By Kurtis Seaboldt
That’s the distance the Tennessee Titans had to go to win their game against the Chiefs Sunday. Having scored a touchdown with 3:14 left, Titans head coach Mike Mularkey elected to go for two and the lead. The Chiefs defense held. All they had to do was kill the clock. And Titans were out of timeouts.
The Chiefs gained eight yards on two running plays and faced 3rd and 2 with exactly two minutes left. A first down and the Chiefs would win the game and stay atop the AFC West.
That’s the distance the Chiefs had to go to win the game. Alex Smith spun to his left and went to his right before being stopped for no gain. Still, the Titans had a long way to go in just over a minute with no timeouts.
You know the rest. Tennessee drove to the Kansas City 35 before stalling. Ryan Succop missed a 53-yard field goal that didn’t count before making a 53-yard field goal that did. For the second time this season, the Chiefs had lost a home game they felt they should win by a 19-17 score. Some three hours later, the Raiders walked through the door the Chiefs left open and regained the lead in the AFC West.
One might say that the Chiefs had this one coming. They’ve been flirting with disaster all season, relying on turnovers and returns touchdowns to make up for an offense that just can’t seem to put opponents away. Today, they got one but didn’t get the other and the end result is they are staring at another Wild Card Game on the road. And therein lies one big problem for the Chiefs.
Home teams don’t turn the ball over in the postseason.
Over the last ten seasons (2006-15) there have been 100 postseason games with a home team – this, obviously excludes Super Bowls. In 21 of them, the home team did not have a turnover. In 52 of them, the home team had one or none. In 74 of them, the home team had two or fewer. Seeing a trend here? Teams that rely greatly on turnovers have a hard time when they go on the road in January.
Only 25 of those 100 road teams have been plus-2 or better in a postseason game. The teams that are plus-1 or worse were 17-58 (.227). Teams that are between plus-1 and minus-1 on turnovers are just 16-35 (.314).
The Chiefs’ formula has been successful in the regular season but today’s loss showed its flaws and limitations. History suggests that it will get an even tougher test in January.
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