KANSAS CITY - Andy Reid's detractors have accused him of coaching in a fog before, of not being properly mindful of time or timeouts.
Sunday night in his Kansas City Chiefs' 18-16 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC Divisional Playoffs, Big Red found himself literally standing in a fog, the coach a scarlet-windbreakered sideline beacon visible from the higher seats through rolling banks of mist.
The game was switched from an early-afternoon start to 7:20 p.m. Central Time because of a feared ice storm that ended up delivering a lot less than promised - an apt metaphor, perhaps, for the AFC West champs, favored by a point to a point-and-a-half, but destined to chase the Steelers most of the night.
Pittsburgh didn't do a lot to ignite bright hopes for next week's AFC Championship Game visit to New England, the Steelers advancing despite never scoring a touchdown. Reid acknowledged afterward he'd never thought about how something like that could happen.
Pittsburgh kicker Chris Boswell set an NFL playoff record with six field goals, and it might have been the least scintillating record-breaking performance imaginable.
But the 11-5 Steelers, who won their last seven regular season games, then vanquished Miami in last week's Wild Card round, managed to win the turnover battle, 2-1, against a Chiefs team that was an NFL-best plus-16 during the regular season.
It was Pittsburgh's first divisional-round victory in six years, accomplished despite a blah evening for quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who completed 20 of 31 passes for just 224 yards, no TDs, of course, and a deflected pick. His passer rating was 72.5.
"Compliments to the Steelers, they were the better team today," Reid said. "Too many errors that we made. My responsibility to make sure those are right, and we didn't do it.
"You got to see what our football team's all about, the grit," Kansas City coming within a penalty-negated two-point conversion of tying the game with two minutes, 43 seconds remaining, "but we came up short.
"They laid it all out there. We're gonna learn from this. That's hard to hear right now, but we can learn from it, and look forward to next year . . . I don't want these guys hanging their heads. They're hurting right now."
Offensively, the Chiefs' first half looked familiar to fans who watched Reid's 14 Eagles seasons. With a bye and an extra week to prepare, Reid scripted a textbook opening drive that left the Steelers grasping at air - six plays, 55 yards, ending in a 5-yard touchdown pass from Alex Smith to Albert Wilson. The Chiefs had a 7-3 lead, the Steelers having managed a field goal on their opening drive.
But then Reid's offense abruptly stopped working, for more than three-fourths of the game, against a defense that finished the regular season ranked 10th in points allowed. Reid's defense kept holding the Steelers to field goals at the end of Le'Veon Bell-powered drives, otherwise the outcome would have been decided by halftime. As it was, the Chiefs entered the half down 12-7, and Boswell made it 15-7 on Pittsburgh's first drive of the second half, after Bell took the Steelers' first snap of the half 38 yards. Bell entered the fourth quarter with 161 rushing yards on 26 carries. That was 11 more yards than the net yardage for the Chiefs to that point. Bell finished the night with 30 carries for 170 yards.
Reid and the Chiefs were trying to win a playoff game at Arrowhead for the first time since 1994, when Joe Montana - yes, Joe Montana - beat the Steelers, coincidentally. Last season, they'd managed the franchise's first playoff victory of any kind since that '94 game. This season, they went 12-4, clinched the AFC's second seeding and their first divisional title in Reid's four campaigns.
Reid is 43-21 in the regular season since leaving the Eagles and heading West. Only the Patriots, Broncos, and Seahawks have done better. But then there's the postseason, which invariably seems to bring sequences like Sunday night's third-and-2 delay-of-game penalty, midway through the third quarter on the Steelers' 34, followed by a sack and a punt. Followed on the next possession by Reid's superstar tight end, Travis Kelce, dropping a Smith bomb, Kelce matched against linebacker Lawrence Timmons. Followed by Reid calling timeout to avoid another delay penalty, only to have Kelce incur a 15-yard penalty for shoving down Pittsburgh corner Ross Cockrell.
"It shouldn't happen," Reid said, when asked about the crucial delay penalty, which might have taken away a field goal, in a two-point loss. "I've got to get (the play) in there, do a better job with that."
Chiefs wideout Chris Conley talked afterward of "mental breakdowns, guys doing stuff that's uncharacteristic of our offense."
A huge third-and-20 catch by former Eagle Jeremy Maclin set up a 48-yard field goal that got the Chiefs within 15-10 at the end of the third quarter. The Steelers drove for Boswell's sixth field goal, then, with nothing going and time leaking away, out of nowhere, Smith put a 13-play, 75-yard drive together, converting on fourth-and-2 from the Steelers' 4 before getting a 1-yard touchdown run from Spencer Ware.
The Chiefs seemed to have tied it on Smith's 2-point conversion pass to Demetrius Harris, but tackle Eric Fisher - the first overall pick in the 2013 draft, three spots ahead of Lane Johnson - was detected holding James Harrison. Smith's next attempt was knocked away from Maclin.
The Steelers then got a third-and-3 first-down pass from Roethlisberger to Antonio Brown and ran out the clock; Reid had burned two of his three timeouts, in avoidable situations, he agreed afterward. Otherwise, the Chiefs still might have forced a final punt.
But after stopping the clock following the first Pittsburgh snap, with 2:32 left, Reid had no more timeouts, as has so often been the case. He watched the final seconds bleed away.
Reid, now 11-12 in the playoffs all-time, made the slow walk to midfield and a brief exchange with winning coach Mike Tomlin, whose defense held the Chiefs to 227 net yards. Then Reid turned and slowly trudged into the tunnel to the locker room, as the Arrowhead PA announcer told fans he looked forward to seeing them next season.
Reid has one year remaining on the five-year pact he signed when he left the Eagles; he is expected to get another deal soon.
"I'll look back and I'll analyze it all," Reid said, when a questioner gently wondered about offensive execution, for a team that went 2-for-9 on third down Sunday. "I always start with myself. We've all got a piece of this . . . I'll jump on it (Monday)."