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Reid’s Kansas City Chiefs squander big lead in AFC playoff loss to Tennessee

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Tennessee Titans head coach Mike Mularkey, left, and Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid, a Glendale Community College product, talk after their NFL wild-card playoff football game Saturday. The Chiefs could not hold on to an 18-point lead and lost, 22-21.
(Charlie Riedel/Associated Press)

In an AFC wild-card round playoff game that very much played out as a microcosm of the Kansas City Chiefs mercurial season, Glendale Community College product Andy Reid’s Chiefs succumbed to a memorable Tennessee Titans comeback.

With Kansas City leading by 18 points at halftime, Tennessee rallied for three consecutive second-half touchdowns and held on for a dramatic 22-21 first-round win Saturday at Kansas City’s Arrowhead Stadium.

“Tough part about this obviously is that it’s final and the season ends up being over, you’re never the same team, that’s just how this thing works,” Reid said in the postgame press conference. “Appreciate the fans and the great support that they gave us all year, particularly tonight, they were unbelievable. They deserve more than what we gave them. That’s my responsibility as the head coach of the football team. Again, we have to do a better job.”

Though the game was mired somewhat by controversial officiating and is likely to be remembered most for the Titans’ comeback — or the Chiefs’ collapse — it was also the continuation of postseason struggles for Kansas City, which has lost 10 of its last 11 playoff games and a half-dozen in a row at home.

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The 59-year-old Reid, a former Glendale college offensive lineman, saw his NFL playoff coaching record fall to 11-13 across his tenures with the Philadelphia Eagles and Chiefs, while dropping to 1-4 with Kansas City, which lost its third consecutive playoff game.

On the strength of a 14-yard touchdown catch by Demarcus Robinson from Alex Smith, who completed 24 of 33 passes for 264 yards and two scores, the Chiefs (10-7), the AFC West titlist and No. 4 seed, took a 21-3 lead shortly before halftime.

However, the Titans (10-7), the No. 5 seed and a wild-card entry, were spurred on by running back Derrick Henry (23 carries for 156 yards and a touchdown) and quarterback Marcus Mariota (19 for 31 for 205 yards and two touchdowns and eight carries for 46 yards) and scored the game-winner with 5:09 to play when Eric Decker hauled in a 22-yard score from Mariota, who had earlier thrown a touchdown pass to himself in a highlight that is likely to be long remembered.

Henry was filling in for injured Titans starter DeMarco Murray, while Kansas City was left reeling when Pro Bowl tight end Travis Kelce, who caught a 13-yard touchdown, was concussed and did not play in the second half.

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One crucial play for the Titans’ offense in the first half came when Mariota was hit and appeared to fumble, but Tennessee retained possession due to forward progress on one of a few controversial calls. Another came in the second half when he looked to have fumbled on a two-point conversion try that was run back the other way by the Chiefs. In a game decided by one point, those two calls resulted in three points for the Titans and two taken away from the Chiefs.

“I don’t really have anything good to say there, so I’m just going to stay away from any comments about those guys,” Reid told ProFootballTalk. “I don’t want to get fined. It’s not worth it.”

Kansas City’s roller-coaster ride of a season saw it start 5-0 with seminal wins over the New England Patriots and Eagles before a span in which it lost six of seven. The Chiefs seemed to return to form to end the regular season with four consecutive victories, but then came Saturday’s ill-fated clash with the Titans.

“You have to feel this,” Reid said. “Coaches and players, we have to change it around. It’s not good enough, and that’s the bottom line.”

grant.gordon@latimes.com

Twitter: @TCNGrantGordon


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