What’s behind Chiefs coach Andy Reid’s struggles in the playoffs?

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Updated: January 10, 2019

2:30 AM ET

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Andy Reid has coached in 13 playoff seasons, and the end result has always been the same: disappointment.

His postseason wins and losses have come in all shapes and sizes: blowouts, down-to-the-wire finishes, blown leads. They’ve all led Reid to the same place.

“We sure beat ourselves up over all of that,” said Brad Childress, a longtime assistant coach for Reid with the Philadelphia Eagles and Kansas City Chiefs. “A lot of times we thought we went home before we thought we should have.”

Reid and the Chiefs are about to embark on another playoff season. As AFC West champions, they had a first-round bye and now face the Indianapolis Colts in the divisional round on Saturday at Arrowhead Stadium.

Given Reid’s playoff history, particularly in his first four trips with Kansas City, that’s a cue for angst among Chiefs fans.

Reid is 11-13 all time in the playoffs, a win percentage of .458. That’s a better percentage than those of Hall of Fame coaches Bud Grant (.455) and Sid Gillman (.167), but it’s 83rd among the 166 coaches who have coached a postseason game and far behind that of contemporaries such as Bill Belichick (.718) and John Harbaugh (.667).

It’s also far below Reid’s regular-season win percentage of .611. Reid, who ranks eighth on the NFL’s all-time wins list, has reached the Super Bowl once, losing 24-21 to the New England Patriots following the 2004 season. One Super Bowl is the fewest for any coach with at least 20 playoff games. Nobody has coached more career playoff games and failed to win multiple Super Bowl championships, let alone one.

But Reid isn’t interested in going into any kind of detail regarding his playoff futility.

“The further you go in the playoffs, the more you [have to] minimize those mistakes, whether that’s scheme or penalties or whatever it might be,” Reid said when asked why his teams haven’t been better in the playoffs.

“You create your own deal and you go play. We don’t worry about all that stuff. … It’s what happens on that field [that matters]. It’s man against man, and you play the game.”

In 14 seasons with the Eagles, Reid reached the NFC Championship Game five times but advanced just once. Reid’s faulty time management hurt the Eagles in that Super Bowl. Trailing the Patriots by 10 points late in the game, the Eagles took almost four minutes off the clock by using a series of short passes to get a touchdown. That left them little time when they finally got the ball back, and they wound up losing by three points.

Clock management was similarly a problem for Reid and the Chiefs in a January 2016 playoff game against the Patriots. Down by 14 points, the Chiefs took 16 plays and more than five minutes to get a score.

“It seems like it always boiled down to the small details of things: time management sometimes, a wasted opportunity sometimes, a loss of a timeout in an early point of the game,” longtime Eagles safety Brian Dawkins said. “Those are some of the things we would see in Philadelphia, more so than now in Kansas City because he’s been in the league longer and learned from his mistakes.”

Reid left behind a winning playoff record, at 10-9, when he departed Philadelphia for Kansas City in January 2013. His playoff misery has intensified with the Chiefs.

Reid is 1-4 in the playoffs with the Chiefs, and he arrived at that record in a maddening manner. Despite their losing record, Reid’s Chiefs have scored 19 more playoff points than they’ve allowed.

The Chiefs lost two games by one point and one by two points. They twice collapsed in spectacular fashion, blowing a 38-10 third-quarter lead to Indianapolis in January 2014 and a 21-3 third-quarter lead against Tennessee last season.

Once momentum in those games turned against the Chiefs, they were helpless.

“You can’t let the momentum of the game affect how you’re playing,” said quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who as a rookie backup had a front-row view of last season’s debacle. “[The Titans were] a good football team last year. They came back to win the game. But we had chances to win last year, and we just didn’t capitalize on those.

“Every possession counts. Every play counts. You have to find ways to win. It’s all about who goes out there and plays a full game and finds a way to win in the end.”

The Chiefs usually get off to a fast start. They’ve had the lead in four of five playoff games under Reid.

But they held on just once, in January 2016, when they routed the Houston Texans 30-0.

“The one thing we do know is that given time, whether it’s the bye week during the season or the bye week during the postseason, Andy does a great job of preparing and being able to figure out some weaknesses of the other team and really setting his offense up to start fast,” said former Chiefs linebacker Shawn Barber, who played for Reid with the Eagles. “It’s never a stale offensive game plan. It’s never a vanilla offensive game plan.”

But other than in the game against the Texans, when the Chiefs forced five turnovers, they haven’t been able to sustain it. The defense couldn’t get a stop against the Colts or Titans after the team built what seemed like a commanding lead. Two years ago against the Steelers, the Chiefs didn’t allow a touchdown but lost after Pittsburgh kicked six field goals.

The Chiefs have also been the victims of bad luck. Indianapolis quarterback Andrew Luck scored a touchdown in that 2014 game after a teammate fumbled. The ball took a perfect bounce into Luck’s hands. Last season, Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota had a pass batted right back to him by a Chiefs defender. Mariota caught it and ran the ball to the end zone for a touchdown.

The Chiefs lost what would have been a tying two-point conversion against the Steelers to a questionable holding call. They forced Mariota to fumble on a sack at a key juncture of last season’s game, but the officials ruled that his forward progress had been stopped.

“When you get to the playoffs, you have to have a little good luck, and it seems like Andy hasn’t had much of that in the playoffs,” said Mike Holmgren, who as the Packers’ head coach in the 1990s gave Reid his first NFL coaching job. “You can’t have officials making a bad call against you. You can’t have injuries to a key player or a couple of key players. You don’t want to play against a team that’s hitting its stride and is hot at that moment.

“You need the stars to align sometimes. Sometimes it isn’t enough to just bring a good team into the playoffs.”

That’s a lesson Reid has learned over and over again.

“There’s no one thing we ever put our finger on,” Childress said. “I’m sure history would show we stagnated on offense at times in all of these games. But typically it was different things in different games, whether it was people not making routine plays they usually made, whether that was a throw or a catch or a block.

“If we knew, it never would have happened to us again.”

Article source: http://www.espn.com/blog/kansas-city-chiefs/post/_/id/25893/why-does-chiefs-coach-andy-reid-struggle-in-the-playoffs