KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Linebacker Derrick Johnson, with his 13 years in the NFL for the Kansas City Chiefs, needs more time to process his team's stunning collapse against the Tennessee Titans after watching an 18-point halftime lead vanish into thin air.
"It hurts just as much the next day," Johnson said. "I've had better ones, I'll tell you that. Another case of not taking advantage of our opportunities. What a sad way to go out."
Unfortunately for Johnson and the Chiefs, being victims of epic comebacks is nothing new. Only four times have teams surrendered a halftime deficit of at least 18 points during a postseason game in the Super Bowl era.
The 2013 Chiefs led the Indianapolis Colts by 21 points before falling 45-44. Even worse, they led 38-10 early in the third quarter. Head coach Andy Reid is the first coach in league history to lose two postseason games after leading by at least 17 points.
Yet Reid sees no similarities among his team's titanic collapses.
"I'd tell you no right now," Reid said. "No, they're all different. I've had a chance to look at that, I thought through that too. They've all been different."
Just as Reid did during the team's midseason slump where the Chiefs lost six of seven games, the head coach fell on his sword.
"I've got to make sure my team finishes games when given that opportunity and we didn't do that," Reid said.
As for how the team recovers from such a monumental setback, Reid told his team to take time away before focusing on the 2018 season.
"You've got to step back, you've got to evaluate, you've got to go through that process," Reid said. "Look at what's real and what's not. You don't want to do it when you're emotional or still tied into what happened obviously (Saturday) night. And you've got to fight that. With a question like that, you've got to fight that."
Right guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif said seeing a season that begin with such hope finish in a blink of an eye is tough to swallow.
"Everything you worked for is done and then you just got to take a week, take a deep breath and then focus on trying to get better as a team and as an individual," Duvernay-Tardif said.
"That was the message from Coach Reid and I'm right along with him. I think we did some great things, but we've also got to improve on certain things, and that's what we're going to do this offseason."
Despite yet another disappointing conclusion, however, Johnson believes Reid and the Chiefs will overcome the adversity.
"It's always about taking advantage of opportunities," Johnson said. "It just sucks that you have to think about it again, have to go through it again because when you have the players and the coaching staff in house know -- I've been in this league for a while -- we can win with this team. We can."
Chiefs players and coaches were fuming following questionable calls during Saturday's wild-card game, particularly a ruling that allowed Tennessee to kick a pivotal field goal.
On third-and-4 from the Kansas City 22-yard line just before the 2-minute warning, Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota faded to pass. Linebacker Derrick Johnson, on a delayed blitz, dropped Mariota for a 9-yard loss and forced a fumble recovered by linebacker Justin Houston.
Referee Jeff Triplette, however, ruled Mariota's forward progress was stopped and waved off the fumble. Kicker Ryan Succop kicked a 39-yard field goal on the next play in Tennessee's 22-21 victory.
"That was a bad call," Johnson said. "I've never seen anything like it."
Mariota went to the ground immediately upon the hit from Johnson, and the ball come loose quickly after Johnson's hit.
"Usually when they call forward progress it's a struggle tackle, boom, then you go back," Johnson said. "But that was a smack right down to the ground, balls out."
Head coach Andy Reid said the team must focus on elements within its control such as coaching and execution.
"I never want to leave it up to the officials to determine the game," Reid said. "I don't want to do that. I go back and look at things that we can control. I can't control those guys."
Special teams coordinator Dave Toub remains a candidate as head coach for the Indianapolis Colts, where former Chiefs front-office executive Chris Ballard is general manager.
Indications are assistant head coach Brad Childress might retire.
Reid declined to say if he planned any changes to his staff.
"I don't know, everything's too fresh right now," Reid said.
Turnover among Reid's staff remains remarkably low in Kansas City.
Nagy's departure leaves 10 coaches from the original 17 that made up Reid's first Chiefs' staff in 2013. That includes Toub and Childress as well as defensive coordinator Bob Sutton and running backs coach Eric Bieniemy, who appears to be a top internal candidate to succeed Nagy.
The beginning of the offseason means vacation time for most members of the Chiefs, but right guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif plans to hit the books to study for his final examination in the process of becoming a medical doctor back home in Canada.
Duvernay-Tardif will head to Canada soon to start studying. He started medical school in 2010 at McGill University in Montreal.
"Basically, the only thing I've got left in terms of my medical career in order to get my M.D. is to pass the board exam, which is a national board exam that happens around May," Tardif said. "That gives me around three months, three and a half months to study for that exam."
The 2017 season proved the most challenging yet of the offensive lineman's young career. Duvernay-Tardif suffered an MCL sprain that served as the first football injury he endured.
"It's definitely a challenge to go back on the field and be the same player right when you get back," he said. "I feel like there's a little bit of rust to knock off and trusting your knee, trusting your injury. I think I was able to do that and towards the end of the season I was back at full strength."
His injury was one of several along the team's offensive line this season. But Duvernay-Tardif doesn't believe the lineup changes impacted the team's play along the line.
NOTES: DL Chris Jones suffered a knee injury on the opening play of the second half of the team's wild-card game against Tennessee. Jones suffered a torn MCL, an injury that expects to limit his offseason workouts. Jones started training camp this season on the physically unable to perform list after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery in July following a workout injury. ... TE Travis Kelce left Saturday's game late in the first half with a concussion after taking a helmet-to-helmet hit from Titans S Johnathan Cyprien. Head coach Andy Reid said Kelce appeared recovering well after the game, and he expected Kelce could have played in the divisional round of the playoffs had the Chiefs advanced. ... WR Demarcus Robinson entered the league's concussion protocol after a collision late in Saturday's game.
REPORT CARD VS. TITANS
--PASSING OFFENSE: B - Quarterback Alex Smith did enough to win most games, but not this one. Smith delivered an efficient 23-of-33 passing effort for 264 yards and two touchdowns, mostly in an impressive first half. But when the Chiefs need just one play in the second half to sustain a drive or get into field-goal range at the end of the game, Smith and his receivers couldn't get the job done. The blame for the loss lies elsewhere, but Smith and his teammates had a chance to overcome the deficiencies of others.
--RUSHING OFFENSE: C-minus - This unit might deserve an incomplete, with Kareem Hunt getting just 11 carries for 42 yards, including just five touches in the second half. Much of that lack of performance in the second half stemmed from the Chiefs failing to sustain any momentum on offense. Again, the offense needed just one play sustaining a drive or picking up a big gain from Hunt out of the backfield and never found it in the second half
--PASS DEFENSE: C-plus - Holding quarterback Marcus Mariota to 19-of-31 passing for 205 yards and two touchdowns and an interception could win most games. But a huge part of playing pass defense against the Titans means containing Mariota in the pocket, and the Chiefs failed to do that. Mariota scrambled eight times for 46 yards as the pass rush failed to keep him in the pocket and allowed lanes of escape. Surrendering a touchdown pass from Mariota to himself was bad luck, but letting Mariota escape the pocket and find himself in that position falls on the pass defense.
--RUSH DEFENSE: D-minus - No team should win a playoff game when yielding 156 rushing yards to the opponent's backfield, and Derrick Henry did that damage all by himself in just 23 carries. Certainly, injuries played a role. The Chiefs held Henry in check in the first half with 42 yards on 10 carries. But the absence of defensive lineman Chris Jones in the second half proved to be Kansas City's breaking point with Rakeem Nunez-Roches out for the game and Jarvis Jenkins dinged up as well. The Titans adjusted in the second half, but Kansas City could not make the changes they needed in response.
--SPECIAL TEAMS: C-minus - The Chief's punt team created a turnover, but little else went right for the special-teams group. Kicker Harrison Butker missed a 48-yard field goal that might have made the difference. Kansas City's special teams prides itself on making big plays, but the team went the entire season without a game-breaking play. Tyreek Hill opened the game as the kickoff returner and netted just 17 yards before the club brought in Charcandrick West. Hill as a kickoff returner might have been what the Chiefs needed to turn the game their way.
--COACHING: D-plus - The Chiefs clearly entered the game with a winning plan, jumping out to a 21-3 halftime lead. But whereas the Titans made every adjustment needed to mount a comeback, Reid's squad did absolutely nothing to sustain their momentum. Second-half letdowns serve as a recurring theme for this team, so perhaps it's fitting that failing to make a single play to sustain an offensive drive or get the Titans off the field on defense at any time in the second half serves as a final tribute to the most inconsistent season of Reid's first five years in Kansas City.