Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Jeremy Maclin (19) makes a catch against Cleveland Browns cornerback Tramon Williams (22) during the second half of an NFL football game in Kansas City, Mo., Sunday, Dec. 27, 2015. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Charlie Riedel
December 28, 2015

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) The closest you'll get to an admission that the Chiefs were staring at a season down the drain may have come from linebacker Derrick Johnson, who stood in a quiet corner of the locker room Sunday.

Kansas City had just held off the Cleveland Browns 17-13 for a franchise record-tying ninth straight victory, and then clinched a spot in the playoffs when Pittsburgh lost to Baltimore.

''We got as far as you could get in the hole,'' Johnson said, ''to still make it to postseason play.''

The Chiefs (10-5) could do even better, too.

If they beat Oakland next week at Arrowhead Stadium, and the Broncos lose to Cincinnati on Monday night or next week against San Diego, Kansas City would capture the most improbable of AFC West titles.

''There is still a lot to play for,'' said Alex Smith, who threw two touchdown passes against the Browns. ''I think this team and this locker room have a good mindset about going about their business.''

The Chiefs jumped to a 17-3 halftime lead Sunday and looked like they were cruising to an easy win against a team that had quit. But their offense became listless over the final two quarters, just as Johnny Manziel was pumping some life into the Browns.

The former Heisman Trophy winner led Cleveland (3-12) to 10 straight points, then took over at his 30 with 1:52 left and no timeouts. The Browns picked up three first downs, and then Manziel connected with Darius Jennings on fourth-and-10 from the 32 with time ticking away.

The clock ran out before Manziel could get off another snap, and he spiked his helmet in frustration.

''I'm definitely shouldering a lot for this loss,'' he said. ''Regardless of what our record is, where we are in the season, it sucks not to win, especially when our coach and the other 10 guys put us in a position to try to get us in the end zone there at the end. I just felt like I didn't do the right thing in crunch time. I think that's the moral of the entire story of the game.''

Manziel threw for 136 yards with an interception, but he also ran for 108 yards and gave his team a chance. Isaiah Crowell added 88 yards rushing and a touchdown for the Browns.

''I talked earlier this week about planting seeds and moving forward,'' embattled Browns coach Mike Pettine said. ''I think that second half was an indication. It's one of those, you look at the scoreboard, you lost. But in some sense you just feel like you ran out of time.''

As both teams head into their final regular-season games, here are a few takeaways from Sunday:

STILL STREAKING: The Chiefs joined the 1970 Bengals as the only teams to start 1-5 and make the playoffs. This is their second nine-game winning streak in three years under Andy Reid. ''Instead of looking at the whole wall, we're just laying one brick at a time the best way possible,'' Chiefs safety Eric Berry said. ''Hopefully when you look up, that wall is the best you could possibly do.''

BOWE'S NO-SHOW: Browns WR Dwayne Bowe was active for only the seventh time this season but did not catch a pass against his former team. He spent his first eight seasons in Kansas City, making a Pro Bowl in 2010, before signing a two-year, $13 million contract with Cleveland.

PETTINE, PLEASE: Several more players offered their support of Pettine, who fell to 3-17 in his last 20 games. ''The kind of season we've had, any other team would have quit - packed their bags and been ready to head home,'' Browns wide receiver Travis Benjamin said. ''As long as Coach Pettine is our head coach, we will forever fight with him.''

HITTING A THOUSAND: Jeremy Maclin eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark on a TD reception in the first quarter. He's just the fourth wide receiver under Reid to reach 1,000 yards, joining Terrell Owens (2004), Kevin Curtis (2007) and DeSean Jackson (2009-10) in Philadelphia. ''He's a heck of a player,'' Smith said. ''He just consistently wins.''

PICK ME: Marcus Peters had his eighth interception, matching Bobby Hunt (1962) for the franchise rookie record. He also has 280 return yards, ninth-most in NFL history. ''I just make my plays when they happen, man. That was a huge turnover for us,'' Peters said. ''We needed it.''

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