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Old 09-20-2009, 10:44 PM  
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Babb: Chiefs let game get away late in 13-10 loss to Raiders

Chiefs let game get away late in 13-10 loss to Raiders
By KENT BABB
The Kansas City Star

Brandon Flowers stood next to his locker after another Chiefs loss, chuckling at how sickeningly routine this has become.

The Chiefs blew another late lead with mental mistakes and questionable play-calling, and the scene was new only to those who weren’t here in 2008.

Flowers, a second-year cornerback, endured last year’s 14 losses, many of them second-half collapses that left more questions than answers. What else could Flowers do but force a laugh? Every other emotion had been scratched raw a season ago, and here was yet another mystifying result: Oakland’s 13-10 victory Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium.

“Same thing happened last year,” Flowers said. “We’d come close and not finish out. We can’t say, ‘Here we go again.’ ”

But that’s the way it looked. After a dominating performance undone by penalties, two interceptions and a confusing and hapless final 2 1/2 minutes, the Chiefs watched as the clock expired with another team celebrating in Kansas City.

That’s the way it has been, and there’s no indication that it’ll get better anytime soon. Sunday was supposed to be the Chiefs’ opportunity to sneak past an unproven opponent, a home opener packed with optimism and change, and an afternoon that could validate at least some of the chaos that has enveloped this team the last 22 months.

Instead, there was just more of the same.

“We’re sick and tired of losing the game,” Flowers said, “when it comes down to that last drive.”

Coach Todd Haley is new around here, and even he couldn’t muster the words to describe how the Chiefs played Sunday’s final 150 seconds. Riding a go-ahead touchdown, Arrowhead sounded the way it did in 16-year-old videos, when the home stadium and crowd were unmistakable advantages. The noise got to Oakland’s offense, which was whistled three times on that final possession for false starts.

One stop. That’s all the Chiefs needed to end so many months of disappointment. On Oakland’s first nine possessions, Kansas City had kept the Raiders’ rushing game in check. They had held quarterback JaMarcus Russell to three-for-17 passing and 42 yards. Before Oakland’s final scoring drive, the Raiders had converted one third down in 11 tries, amassed 97 yards total offense and made six first downs. Until the end, the Chiefs had contained an NFL team’s offense to a level that had only been hoped for since October 2007, when all this disappointment began.

Then, somehow, the Chiefs stopped doing what they had been doing. No more blitzing. No more pressure. No more discipline. In a flash, running back Darren McFadden cruised 5 yards into the end zone for the go-ahead score. Arrowhead Stadium was the picture of 2008 again: silent, confused, angry.

The locker room wasn’t much different.

“I don’t understand how we play a good game the whole game and the last drive we let them in the end zone for the first time in the game,” nose tackle Tank Tyler said.

Tyler didn’t have the words. Neither did the rest of a defense that had been outstanding for 57 minutes and 30 seconds — and awful at a time when it most needed a strong stand and a statement that this year’s Chiefs wouldn’t be like last year’s Chiefs. Instead, Tyler said that defensive players dressed quietly, saying nothing to each other and left alone.

This wasn’t the way it was supposed to be. Not even for Haley, who admitted that Sunday’s game shouldn’t have been decided in the final 2 1/2 minutes. But mistakes had been made, setting up this make-or-break situation.

The Chiefs couldn’t score — or even get out of bounds — when Dantrell Savage caught a pass in the flat with 12 seconds left in the first half. And with no timeouts, Haley and the Chiefs scrambled to run another play as the clock hit zero. Later, a Kansas City punt trickled past a handful of Chiefs players into the end zone for a touchback that burned at Haley.

“I have said: ‘If I ever am a head coach of a team, I’m not going to be the head coach that has a guy dive in there last minute or knock down a punt,’ ” Haley said. “And I did it.”

Haley stood at a lectern Sunday afternoon and made a few promises. He said the Chiefs would get smarter. They would be better. They would exhibit more discipline.

Maybe.

It was difficult to watch Kansas City’s latest loss — that makes six regular-season losses in a row and 23 in the last 25 games — and not leave with the one emotion that hasn’t run dry: doubt.

“It hurts,” Tyler said. “There’s not anything else to say. It hurts. I can’t even hardly talk right now.”
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