KANSAS CITY, Mo. —The scenarios that would have kept the Chiefs from the playoffs were plentiful in this most dizzying of seasons. But just one of them constituted Kansas City's worst nightmare.
Of course, in a season bizarre from the horrendous start to its bitter end, that's the one that came to pass Saturday. The Broncos and Chargers both lost, opening a clear path for the Chiefs to win the AFC West championship.
And they blew it. Despite multiple chances to pull away from the Raiders, the Chiefs couldn't find a way to make it happen. Their 16-13 overtime loss ended any their playoff hopes.
Instead of playing next week in Denver with the division title on the line, the 6-9 Chiefs will play for nothing more than pride. That's why Saturday's loss, the fifth straight against Oakland at Arrowhead Stadium, will sting for a long time.
"You don't get opportunities like that, especially after the way we played this year," veteran guard Ryan Lilja said. "But we still had life and to go out like that is awful. That's what this was. Awful. It's a squandered opportunity, a big squandered opportunity."
The Chiefs professed to be all about their own battle with the Raiders and didn't find out until late in the game, or in some cases afterward, that Denver was going down to defeat in Buffalo. The score was occasionally flashed on the Arrowhead ribbon board but what was happening on the field was too intense for them to worry about developments regarding the Broncos.
San Diego lost to Detroit in a later game.
"I wouldn't have called the game any different knowing (the Broncos lost)," coach Romeo Crennel said. "It doesn't make much difference what happens in Buffalo and I told them that (Friday) night. The thing that makes a difference is what we do, not what Buffalo does. We can't control what Buffalo does. We can't control what Denver was doing. The only thing we can control is what we do and that was the message as far as that.
"It hurts we didn't play well enough to win. That's what hurts because if we had played well enough to win, I would have felt good about my team not making mistakes, not giving up plays."
Word filtered to the Chiefs bench as the game was heading into overtime. The Chiefs scored a touchdown with less than two minutes left to tie the score and had a chance to win at the end of regulation but Ryan Succop had a 49-yard field blocked for the second time in the game.
"It killed me to look up at the score and see Buffalo doing what they're doing at the beginning of overtime," fullback Le'Ron McClain said. "We had a chance to mark history right here and we didn't do it.
"When they got the ball and then I saw Denver (lost), I said, 'Let's do it.' Then they made the big play that got them into field goal range. Blown opportunity, point-blank, period. That makes this harder."
Oakland won the coin toss and had the only possession of overtime. Sebastian Janikowski's game-winning, 36-yard field goal was set by up by a 53-yard pass from Carson Palmer to Darrius Heyward-Bey.
By then, the Chiefs had a boatload of chances to win. Succop entered the game having made his last 21 field goal attempts and tied a club record by making his first try in the first quarter.
But Oakland's Richard Seymour was able to get a hand on each of his two biggest tries of the season.
"What are the odds of blocking two field goals in a big game like this?" Chiefs linebacker Tamba Hali wondered.
Not very good. But about the same as the Chiefs losing when the Raiders committed 15 penalties. The Chiefs had 11 of their own.
"We played into their hands," Hali said. "They committed a lot of fouls and somehow we started doing the same thing."
The Chiefs had 435 yards, just three away from last week's season-high. But they came away with just one touchdown on four trips inside the Oakland 20.
On one such trip, Dwayne Bowe dropped a touchdown pass on one play and Kyle Orton threw an interception on the next.
In the end, the Chiefs weren't good enough to overcome it all. They left Arrowhead to try to celebrate the holidays, but none of them were in much of a party mood.
"I'd like to say thanks to all the fans who came out and wish all our fans happy holidays," Crennel said, "even though right now it's hard to think of the holidays as happy because of the way it turned out."