INDIANAPOLIS – Stunned faces filled the Chiefs postgame locker room.
That’s not surprising considering the Chiefs just allowed the second-largest comeback in NFL postseason history en route to a 45-44 loss to the Colts.
“We’ll have to live with this until next season starts,” defensive end Mike DeVito said following the game. “It’s tough. You never want to end like that.”
The finality of blowing a 38-10 third-quarter lead carried into Sunday.
“I sat there and talked to them this morning and there were a lot of long faces,” coach Andy Reid said during Sunday’s end-of-season media session. “There weren’t guys laughing and high-fiving and all that. That wasn’t going on then. It was a bunch of guys with their heart ripped out.”
Still, from the letdown for players – and even fans – comes a positive to take from Saturday’s crushing loss as the team embarks for the offseason.
The players’ reaction to the defeat offers a teaching platform for the coaching staff.
“I can work with that,” Reid said. “I can handle that. We’ll get better because of that. It should hurt. It’ll make us better. “
Meanwhile, improving is exactly what the Chiefs did during the 2013 season in Reid’s first year as head coach.
The team rebounded from a 2-14 2012 season to finish 11-5 and made the playoffs. The team’s high point of the season was a 9-0 start.
And while the Chiefs stumbled down the stretch, going 2-5 to close the regular season, the team stuck together with a family-like locker room atmosphere.
That factor alone virtually assured there were no scapegoats among teammates following Saturday’s loss.
“Nobody is pointing fingers at anything or anybody, not one particular play, two particular plays, we’re not pointing fingers,” inside linebacker Akeem Jordan said after the game. “We’re family. We’re all in it together.”
But with their season officially over, the Chiefs have a long offseason to think about how a postseason came to an abrupt end in a gut-wrenching collapse.
“This is going to hurt all offseason, there’s no question about it,” DeVito said. “This is going to be difficult, but now you have to be future minded. You got to focus on next season.”
Shifting gears to the future is all the team can do at this point, but the foundation isn’t devoid of talent and the Chiefs are young, averaging 26 years of age on the roster.
While it could be easy for a loss like Saturday to linger with a young team, the Chiefs have a good mix of veterans to ensure the players are focused when they reunite for offseason workouts in the spring.
“We know we can play with the best and beat the best,” eighth-year tight end Anthony Fasano said after Saturday’s game. “The veterans on this team know how hard it is to get an opportunity like this. Next year we have to take the steps to not let this happen again.”
Jordan, a seventh-year pro, agreed, adding the loss ultimately fuels motivation to improve.
“We’re not going to forget it,” Jordan said of the season-ending loss. “We know where we want to go, what goals we want to accomplish. It’s going to make us work that much harder.”