Plays that defined the season: No. 9

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The one thing Alex Smith did above all for most of the season was protect the ball. Kansas City Chiefs quarterbacks committed 27 turnovers in 2012, a big reason their team was 2-14. Smith committed 10 in 2013, a big reason his team was 11-5.

But Smith got a little loose with the ball toward the end of the season. He committed three turnovers in his final regular season game, a 23-7 loss to the Indianapolis Colts at Arrowhead Stadium.

His final turnover of the year, in the playoff loss to the Colts in Indianapolis, happened at a particular bad juncture. The Chiefs were leading 38-17 in the third quarter and ball security should have been Smith’s biggest priority.

It wasn’t. Smith was scrambling out of the pocket to his left and still trying to make a play when Robert Mathis knocked the ball from his grasp from behind with 9:00 left in the third period. The Colts recovered at the Chiefs’ 41-yard line.

Indianapolis, which had just gone 80 yards for a touchdown on its previous possession, went 41 yards for another score after recovering Smith’s fumble.

Suddenly, the Chiefs’ lead was only 38-24 with plenty of time remaining. From that point, they managed just two additional field goals while their defense proved incapable of slowing down quarterback Andrew Luck and the Colts.