Inside Slant

They tried to remain upbeat, talking as if their 20-10 home loss to Baltimore hadn't been a killing blow to their playoff hopes.

"Anyone who follows football closely knows it always comes down to the final week," said Brian Waters. "Right now we just have to take care of our own business. If we win out, believe me, it will come down to the last week, because 10-6 teams always make the playoffs."

And then Waters stopped. He knew what he just said wasn't true, and he immediately corrected himself.

"We were one of the few teams that didn't make it," he offered by way of clarification.

Yes, the memory of finishing 10-6 last year and failing to win a wild card berth still burns the Chiefs. Especially when considering that 10-6 is the best they can do in 2006 after failing to hold serve at home against AFC North leader Baltimore.

There is no assurance, either, that the Chiefs can get to last year's 10-6 mark. Now 7-6 after a second straight loss, the Chiefs can only hope that San Diego is still celebrating its clinched West Division championship when Kansas City goes there in a must-win situation this week. Though their playoff hopes are now on life support -- they are a game back in the wild-card chase to 8-5 Cincinnati, a team that beat Kansas City in the season opener, and Jacksonville, a team they face in the finale -- the Chiefs could stay mathematically alive with a win in San Diego, a place where they've won only twice in the last eight seasons.

"I don't care about the playoffs right now," insisted defensive end Jared Allen. "Right now we just need to win a game in San Diego and stop this fall."

That won't happen playing the way they did in the home loss to Baltimore.

Losing a December home game for the first time since 1996, the Chiefs had three turnovers -- two Trent Green interceptions and a Green fumble -- on their first five possessions. They missed a 32-yard Lawrence Tynes field goal on another. Baltimore got only three points off of the errors, however, and led only 6-0 at halftime. But on the Ravens second series of the third quarter, Steve McNair took advantage of a broken coverage and hit Mark Clayton for the longest touchdown pass of his career -- an 87-yarder -- over Ty Law and safety Greg Wesley, who could only yell at each other as they chased Clayton helplessly.

The 13-0 third quarter lead was more than enough against a Chiefs offense that managed only 276 yards -- 81 of those coming on a meaningless late touchdown drive after the Ravens expanded their lead to 20-3. Baltimore's 16-play last scoring drive consumed more than nine minutes and killed any chance of a Chiefs comeback.

Now the Chiefs can only hope to pull a rabbit from their helmets in San Diego. No small request, considering that they are 3-10 in December road games since 2001. Remember, their last road venture saw them blow a 14-point lead in the final 12 minutes at Cleveland.

PLAYER NOTES

--RB Larry Johnson broke a 47-yard after being bottled up for much of the first half against Baltimore. Johnson finished with 120 yards on 23 carries. It was his seventh 100-yard game in his last eight starts, and his ninth of the year. But he was held out of the end zone for a second straight week.

--QB Trent Green had his worst day of the season in amassing a 57.3 passer rating with a 15 of 27, 178-yard, two interception day in which he was sacked five times (by five different Ravens) and lost one fumble. Green got most of his yards in a last-ditch drive against token resistance in a 20-3 game.

--TE Tony Gonzalez was limited to only three catches for 31 yards by Baltimore's standout defense.

--WR Samie Parker had his second biggest receiving day of the season with a five-catch, 71-yard effort against Baltimore. His other big game this year also came in a loss, a 72-yard day against Pittsburgh.

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