chiefs also held Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown mostly in check. Brown, who entered the game with two straight 100-yard efforts, finished with 72 yards receiving and a touchdown on seven catches.
Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell extended his touchdown streak to five after a 1-yard plunge, but managed 63 yards on 20 carries (3.2 yards per carry).
The Steelers entered the game averaging a league-high 424.9 yards per game, but finished with 282 yards.
HOUSTON SACK PARTY
Chiefs outside linebacker Justin Houston notched his 18th sack on the season, which is tops in the league.
Houston is now two sacks shy of tying Pro Football Hall of Fame linebacker Derrick Thomas’ franchise single-season mark of 20 sacks set in 1990.
WILSON CONTINUES TO SHINE
Rookie wide receiver Albert Wilson recording five catches for 87 yards, both career highs, on seven targets as he drew another start in place of Donnie Avery, who was inactive.
Since starting in Week 14 against the Arizona Cardinals, Wilson has totaled 12 catches for 209 yards on 20 targets.
Coach Andy Reid said rookie cornerback Phillip Gaines came down an illness and wasn’t available for the game.
Reid said rookie right guard Zach Fulton, who had been dealing with a foot injury, sprained his other foot. Mike McGlynn finished the game in Fulton’s spot.
The Chiefs close out the regular season by hosting the Chargers in Week 17 at Arrowhead Stadium.
The game airs at noon on CBS on Dec. 28.