Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Kansas City Chiefs: What went right, what went wrong

— The Sports Xchange —

A season that started with Super Bowl aspirations for the Kansas City Chiefs and included a red-hot 5-0 start that kicked off with an upset win over the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots turned south at midseason, with the fallout leaving the franchise at a crossroad heading toward 2018.

The Chiefs’ bewildering season ended with a frustrating 22-21 loss to the Tennessee Titans in the wild-card round. The game served as a metaphor of sorts for the team’s season, with a second-half letdown fueled by a leaky defense allowing a big lead surrender and the Chiefs unable to rally at the end.

Yet the collapse leaves head coach Andy Reid with a hint of optimism looking toward next season. He values the grit his team showed in shaking off a 1-6 slump and rallying for four straight wins to claim back-to-back AFC West titles for the first time in franchise history.

“A lot of times when things go south they go south fast and never recover,” Reid said. “It’s happened to a lot of football teams. This group here rallied back through whatever injuries you want to look at and adversity and put together a pretty good season.”

The Chiefs’ transition quickly with a new offensive coordinator and a shuffling in the team’s scouting department. More changes are likely as the team ponders difficult roster decisions, including one between veteran Alex Smith or youngster Patrick Mahomes at quarterback next season.

WHAT WENT RIGHT: The offense shined in 2017 with quarterback Alex Smith turning in the best season of his career with 4,042 yards passing and 26 touchdowns. Tight end Travis Kelce turned in another 1,000-yard season, Tyreek Hill blossomed into a No. 1 wide receiver with a 1,000-yard season of his own and the Chiefs found their heir apparent to running back Jamaal Charles in rookie Kareem Hunt.

WHAT WENT WRONG: Kansas City’s defense never found its footing, ranking in the bottom quarter of the league against both the run and the pass and struggling in key situations including third downs and in the red zone. The defense showed a disappointing tendency to let down late in games, surrendering second-half leads four times including in the disappointing playoff loss to the Tennessee Titans.