KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The Kansas City Chiefs thought they knew a thing or two about handling adversity after losing three straight games a few weeks back. After Sunday's 23-7 defeat to Indianapolis Sunday, they learned an even more humbling lesson about life as a contender in the NFL. It doesn't really matter how a team starts in this league. The only real measure of a squad's championship pedigree is how much it can endure on the quest for a potential title.
The Chiefs' loss to the Colts is yet one more example of this undeniable fact.
Kansas City had everything going in its favor: major momentum from recent blowout wins over Washington and Oakland; a dome team -- an opponent that had been shockingly inconsistent on the road -- playing in frigid weather; an outside shot at the AFC West title and a wild-card playoff spot already in the bag. When it was over, the Chiefs had every reason to question where their season is heading. They hadn't produced one lousy performance in a season that started with a nine-game win streak, not until the Colts slapped them around in their own backyard.
Kansas City scored on its first possession and then imploded the rest of the game. They couldn't throw or run with any continuity on offense. They couldn't tackle consistently or frustrate Colts quarterback Andrew Luck on defense. They also reminded people that they've beaten only two playoff-caliber teams -- Dallas and Philadelphia -- all season.
"What are we going to do when we face other powerhouses?" asked defensive back Dunta Robinson. "We are a much better team than we showed today, but we need to determine what type of team we are going to be."
If there is any solace for the 11-4 Chiefs, they are not the only AFC playoff team that will have to ask itself such questions in the coming weeks. This postseason will be filled with contenders battling their own unique challenges, with none being immune to the types of frustrating afternoons Kansas City just endured. It's a reality of life in the NFL these days. It's not about what you've done. It's about what you've been through during the first four months of the season.
Remember, the Baltimore Ravens won last year's Super Bowl after being plagued by a three-game losing streak and serious injuries to defensive standouts such as Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs and Lardarius Webb. The New York Giants claimed the championship in 2011 despite a season that saw them lose five of six games at one point. Let's also not forget the 2010 Green Bay Packers. They claimed that season's Lombardi trophy despite placing 15 players on injured reserve. No team in recent memory has done so much after suffering so frequently.