It's clear the Kansas City Chiefs headed into their AFC Wild Card Playoff game with the Baltimore Ravens knowing their wide receiver corps could be a problem.
As it turned out, they were 100% correct.
The Chiefs completed just six passes to wideouts in Sunday's 30-7 loss to the fifth-seeded Ravens at Arrowhead Stadium, ending their season with a whimper after reaching the postseason for the first time in four years. Kansas City entered as a No. 4 seed after winning the AFC West for the first time since 2003.
The loss prolonged a drought that's seen the franchise not win a playoff game since 1993.
Kansas City's longest pass to a wide receiver on Sunday was an eight-yard completion to Dexter McCluster. Pro Bowler Dwayne Bowe not only didn't catch a pass, but the Chiefs never threw one his way.
"It happened, but that's over," Bowe said. "[Baltimore's] defence schemed around me to take me out of it, and that's exactly what they did. We've just got to find ways to move the ball better.
"I felt like I was open some plays and could've gotten the ball. If I had another guy over there, who knows how the game could have gone?
Just four days before the matchup with the Ravens, Kansas City signed unemployed veteran Kevin Curtis, who had appeared in one regular-season game with Miami in 2010 and caught one pass for six yards. He also didn't catch a pass against Baltimore.
Quarterback Matt Cassel said the intent was to get the ball to Bowe, but the Ravens wouldn't allow it.
"Out of the first five passes or six passes we threw, he was the primary target on all of them," Cassel said. "They just did an outstanding job of covering him.
"[The Ravens] tried to control the run game with their front seven, and a lot of times they were able to roll a safety over the top of him and put a defensive corner right in front of him so he was double-teamed most of the day."
Outside of Bowe, the Chiefs had the 32-year-old Curtis as well as rookies McCluster and Verran Tucker and veteran Terrance Copper playing at wide receiver. Tucker and Copper play mainly on special teams. Not on the field was Chris Chambers, who was healthy but not suited up.
"I had kind of seen the writing on the wall a little bit because my [snaps] were being cut in practice and I still wasn't getting any information about it from my receiving coach," Chambers said. "I'm a veteran receiver with the most playoff experience, and you'd think they'd want me out there, and that wasn't the case. I still haven't talked to the coach about it yet."
Chiefs head coach Todd Haley had no comment on Chambers after the game.
Kansas City re-signed Chambers after he caught 36 passes in nine games last season, but he was scratched three times during this year's regular season and caught just 22 passes for 213 yards and one touchdown.
"I'm not the type of receiver that's going to [play well] coming off the bench," Chambers said. "They started a rookie (Tucker) ahead of me for a couple of games. I know we're trying to get other guys looks, but I feel I didn't get a fair shake as far as being out there and making [catches]. I know me. I know I can be extremely streaky at times, and if there was a game or two dedicated to just getting me the ball and getting me going, I think I would have done more towards the end here, but that wasn't the case.
"I thought we started to get a little something going a few games ago. I thought I was getting back to form, and all of a sudden we get to the biggest game of the year and I'm not playing with no explanation. Zero. That's nothing against Kevin, because I think he's a good receiver and he did a good job for the most part. I thought [signing Curtis] was more about shoring up our receiving corps and bring in more experience [because] we had some guys who [weren't] probably ready from a knowledge standpoint."
Bowe and McCluster will be back next season. Copper and Tucker could go to training camp with a chance to produce on special teams. Curtis was signed for just the playoffs.
Chambers' time with the team, too, could be finished.
"I thought it had more of a negative effect on our team, me not being out there," he said. "Guys were wondering, 'Why are you not playing?' It's guys that respect me, believe in me. I felt it was going to be my opportunity to [make up for] a disappointing season from a production standpoint.
"[Coach Haley and I] didn't see eye-to-eye on some things. I didn't think I had too much of an opportunity. I didn't get a lot of targets, maybe two targets a game. I don't think any receiver can be productive doing that. I don't know whether they gave up on me. I definitely have more left in the tank. I can still catch the ball extremely well. I wasn't dropping balls. I wasn't doing crazy things on the field, making mistakes like that."
Kansas City is now 2-5 all-time in home playoff games and haven't won one since 1993. Only the Cincinnati Bengals and Detroit Lions have gone longer without home playoff wins. Since that last victory, three teams (Panthers, Jaguars, Texans) have entered the league as expansion clubs and the Cleveland Browns didn't exist from 1996 to 1998.
On average, home teams win 69% of playoff games. The Chiefs, on the other hand, have a lifetime success rate of less than 29% at home.
Kansas City was 7-1 at home and 3-5 on the road in the regular season. The Chiefs won all but one of a combined 32 games at Arrowhead during 1995, 1997, 2003 and 2010, but lost all four home playoff games in those seasons.
"We played great at home all year, and the fans were great," McCluster said. "I mean...well, there's really nothing to be said. I don't know the cause of that."
THREE AND DOUBT
Baltimore came into Sunday's game having converted 82-of-210 third-down opportunities (39%) to rank 18th in the NFL.
Against the Chiefs, the Ravens converted 9-of-17 third-down situations, or 53%. The league leader this year, Indianapolis, converted 44.6% for the season.
The 30 points Baltimore scored was also the third-highest point total in 14 playoff games in Ravens franchise history.
"We [stunk] on third down," Kansas City defensive end Sean Smith said. "We couldn't get off the field."
"They capitalized off our mistakes at the right time," Chiefs linebacker Derrick Johnson said. "When they needed to make a play, they made a play on third down. They were a tougher team. We pride ourselves on being tough, but we didn't quite show an example of that [Sunday]."
LOOKING AHEAD TO 2011
In addition to the usual six home-and-away games with AFC West opponents, Kansas City will host Miami, Buffalo and Pittsburgh from the AFC and Detroit and Minnesota from the NFC. The Chiefs will visit New England, the New York Jets and Indianapolis within the conference and will travel to NFC North members Chicago and Green Bay.