KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Kareem Hunt is somewhat soft spoken. But even when he has little to say, it still resonates.
Following the Kansas City Chiefs’ latest playoff home blunder — a 22-21 defeat to the Tennessee Titans on Saturday at Arrowhead Stadium — Hunt was asked a simple question. Did the Chiefs take their foot off the gas in the second half?
“Yep,” Hunt said.
The Chiefs led 21-3 at halftime and looked well on their way to getting their first home playoff win in 24 years. But these are the Chiefs, and looks can be deceiving.
Hunt, who led the NFL in rushing with 1,327 yards in his rookie season, finished with 11 carries for 42 yards. He had a first-quarter touchdown, but the Chiefs run game ground to a halt. Hunt didn’t carry the ball in the second quarter and he carried just five times in the second half.
“Honestly, I feel like we didn’t come out and play ready in the second half,” Hunt said.
Hunt rushed for 148 yards in his NFL debut against the New England Patriots and ran for more than 100 yards in four of his first five games. Then the Chiefs lost six of seven, and Hunt only carried the ball 20 times or more in a game once during that stretch.
Following a loss to the Jets, Chiefs coach Andy Reid announced he was handing the play-calling duties over to offensive coordinator Matt Nagy. The Chiefs offense immediately picked up, fueled by the return of the run game with Hunt.
But against the Titans in the second half, the play-calling looked very Reid-like and unlike what had been working the last month of the season. When asked who actually called the plays Saturday, Reid’s answer raised more questions than answers.
“He called the good ones, and I called the bad ones,” Reid said. “We’ll keep it at that.”
Nagy is a candidate for head coaching jobs with the Bears and Colts, and Reid said Sunday that he wasn’t sure if there would be changes to his coaching staff. However, there will be changes to the roster. Alex Smith might have played his last game with the Chiefs, but Reid wasn’t ready to anoint Patrick Mahomes the starter in 2018 just yet.
“That is not where I am at,” Reid said. “I can tell you what is real, and that is he got to play, which was invaluable. He got the chance to be in a room with Alex Smith, which is invaluable. He loves to play the game. He got a chance to play a couple weeks ago and did a nice job with it. I am not there with anything other than that. That is what is real right now.”
So is the sting of another heartbreaking home playoff defeat. The Chiefs have lost their last six playoff games at home, and have won just twice in the playoffs at Arrowhead Stadium — both of those wins were with Marty Schottenheimer.
In the home playoff win against the Raiders in December 1991, Barry World ran 33 times for 130 yards. In the Joe Montana-led home playoff overtime win against the Steelers in January 1994, the Chiefs still ran for 125 yards, with Marcus Allen running 21 times for 67 yards and a touchdown and Kimble Anders rushing five times for 27 yards.
Hunt, however, never got going fully, and now the Chiefs are home early once again.
“Nobody likes losing,” Hunt said. “And this one is for real.”