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Chiefs just keep finding ways to break fans’ hearts in the NFL playoffs

Kansas City is 1-9 in its last 10 postseason games, and some of those losses have been doozies.

NFL: AFC Divisional-Pittsburgh Steelers at Kansas City Chiefs Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

This season was supposed to be different. The Chiefs rallied to an AFC West title behind a dominant defensive effort and an explosive offensive attack. Kansas City beat opponents like the Raiders, Broncos, and Falcons to establish itself as one of the league’s top teams.

But when the clock ran out on Sunday’s divisional playoff showdown with the Steelers, the end of the 2016 season ended just like the rest of the Chiefs’ most promising campaigns — with disappointment.

A holding call erased Kansas City’s fourth-quarter comeback effort, and for the first time in NFL history, a team that scored two touchdowns while allowing none managed to lose a playoff game. Fans, punched in the gut all over again, ambled out of an icy Arrowhead Stadium, in some cases not even stopping to pack up their tailgating supplies.

The Chiefs, long a desert of postseason hope, somehow sunk even deeper to become, as Paul Heyman would put it, the one in 245-1.

Was Sunday’s defeat the cruelest of them all for fans in western Missouri? Let’s examine some of the painful ways the Chiefs have rewarded their fans with postseason meltdowns over the past 15 years.

Divisional playoffs, 2016: the world’s slowest two-minute drill

The Chiefs faced long odds in Foxborough when they trailed the Patriots, 27-13, with 6:29 left in the game, but a clutch defensive three-and-out gave Kansas City some momentum to kick off a comeback push. Alex Smith capitalized on that swing with an 80-yard drive that cut the New England lead to seven points. One problem: that 16-play march chewed up nearly five and a half minutes of clock, effectively suffocating the team’s chances to tie the game.

Head coach Andy Reid defended the methodical, time-consuming drive afterward.

"We didn't want to give the ball back, at any point, to New England after we go ahead and score that next touchdown,” he said after the game.

But he left just 1:13 on the clock and counted on an onside kick to maximize his opportunity just to send this game to overtime. It was an unpleasant flashback to Super Bowl XXXIX, where Reid’s Eagles used a slow-motion comeback effort in a three-point loss to the Patriots.

Wild Card playoff, 2014: flushing away a 28-point lead

Smith put together the best performance of his 12-year career when he torched the Colts for 378 passing yards and four touchdowns. His 10-yard strike to Knile Davis opened up Kansas City’s second half on a high note and put the Chiefs ahead, 38-10, with less than 29 minutes to play. His team’s win percentage peaked at 99.9 percent, essentially assuring the team’s first postseason win since 1993.

And he still lost.

Andrew Luck carved up a Chiefs defense like a boathand slicing through flounder, scoring touchdowns on five of his next six drives to take a 45-44 lead into the game’s final minutes. Smith pushed Kansas City back into Indianapolis territory intent on regaining the lead, but a costly intentional grounding penalty all but snuffed out the team’s chance to mount a comeback in a game it once led by 28 points.

Divisional playoff, 2003: no punts, no chance

The pain predates Andy Reid and Alex Smith. In the middle of a 22-year postseason victory drought, Kansas City went to battle with a prime Colts team and failed to keep pace with Peyton Manning despite keeping its punter on the bench. The Chiefs fell behind 7-0 and were forced to punch upward all game.

While a capacity crowd at Arrowhead Stadium witnessed a pair of Dante Hall touchdowns — including one on a 92-yard touchdown return — and Priest Holmes ran for 176 yards, but it wasn’t enough to derail the Colts’ journey to the AFC Championship Game. Peyton Manning and Edgerrin James combined for five touchdowns to bury the home team and knock a 13-3 Chiefs team from the postseason without a single win.

Each loss is a paper cut to the heart of every Chiefs fan. Sunday night’s 18-16 loss to the Steelers was just the most recent, so it probably stings a bit more. But it wasn’t the first time Kansas City claimed a piece of playoff history in defeat. The Chiefs keep finding new, painful ways to lose playoff games, and that commitment to creating an original script for a familiar play has KC fans in the running for the title of the NFL’s most tortured.