Andy Reid may have led his teams to more wins than any NFL head coach not named "Bill Belichick," but Sunday's loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers means he's failed to advance past the divisional round in 11 of the past 12 seasons.
It's honestly hard to believe: his Chiefs won the AFC West, arguably the hardest division in football. They went 12-4 in a division where another team also went 12-4 (Raiders), a third team was defending last year's Super Bowl championship (Broncos), and the cellar-dweller (Chargers) was ranked in the middle of the pack in most advanced team-strength metrics.
The Chiefs were the AFC's No. 2 seed, rewarded for their great regular season with a first-round bye and home-field advantage. On paper, no stadium offers a stronger advantage than the Chiefs' Arrowhead, where fans currently hold the Guinness World Record for loudest crowd roar. In theory, the bye week gave Reid more time to scheme up an outstanding game plan; before this game many pundits touted Reid's 18-2 career record after regular- and post-season byes.
But for the first time in his career, a playoff bye didn't do Reid any good.
His Chiefs offense was stymied by the Steelers, a team they'd already faced once this season. Quarterback Alex Smith rarely attacked the Steelers secondary. Despite averaging 7.2 yards per pass attempt throughout the season, Smith gained an average of just 5.1 yards over his 34 attempts against the Steelers.
Weapons like receiver Jeremy Maclin (two catches, 28 yards), Tyreek Hill (four catches, 27 yards) and tight end Travis Kelce (five catches, 77 yards and a terribly stupid penalty) had almost zero impact. The Steelers defense has been getting stouter as the year goes on, but the Steel Curtain they are not.
In fact, Pittsburgh didn't even have the best defense on the field. The Chiefs, who finished the year 24th in yardage defense but 7th in scoring defense, continued their bend-but-don't-break ways on Sunday. Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers offense didn't score a single touchdown, outgaining the Chiefs 389-227 but going 0-for-4 in the red zone.
All the Chiefs needed was one lightning bolt, one big downfield throw, one Hill return touchdown to validate their entire campaign—and ensure that, after four years of being one of the best teams in the AFC, they'd get the chance to play for at least one AFC title.
But there was no bolt from out of the blue, no brilliant offensive wrinkle, and certainly no Dontari Poe touchdown pass. With the stage set for them to succeed and everything on the line, the Chiefs offense had nothing on the Steelers defense.
"This is the best football team I have played on, by far," a distraught Maclin told reporters after the game. "We have nobody to blame but ourselves."
Well, there may be one person to blame—and he seems to hold some kind of coaching playoff curse.