Now sweeping changes on the coaching staff and defensive personnel have to be made as Kansas City is back to the drawing board as preperation for the 2004 season begins Monday.
On a day when Priest Holmes rushed for 176 yards, Dante Hall's great 92-yard kick-off return and your offense scores 31 points, defensive coordinator Greg Robinson showed little ability to motivate or group the correct personnel on the field to stop the Colts offense.
Robinson, who will certainly be fired this week; would have been better off not showing up on Sunday like th rest of his defensive players. Monday he should be rode out of town with his two Super Bowl rings firmly tucked in his brief case with his ridiculous and unimaginative schemes in hand.
The Chiefs defense was the Achilles heal on this season and Robinson was responsible for the debacle on Sunday. His defense was unable to do anything against a predictable Colts offense that ran the same plays over and over again.
Dick Vermeils loyalty to Robinson cost the Chiefs a chance at a Super Bowl this year and he'll now have to fire his friend and make him the scapegoat. He has little choice.
For all the accolades of Vermeil, he made a critical mistake when his team crawled back to 38-31 late in the fourth quarter. Vermeil vetoed an on-side kick that could have given the Chiefs the ball back in the hands of the offense.
Instead he put the game on his leaky-cheese defense and that was a clear mistake by giving the ball back to the Colts offense who basically ran out the clock.
The Chiefs defensive players made no statement on Sunday nor showed any championship ability to think they could perform in a big playoff game. They failed to make a single play the entire game because they played with little heart or passion.
Vermeil said he'd be more aggressive this season but when the game was on the line he rode the wrong horse. No matter what happened on the on-side kick it would have at least given the Chiefs a 50-50 chance to get the ball back. By kicking the ball to the Colts, Vermeil gave his team no chance to win the game.
He failed to take advantage of the only strength on the team; his offense. That's not a good sign for Chiefs fans who expect more out of Vermeil.
So all the work, the talk and the enthusiasm since training camp that Veremil gave to his players fell on the deaf ears of his players and the 79,000 faithful fans at Arrowhead on Sunday afternoon.
What happened against the Colts was embarrassing and alarming because changes were not made after the Cincinnati Bengals exploited the Chiefs defense back in week #10.
Vermeil had a responsibility to make a change in which players Robinson put on the field. Vermeil will have to live the entire off-season with the mistake of keeping Robinson on the staff in 2003. He had signs from the players that they were unable to adapt to Robinson's refusal to use the strengths of the defensive players.
The Chiefs defense couldn't stop the run, they couldn't blitz and where were R-Kal Truluck and Gary Stills. They were in pass defense most of the time. Defensive lineman should never be in pass coverage and Greg Robinson constantly had formations that did not work by using his best pass rushers ten to twenty yards away from Manning.
Now Peyton Manning was on fire but a first year NFL quarterback can complete passes when he has five to seven seconds to throw the ball down field.
Manning moved the ball at will and the Chiefs never attacked or had their defensive personnel in the proper position to stop them on third down. Heck they couldn't stop them on first or second down for that matter. Manning only missed eight passes on Sunday and four of those incompletions were dropped by his receivers.
But the Chiefs offense has to take some of the blame for the loss. Johnnie Morton dropped two more passes in crucial situations and he probably played his last game as a Kansas City Chief. He is not a money receiver and that should be the Chiefs biggest offensive off-season target; to get a bonafide wide receiver. Morton was released by the Detroit Lions for a reason. He's finished as a Chief. Kansas City also had two touchdown passes dropped, one by Dante Hall and the other by Marc Boerigter.
Plus the pass interference penalty on Tony Gonzalez that nullified a touchdown. Gonzalez is too talented to push off or gain seperation on cornerbacks who are six inches shorter than him. It's not the first time Gonzalez has been called for these types of penalties and he'll need to use his hands better next year.
Priest Holmes had an uncharacteristic fumble on his 48-yard run in the first minute of the third quarter that killed the Chiefs. He should have fallen down and secured the ball instead of the stiff arm to gain an extra yard or two.
That was very costly because the Colts scored a field goal and that made the game a two possession game. The Chiefs defense would never allow the offensive to gain momentum. They were always on their heels and if they didn't keep scoring touchdowns the game was over.
But you win and lose as a team and the Chiefs from top to bottom have plenty of blame to swirl around one Arrowhead drive. This will be the most important off-season in franchise history.
Now Chiefs President Carl Peterson has to wheel his power to get rid of Robinson and most of the defensive staff. He needs to sign free agent safeties Greg Wesley and Jerome Woods, right tackle John Tait and make a decision on defensive end Eric Hicks. He might have played his last game as a Chief. He did nothing today neither did Vonnie Holliday. Both could be out of jobs next season.
The Chiefs must be bold in free agency like they were last season. They must decide over the next two weeks which players they want to keep and jettison the players who clearly don't have the talent to play at this level. Some tough choices need to be made on defense including players like Ryan Sims, John Browning on the inside. They clearly need to step up their work ethic and play in 2004. The Chiefs need to land another solid shutdown cornerback so McCleon can move inside and be the top nickel back.
But today, Kansas City saw the future of the NFL and it rests in Indianapolis. The Colts window of opportunity is now fully open for the next couple of seasons. The Chiefs window is either half shut or half open depending on your view.
With Vermeil committed to coach the Chiefs for another two seasons, his legacy in Kansas City will be defined about the decisions he makes on coaching staff and the players he wants to keep this off-season. But the bottom line is the fact that the Chiefs players and coaches made plenty of mistakes in this game.
In the NFL, other teams find your weakness and expolit it very quickly. Championship teams make adjustments during the game. The Chiefs didn't and the Colts did. It's really that simple. The Colts came to play on Sunday and the Chiefs once again failed to show up on the field in the playoffs.
An old football coach told me the NFL is a very simple game. You catch the ball on offense and you tackle on defense. The Chiefs failed in both regards. But he also told me that in the NFL, players who don't play with passion can't be successful on game days; especially in the playoffs.
That's the one thing the Chiefs need to improve on before the 2004 season starts. They must show more passion and fly to the ball on defense. They showed little of either the second half of the season.
Next year the schedule will be much harder with tougher home and road games for the Chiefs. The Chiefs play the New England Patriots, Indianapolis Colts, Carolina Panthers and Atlanta Falcons at home. They have road games at Tennessee Titans, Baltimore Ravens, Tampa Bay Bucs and New Orleans Saints.
A golden opportunity was wasted in 2003 and the Chiefs know it based on their soft schedule that resulted in a 13-3 season. Next year the outcome could be 10-6 if changes aren't made on the defensive side of the ball.
Now the Chiefs players will say all the proper things after the bitter loss to the Colts but each man in that locker room needs to look in the mirror and either work harder for next season or get out now.
The coaching staff needs to do the same thing. You have to think Vermeil will fire Robinson on Monday and some of the other defensive coaches on the staff could also be shown the door. That unit clearly needs some younger blood.
Now Vermeil faces his toughest coaching challenge of his career as he has to rebuild a defense that was one of the worst statistically in NFL history over the last two years. That might be a tough task for the offensive minded Vermeil who has never been known for being an defensive minded coach.
In 2004, he'll need to spend a lot more time working with his defensive coaches and players if the Chiefs are going to get back to the playoffs and improve their 10-year playoff victory drought.