KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The locker room was about as quiet as one containing 53 football players could be. Some of the Kansas City Chiefs were going about the ritual of showering and dressing, but most were in a daze, trying to comprehend what had just happened.
Moments earlier, the Chiefs had lost 31-24 to the Denver Broncos in a game they seemed to have won only moments before. Peyton Manning threw a touchdown in the final minute to allow the Broncos to tie the game, and on the Chiefs’ first play after receiving the kickoff, Jamaal Charles lost a fumble that was returned by Denver for a touchdown. The Chiefs had merely been killing the clock and setting up for overtime.
It was going to take some time to process this one, much less explain it.
"Everybody," quarterback Alex Smith said, "is at a loss for words."
Andy Reid tried to put up a brave front, as coaches do. Even he acknowledged, "We’ll feel this one."
The first NFL defeat for rookie cornerback Marcus Peters was a heartbreaker. He returned an interception 55 yards for a touchdown that put the Chiefs ahead 14-0 in the second quarter, but found that to be little consolation.
"It stings," he said. "It stings real bad."
Then there was Charles. He lost a fumble at an inexplicable time. Charles had but one job to do on the play and failed miserably.
He dressed slowly, first slipping on a pair of blues jeans and later a red T-shirt. Then he relived a professional nightmare by having to answer questions about his error.
"It’s one of the hardest feelings right now that I’ve felt in a long time," Charles said, his words coming without emotion.
"I caused us the loss today. I tried to put the team on my back and I ended up losing the game. It’s all on me tonight."
There was plenty of blame to go around, and that’s perhaps what made the result so unpalatable. Charles also lost a fumble in the first quarter, and his were just two of the Chiefs’ five turnovers. The Chiefs were penalized nine times for 60 yards. Reid’s play calling was at times bizarre, never more so than at the end of the Chiefs’ first drive of the game.
They started with a first-and-goal from the Denver 2. Reid called for Smith to throw three passes, but none went into the end zone. The last resulted in the first Charles fumble.
"That’s hindsight," Reid said. "It’s over, so I’ll go back and analyze it. I start with myself first so we’ll do that, but you’re playing against a good football team so you want to score as many points as you can. That’s the approach we tried to take."
Reid and his staff can analyze this one all they want. They can watch the video on any endless loop, but they’re not going to find any explanation other than this one: The Chiefs lost a game they should have won.