With all due respect to the Cincinnati Bengals, the Kansas City Chiefs are the most unclutch in recent NFL playoff history. Yes, the Bengals are winless in their past seven postseason appearances. But we really didn’t expect much of Cincinnati. Kansas City on the other hand…

Since Joe Montana led Chiefs to the AFC Championship in January 1994, the franchise is 1-11 in the playoffs (0-6 at home!). Three times they have lost as the conference’s top seed. Kansas City is once again the AFC’s No.1 seed and will face the Colts on Saturday. This time does feel different. The Chiefs have never been had a quarterback this good in Patrick Mahomes. But if they get upset yet again, they will join this list of Kansas City’s worst recent playoff losses.

5. Indianapolis Colts 38, Kansas City Chiefs 31

Date: January 11, 2004

Playoff Round: Divisional

Location: Arrowhead Stadium

Chiefs record: 13-3 / No. 1 seed

Point spread: Kansas City -3

Saturday’s game might look a lot like this one. If you hate punters, you loved this. The two highest-scoring teams in the AFC put on a show. It was the first playoff game in NFL history without a punt as these teams combined for 842 total yards. There was only only one sack, one turnover, and five penalties. The teams combined to go 13-of-22 on third-down. Kansas was 3-for-3 on fourth down!

The offenses were balanced. The Colts: 30 passes, 32 runs. The Chiefs: 30 passes, 30 runs. The difference was Peyton Manning (22-of-30 for 304 yards and three touchdowns) playing one of the best games of his career. The Colts had a 24-10 third-quarter lead and 38-24 early in the fourth quarter. The Chiefs were hurt by an offensive pass interference penalty on a Tony Gonzalez touchdown catch and a missed field goal.

Kansas City closed within the final score with just over four minutes to play, but the Colts ran out most of the clock.

4. Denver Broncos 14 Kansas City Chiefs 10

Date: January 4, 1998

Playoff Round: Divisional

Location: Arrowhead Stadium

Chiefs record: 13-3 / No. 1 seed

Point spread: Pick ’em

This wasn’t shocking, but still aggravating for the Chiefs. You could argue that Denver was the better team. Yes, Kansas City finished one game ahead of the Broncos (12-4) in the AFC West. But Denver had the best scoring differential in the NFL (+185) and split the regular-season series with the Chiefs, losing only 24-22 at Arrowhead in November.

This was a divisional round matchup that felt like the AFC title game. The first-ever playoff meeting between these AFC West foes was sloppy at times. Kansas City was up 10-7 in the fourth quarter, but an unnecessary roughness penalty on a kickoff allowed John Elway and the Broncos to start their drive at midfield. Elway, on third down, hit Ed McCaffrey for a 43-yard completion to set up Terrell Davis’ one-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter. Later, Chiefs quarter Elvis Grbac drove the team to the Denver 20 with less than 30 seconds remaining. But on 4th-and-2, Grbac’s tried to force a pass into double coverage to Lake Dawson in the left front of the end zone. Incomplete. Season over. Denver went on to win the Super Bowl.

3. Indianapolis Colts 10, Kansas City Chiefs 7

Date: January 7, 1996

Playoff Round: Divisional

Location: Arrowhead Stadium

Chiefs record: 13-3 / No. 1 seed

Point spread: Kansas City -8

Mention the name Lin Elliott in Kansas City to watch a Chiefs fan have a conniption.

The Chiefs led the conference in scoring differential (+117), yielded the fewest points in the league (241) and were unbeaten at home. The defense was loaded with names like Derrick Thomas, Neil Smith, and Dale Carter. On a frigid day (11-degree weather, minus-15 windchill), the defense did its job. The Chiefs gave up only 249 total yards. However, the Kansas City offense quarterbacked by Steve Bono mustered only 281 and turned the ball over four times.

Still, the outcome could’ve been different. Elliott missed field goal attempts from 35, 39, and 42. The last one with 42 seconds left. This was the latest setback for then coach Marty Schottenheimer, whose postseason record dropped to 5-9. Schottenheimer got so desperate that he benched Bono, a Pro Bowler that season, in favor of Rich Gannon. Just prior to Elliott’s last miss, Gannon was almost the hero but couldn’t connect with Lake Dawson near the goal line.

2. Tennessee Titans 22, Kansas City Chiefs 21

Date: January 6, 2018

Playoff Round: Wild Card

Location: Arrowhead Stadium

Chiefs record: 10-6 / No. 4 seed

Point spread: Kansas City -8.5

There’s no excuse for this. The 9-7 Titans (minus-22 scoring differential) were thoroughly mediocre. Kansas City should’ve steamrolled Tennessee and were ahead 21-3 by halftime. Didn’t quite go according to script. How does an Andy Reid coached offense get shut out in the second half?

This game had some strange plays. With 1:47 to go trailing 22-21, it looked like Derrick Johnson returned a fumble for a potential game-winning score. But the play was dead before the fumble. Then there were a pair of apparent Tennessee fumbles that were negated due to forward progress rulings. And then, of course, there was the mother of all bizarre TD passes. Marcus Mariota kickstarted the Titans comeback by throwing a scoring pass… to himself? Credit Mariota for an incredibly alert and acrobatic play.

Much-maligned Alex Smith (24-of-333 for 264 yards, two touchdowns, and no interceptions) was fine. But another Chiefs playoff loss probably made it easier for Reid to trade Smith and make way for Mahomes.

1. Indianapolis Colts 45, Chiefs 44

Date: January 4, 2014

Playoff Round: Wild Card

Location: Lucas Oil Stadium

Chiefs record: 11-5 / No. 5 seed

Point spread: Kansas City -2.5

It’s extremely difficult to squander a 28-point lead in the NFL. Leave it to the Chiefs to be on the wrong side of the second-worst collapse in postseason history. Only the epic 32-point implosion by the Houston Oilers against the Buffalo Bills on Jan. 3, 1993 was worse. Kansas City took advantage of Andrew Luck’s inaccuracy (three interceptions). The Chiefs converted a Luck pick into a touchdown to go ahead 38-10 early in the third quarter.  

On its first seven possessions, Kansas City scored five touchdowns and a field goal.

But suddenly Kansas City couldn’t stop the Colts who scored 35 second-half points. The craziest play came when Indianapolis running back Donald Brown fumbled near the goal line, but Luck recovered on the bounce and dove into the end zone to make the score 41-38 with 10:38 left to play.

After a Chiefs field goal, Luck completed the comeback with a 64-yard scoring pass to T.Y. Hilton.

The Chiefs were hampered by numerous injuries, including one to top tailback Jamaal Charles (concussion). This defeat extended their NFL record for playoff losses to eight in a row.

[Photo Credit: Kansas City Star]

About Michael Grant

Born in Jamaica. Grew up in New York City. Lives in Louisville, Ky. Sports writer. Not related to Ulysses S. Grant, Anthony Grant, Amy Grant or Hugh Grant.