All the publicity lately has been on the Pittsburgh Steelers prolific offense, but for one day the old Steel Curtain defense made a reappearance, shutting down the Kansas City Chiefs offense in the red zone and walking off the field with a 20-12 win and a trip to the playoffs.
The Chiefs, 8-7, aren’t technically eliminated from the playoffs, but need to beat the San Diego Chargers next week at Arrowhead and then get a lot of help from too many teams to make it in as the second wild card.
There’s a better chance that Republicans and Democrats will walk down the street arm in arm singing Christmas carols, but a chance is a chance, right?
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Pittsburgh, 10-5, clinched its first playoff spot since 2011 and gained a bit of revenge on Chiefs coach Andy Reid. Last year, Reid rested all his starters in Week 17 against San Diego and when the Chargers won 27-24 it knocked Pittsburgh out of the playoffs.
This Sunday, however, the main reason the Chiefs lost was simple. The #2 Red Zone scoring offense in the league couldn’t buy a touchdown inside the 20 and it cost them. At one point in the game, they reached the Pittsburgh 8, 4, 12 and 28 and came away with two field goals, a stop on fourth down and a fumble.
Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith found success throughout the game throwing quick passes and avoiding the Pittsburgh pass rush. But when he needed to go downfield or if the Chiefs needed to run the ball, they were stymied.
Smith threw for 311 yards, which broke the 44-game streak of no Chiefs QB throwing for 300+ yards in a regular season game. His critics will bemoan a blown opportunity in the first half when Smith overthrew a wide open Albert Wilson deep that could have changed thetenor of the game. It was the second week in a row that Smith missed Wilson on the deep post route.
However, earlier in the game, Smith hit Dwayne Bowe in the end zone in the hands, but Bowe couldn’t hang onto the ball. That play could have been a difference-maker as well. Smith’s critics probably won’t care.
Smith stood in the pocket and endured 6 sacks by the Steelers defense and absorbed another 8 quarterback hits after throwing the ball. Smith has now been sacked 45 times which, for a team that doesn’t throw the ball often, is terrible. Since the off-season will be here sooner than fans may like, an upgrade to the offensive line is a must.
Despite all the offensive problems, the Chiefs had a chance at the end of the game to get a potential game-tying touchdown and two-point conversion. Pittsburgh’s Shaun Suisham made a 23-yard field goal with 4:04 to play, giving the Steelers a 20-9 lead, but Steelers guard Ramon Foster was called for unnecessary roughness after the play, and the penalty was assessed on the ensuing kickoff.
That allowed the Chiefs to take over at the 50, and Cairo Santos’ 23-yard field goal — his fourth of the game — with 1:37, made it a one-score game again. But the Chiefs’ onside kick proved unsuccessful, and the Steelers ran out the clock for their fourth straight victory.
The lone turnover of the game also proved costly to the Chiefs when Pittsburgh converted a third-quarter fumble by Jamaal Charles into a 3-yard touchdown pass from Ben Roethlisberger to Antonio Brown with 34 seconds left in the third quarter.
Charles fumbled when hit at by defensive end Stephon Tuitt, and the ball was recovered by linebacker Vince Williams at the Pittsburgh 25.
The first half ended in controversy that Chiefs fans will be discussing for the immediate future. The Chiefs, trailing 10-6, faced a fourth-and-inches at the Pittsburgh 11 after a replay review showed running back De’Anthony Thomas short of a first down with 27 seconds left in the half.
Instead of attempting a chip-shot field goal and a 10-9 halftime deficit – and getting the second half kickoff – Reid elected to go for the first down, and Charles was stuffed for no gain, turning the ball back over to Pittsburgh on downs.
After Pittsburgh opened the game with a 23-yard field goal by Suisham, the Chiefs drove to the Steelers 8. But Charles was dropped for a 2-yard loss; Smith’s pass intended for tight end Travis Kelce sailed over his head in the end zone; and on third down, Smith had no chance as he was snowed under for a sack.
It was a sign of how the day would go for KC as they drove 65 yards in 14 plays, consuming 7 minutes, 9 seconds, and all they had to show for it was a game-tying 35-yard field goal by Santos.
The Chiefs defense certainly did enough to win the game, holding Roethlisberger to 220 yards passing and one touchdown and Le’Veon Bell to 63 yards rushing on 20 carries. Roethlisberger entered the game with the second-most passing yards in the league and Bell had the second-most rushing yards.
Now the Chiefs have to try and get ready for San Diego, who got a thrilling 38-35 overtime win over the San Francisco 49ers Saturday night after trailing 21-0 in the first half and 35-21 in the fourth quarter.
And hopefully, Chiefs fans will see Republicans and Democrats walking down Pennsylvania Avenue singing Christmas carols this week as well.