This is not a call for the Chiefs to walk away from Alex Smith, even though this is the first offseason since his arrival in which they could do it without a fatal salary cap hit. This is a call for them to look, to try, to make sure they don’t have access to a better option — whether that’s Tony Romo in a trade, Deshaun Watson in the draft (which would almost certainly require a trade up), or anything else.
"There are certain things you agree with and don't agree with during games,'' Reid said Monday when asked for his opinion of the call. "It really doesn't matter now that we're sitting here. I don't want to be fined any money but I would tell you I was probably leaning the other way. I thought Fish did what he needed to do on that particular block to get that done and the problem is when [linebacker James Harrison] slipped it can look worse than it is.
Biggest draft need: Inside linebacker. The Chiefs need to find the eventual replacement for longtime starter Derrick Johnson, who has been an effective player against both the run and the pass for years. But Johnson will turn 35 next season and will be coming off a torn Achilles tendon that ended his 2016 season in early December. Johnson might return as an effective player for another season or two, but it’s time for the Chiefs to prepare for life without him.
The Chiefs were a good enough team to win this game at their best, but not at all a good enough team to win with the laundry list of gaffes they made Sunday. A team that tied for the NFL lead in turnover margin in the regular season at plus-16 lost the turnover battle 2-1. It dropped passes repeatedly and served up a batch of untimely penalties — from Kelce’s ridiculous shove that earned him an earful from linebacker Justin Houston on the sideline to a delay of game in the second half to a hold on Mitch Morse and ineligible man downfield call on Laurent Duvernay-Tardif on the second drive of the game.
Here’s an A-Z look at what made the season special, what makes this loss sting and a glimpse at some questions that will loom for the Chiefs in the months ahead. A is for Arrowhead Stadium, certified by Guinness World Records as the site of the loudest crowd roar in a stadium (142.2 decibels) but a tomb when it comes to Chiefs postseasons: The Chiefs have lost their last five playoff games there since beating Pittsburgh 27-24 in overtime on Jan. 8, 1994. In those five regular seasons, they were 37-3 at home. B is for block by offensive tackle Eric Fisher that was ruled a hold and thus negated a two-point conversion pass to Demetrius Harris that would have tied the score with 2 minutes, 43 seconds left. The call will help characterize the game for generations, though obviously it wasn’t what lost the game for the Chiefs — who were outplayed and couldn’t atone for their multiple mistakes.
"I’m not sure I completely agree with what took place, but it did and the call was made and we live with that," Reid said. "I don’t want to be fined any money, but I would tell you I was probably leaning the other way. I thought [Fisher] did what he needed to do on that particular block to get that done, but the problem is that when people slip it can look worse than it is."
"Obviously, last year, we talked about if you could get home-field advantage what an advantage that is, and we had it this year," Smith said. "Like I said, we had our opportunities. Regardless of what happened at the end of the game, we had our opportunities. So, you have to figure out a way to take the next step, figure out a way to get past that."
But don’t expect Hali, 33, to hang it up any time soon. The 11-year veteran intends to play next year — and likely beyond — a source told The Star on Monday. Hali would like to play four more seasons, the source said, and believes he still has plenty left in the tank.
1. Linebacker: The season-ending injury to Derrick Johnson brought the Chiefs’ issues at linebacker to the forefront. Ramik Wilson might be a good option, but there is a clear lack of depth and impact players at this spot on the depth chart. Johnson still has two years left on his deal, but looking at the 35-year-old’s history of injury, it’s pretty easy to see his career finish line. One more pass rusher off the edge wouldn’t hurt, either—Tamba Hali is 33 and Justin Houston carries a massive cap hit next year ($25 million), although the Chiefs won’t be biding him farewell anytime soon.
"Do I still think we can win with Alex and do it? Well yeah. We were right there. We were right there to do that. He made a phenomenal throw on the two-point play to put us in a position to take care of business. This isn’t all about Alex. This wasn’t what this was; and his performance and that. That’s not what this came down to," Reid said.
After watching the tape, I kind of felt the same way that I did last night when I talked to you, that little things add up. I have to make sure I take care of that. We have to eliminate some of the penalties and things early in the game that affected us down the stretch. I still felt like after watching the tape that we had an opportunity there to win the game. I know [Eric] Fisher is going to have a lot of eyes on him for that call. I’m not sure if I completely agree with what took place, but it did. The call was made, and we live with that. Single elimination – this is how it works. We’re all big boys, and we have to learn from it and move forward."