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4 winners and 6 losers from the Chiefs’ loss to the Bengals

Kansas City’s season ended on Sunday night. Let’s see which players helped — and which ones didn’t.

Syndication: The Enquirer Kareem Elgazzar/The Enquirer / USA TODAY NETWORK

For the second week in a row, it’s difficult to find words to describe how we feel about a Kansas City Chiefs game. But this week, it’s the exact opposite of last week.

The Chiefs lost a heartbreaker after again getting out to a big first-half lead and letting it slip away with a miserable second-half offensive performance. We’ll always remember that incredible Divisional round victory over the Buffalo Bills — but unfortunately, we’ll probably remember this 27-24 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals for nearly as long.

Here are a few who stood out in the final game of the Chiefs’ 2021 season.

Winners

AFC Wild Card Playoffs - Pittsburgh Steelers v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by David Eulitt/Getty Images

Mecole Hardman: Once again — in a limited role — Hardman was fantastic. His 44-yard catch was one of the highlights of the afternoon. His touchdown reception from quarterback Patrick Mahomes was a thing of beauty. Five touches, 70 yards and a touchdown is a really solid game from a gadget receiver who has really settled into his role.

Melvin Ingram: Get that man a new contract! Ingram was often an animal against the Bengals. His lone sack of the day was absolutely dominant, as he destroyed the tackle and went airborne to bring down Joe Burrow. On the very next play, he had a batted pass — and it appeared he might just take over the game. He has been one of the keys to this Chiefs’ run, and we hope to see more of him next season.

Willie Gay, Jr: Between Gay and Nick Bolton, the future at linebacker is bright. On Sunday, Gay had a couple of passes defended and a tackle for loss. He was flying around the field, becoming a big part of what was — all things considered — a pretty solid defensive performance. In the years to come, he’ll have the chance to be a central figure on this team.

L’Jarius Sneed: The other defensive player around whom the Chiefs can build is the best player in the secondary. Sneed’s 10 tackles — including one for a loss — led the team. He knocked down a pass and had a spectacular interception. He needs more help in the secondary — but Sneed’s combination of ball skills, speed and tackling are something special.

Losers

AFC Championship - Cincinnati Bengals v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by David Eulitt/Getty Images

Patrick Mahomes: We might as well start here, because for all he did to bring them to this game — and for as brilliant as he was in the first half — Mahomes was the main reason his team lost in the second half. He turned the ball over twice — and nearly lost a fumble that would have made it three turnovers in one half. He took sacks he shouldn’t and hesitated when he normally wouldn’t. But the fact he didn’t come through in the clutch is the most jarring part of this loss. Mahomes had a chance to win this game at the end of regulation and on the first drive of overtime, and the result was — well, you know the result. The greatest player on Earth isn’t less of a stud because of this loss — but it’s now fair to say he’s inconsistent. His highs are indeed magical — but his lows are uncomfortable, shaky and result in turnovers. Perhaps he is more Brett Favre than Tom Brady?

Chris Jones and Frank Clark: In the Divisional round against the Titans, Burrow was sacked nine times. The Chiefs (that is, Ingram) got to him just once. Jones had him all but sacked at least once — but then let him slip away for a first down. Clark had even less to show for his efforts on the day. When this team needed big defensive plays, #SackNation was unable to deliver. These two players make too much money to get blanked on the biggest stages.

Orlando Brown, Jr.: The only guy on the Bengals defense who might be able to wreck a game is Trey Hendrickson. He didn’t wreck this one — but he came close. Hendrickson had one-and-a-half sacks, a couple of quarterback hits and a good amount of pressure — mostly at Brown’s expense. He’s had a good season overall, but it will be fascinating to see how the offseason negotiations go.

Daniel Sorensen: It was the story of this season for Sorensen. Too late to help on the touchdown to Chase. Not able to stay with his guy in man coverage during the two-point conversion. We didn’t even get the playoff heroics we used to see from him.

Andy Reid: Like his quarterback, the head coach wasn’t as great as he should have been. When they had a chance to put points on the board at the end of the first half, both lacked the situational awareness to get the job done. Mahomes seemed to think he had another timeout and convinced Reid to let him take another shot at a touchdown. Then as time expired, he threw to Tyreek Hill short of the end zone. In the second half, execution was even worse. The offense stalled, managing only a field goal in the final two quarters plus overtime. These two get the credit when the team wins — and should also get the blame when they don’t. They didn’t get it done on Sunday — so this season will ultimately be remembered as a failure.