Friday, January 10, 2014

2013 Season - Chiefs Playoff Hell - Postscript

For the Chiefs Playoff Hell post with the exasperated resignation, that's here.

For the Chiefs Playoff Hell post with the resolute acceptance, that's here.

I'd like to say that I've confidently shifted into full acceptance mode, but I'd be lying. Sure, since Saturday I'm good sometimes, indeed most times, but other times it still doesn't feel so good. Wanted to just share here a bit more, do more of the therapy, the processing, just work through it all. Thanks for joining me in that effort, hope this is meaningful to you in some measure as well.

On my evening walk the other night I was doing what I usually do with my cerebral activity, spending about half of it thinking about the standard stuff -- family, work, home, leisure activities, news items, devotional time -- and the other half thinking about Chiefs things (yeah, sorry, that's just how it is -- I try to make it different, but, well, there ya go).

About two-thirds of the way into my walk my mind wandered into my remarks in a couple of posts recently about how abjectly horrific our record has been for some time against first the Chargers, then the Colts. Then I thought, hmm, there is something indeed these two teams have in common. My mind ventured into very prominent but not so publically displayed logo designs of both teams that feature, yes, you may have figured it out.

Horses.

I then added the other horse team in the mix, the Broncos, and the wheels started turning.

Just for thought...

San Diego. The last time the Chiefs beat the Chargers twice in one season was 2003, and since then we are 5-15 against them. During that period they've beaten us twice in a season five times. Over the last 13 games we've beaten them only twice, the last time largely because Philip Rivers fumbled the snap when they were in game-winning field goal range. Ironically, if you remember, that game was on Halloween night. We've lost the last four in a row to them.

In the last 2008 matchup between the two teams, at Arrowhead, we were ahead 21-10 at the two-minute warning. Sure enough they got two quick touchdowns to win the game 22-21. That game was at the tail end of a very bad season for the Chiefs, who were going nowhere anyway, but still. The two games this year were heartbreaking losses, the first of which cost us our two All-Pro pass rushers which turned out to be for the rest of the season, effectively, and the last of which the Chargers won with the help of a brutally missed penalty on the last play of the game.

The one single playoff game the Chiefs have ever played against the Chargers was the 17-0 disaster that summarily ended our 1992 season.

Denver. The last time the Chiefs beat the Broncos twice in one season was as far back as 2001 if you can believe that. Since then we're 9-17 against them, and during that period they've beaten us twice in a single season four times, including the last two. Just as he did with the Colts, Peyton Manning just lights up the Chiefs with the barest lifting of his pinkie.

The one single playoff game we've had with them was that gargantuously pukifying 14-10 loss from the 1997 season.

Indianapolis. The Chiefs have a 3-13 record overall against the Indianapolis version of the Colts. The first of those three wins was the first we played against them not-Baltimore, in 1985 at Arrowhead with Todd Blackledge the quarterback. The game after that one was a classic way to start the wonderful history of the Chiefs misery against the Colts. It was in 1990 when one more win on the season would've given us the bye and the home game to start the playoffs. We held a comfortable 19-10 lead in the 4th quarter, then the Colts put up 13 to beat us. It was one of the losses in an 11-5 season that forced us to go to Miami for the wild-card game, which we lost 17-16.

The rest of the agony through the years is pretty plain and extraordinarily grisly.

Overall, comprising the totals from the three time periods above (Colts 1990 on, Broncos 2001 on, Chargers 2004 on), the Chiefs are 16-45 against these teams. In 2013 the Chiefs went 11-0 against teams not horse related, and 0-6 against the three horse teams. Through the years the Chiefs have lost all six playoff games they've played against them ('92, '95, '97, '03, '06, '13). The horse teams have a current 11-game winning streak against us.

How many times have there been in NFL history when every time a given team has gone 13-3 in the regular season they've lost their first playoff game? It's happened to the Chiefs three times ('95, '97, '03), I'd bet you they're the only one ever. How many times have there been in NFL history when every time a team has started a season 9-0 and they've lost their first playoff game? It happened to the Chiefs twice ('03, '13) -- honestly I can't see how there has been any other team this has happened to.

And all of those playoff losses?

Every one to a horse team.

Those three teams are now in the divisional round of the playoffs, all three of them, and all three there at the Chiefs' expense in some way or another. And the fourth team? The Patriots. Right now the Broncos and Chargers are getting terrific production from two former New England stalwarts, Wes Welker and Danny Woodhead, respectively. Meanwhile, the Chiefs worked like crazy to model their organization after the Patriots with the likes of Scott Pioli and Romeo Crennel, and, oh, guess you could throw in Matt Cassel too. How's that workin' for the Chiefs?

And, by the way, isn't that a picture of Paul Revere on the Patriots helmet? And warning the colonists that the British were coming, didn't Paul Revere ride around on a...

Horse?

Call it the Horse Curse if you will, there is something going on here.

Of course the next thing I'm thinking about was our horse relationship. What's with that?

The most obvious connection is the one with Warpaint, the name of the horse upon which someone waving a Chiefs flag rides around the field. All I could think about was, is this horse being abused in some way? Is there some PETA member horse lover witch doctor somewhere putting the hex on us? I mean, really. What's going on with this?

It's now widely known and mildly amusing how much Eric Berry fears horses, but this... this... Is there something else happening here?...

Around the beginning of the season I'd seen or heard something, somewhere in which it was said the Chiefs had the look of a Super Bowl team. I didn't go anywhere near it, but I thought about the New York Giants and why this 9-7 team a couple years ago won the Super Bowl. The reason they won was because of three key things they had going for them at that time.

1. An experienced head coach (Tom Coughlin).
2. A resourceful quarterback (Eli Manning).
3. A ferocious pass rushing unit (led by Justin Tuck and Jason Pierre-Paul).

I suddenly got that warm confident feeling inside. The Chiefs had

1. The experienced head coach (Andy Reid).
2. The resourceful quarterback (Alex Smith).
3. The ferocious pass rushing unit (led by Tamba Hali and Justin Houston).

Sweet.

I forgot one thing, however.

The fourth factor in that mix.

The New York Giants: 4. A charm that allows a 9-7 team to get every break they need to run the table.

The Kansas City Chiefs: 4. A curse that prevents an 11-5 team from keeping stupid things from happening to torpedo their playoff hopes.

Errrckhck.

I'm still looking, still thinking, still pondering. Yeah, many will tell me to get over it, stop obsessing so much about it, it's done, it's over, let it go -- all that. I got all that. I'm good. It is more a simple thought experiment anyway. I'm certain The Curse is something much more prosaic, much more related to elements connected with the NFL itself even, and in some ways as insidious as that is, there's not a whole lot I can do about it.

The poor officiating and the small media market elements enter into it. Whaddya do. The inept things the Chiefs have done themselves so many times enter into it. Whaddya do. I really wonder how many close to the Chiefs really know about crap that was, has been, even now is going on however wherever whatever and they know there's little they can do about it.

And what of the Hunt family? There has never been a time when Chiefs fans wonder if there is just something going on there. But I can't for two seconds believe that all the Hunts -- now Clark -- haven't been straight-up spot-on doing their very best for the Chiefs. That Clark went out of his way to clean house and bring in the best -- and succeed in doing so -- is testament to that. A pretty damn good regular season after last year's disappointment definitely says something about that.

In some ways all of it keeps everything ripe for discussion. I see so many who think the Jared Allen trade or the pick of Fuller before Montana are critical reasons to add to the mix, but I don't think so, at all. It seems fewer see the Marv Levy dismissal or the Hank Stram meltdown as what I believe are faaar more crushing to Chiefs success. There have been so many of these.

Yeah, I'd rather there were a lot more playoff wins, thank you. It's time for a few more of those instead.

What makes me especially sad is coming across this photograph. Chiefs fans are so passionate about their team. Yeah all teams' fans are passionate, I know. But no other team has the heartbreak we do. And ours are the loudest. Sorry, but this is proof. We love our team more than anyone else loves their team.

And what we have left to do is hope that John Dorsey is a heads-up guy and will keep getting this team back to respectability (he's already gone miles doing that) and back to that 1960's-style dominance (oh glorious day!) We pick 23rd in the draft, I think I saw somewhere, so we should be able to get a fine new receiver or pass rusher. Dorsey has nothing to do with the whole paranoid Patriots thing, thank goodness, but rather he comes out of the wholesome Packers organization -- so yeah, there's tremendous hope there that he'll assemble the team we need and get it to gel and play so well that no curse can overcome it.

That's the Chiefs takeaway from all this.

The Life takeaway is just that, again, there's a blessing somewhere for someone out of this. God'll see that happen.

I was encouraged by the sunrise the morning after I wrote the acceptance post. I went out to get into my car to go to work, and the sky was lit up in red. I'm not kidding you, it was red. I took a photograph of it, of the dawn of that new day. I'll share it with you here. January 7, 2014.

Richly, deeply, profoundly, vibrantly, joyously red and gold, don't you think?
_

Monday, January 06, 2014

Chiefs at Colts - Wild-Card Playoff Game - Addendum

The last first-season episode of the famously madcap British comedy series Monty Python's Flying Circus was titled, "Intermission," and it opened with morticians holding aloft a coffin from which popped an old man to introduce the show. It ended with the morticians chasing after that man and firing at him with handguns.

One of the more clever sketches featured police officers using magic wands and occult practices to fight crime. It was all very whimsical and humorous, of course, but I can't help but share a couple of very interesting things about it. First, one police officer describes the novel crime fighting techniques while sitting next to a man dressed as a Viking -- yes, just the two of them in shot. The Viking says and does nothing the entire time, which lasts about one minute. While he is speaking, the officer is methodically sticking pins in a small toy figure in a black and white striped shirt, stereotypically much like a voodoo master would do.

In the next scene four police officers are using a homemade Ouija board, wine glass and cards with letters on them placed around the edge of a small table, and as the glass moves it spells out "Up yours." It is very funny actually.

Now here's the thing about this particular episode, which was, predictably, the 13th episode.

It was broadcast on January 11, 1970. Do you know what is significant about that date?

It was the same exact day that Super Bowl IV was played, featuring of all teams, the Minnesota Vikings.

It was also the only time the Chiefs were ever victorious in a Super Bowl.

From that date to the time the playoffs begin next year is a vast, desolate span of 44 years, 11 months, and 23 days. In that time the Chiefs have played in 16 total playoff games, 4th worst in the NFL -- of teams around since the merger only Detroit (11), Arizona (12), and Cleveland (15) have fewer. During this same time period the Chiefs have had a playoff appearances to one-and-outs ratio of 13 to 11, that is, two years ('91 and '93) when the Chiefs have actually won at least one game in the playoffs, and 11 when they've been in but haven't. That's a percentage of .154 years of winning playoff runs to years without. Only Detroit is worse at .100, and it seems to me the Lions already have a pretty well-verified curse themselves.

In fact only four teams since the merger even have ten or more one-and-outs: Miami (10), Kansas City (11), Minnesota (12), and Indianapolis (13). The difference is those other three teams have twenty or more playoff appearances. And just to add one more thought on the Chiefs one-and-out hell, in seven playoff appearances from 2000 to 2008, Andy Reid, then of course with the Eagles, made the playoffs seven times, and had zero one-and-outs (with a total of ten playoff victories in that time span).

My last post was about the viscerally agonizing resignation of The Hell of Chiefs Playoff Anything. Quite understandable for anyone who's endured that Hell for so long. But while the scars will always be quite pronounced, after a while the pain does wear off. This post is a bit different. For those who simply want to look a bit more reasonably at things, this post is one that is about something that is somewhat similar but at the same time light years apart in nature --

Acceptance.

Please don't get me wrong. I believe The Curse is a veritable reality, and for those who dismiss it as superstition bunk, I dismiss them as clueless boobs. They just aren't looking close enough. The thrust about this post is getting at a more sublime approach to the thing, at finding something in it all that reflects its core meaning. Not pusillanimously embracing it with some insipid faux-affinity in a feeble attempt to deny its brutality, but rather wisely and graciously coming to terms with it.

Make no mistake. This game was the ugliest, cruelest, grisliest bitch of them all. I know that is hard to do. How can anything be worse than the 1971 Christmas day game? The 1997 Broncos and their Vaseline-covered jerseys game? The 2003 Colts torment, or any Colts torment? I mean there are so many to choose from! How in a world, where there must be some miniscule drops of humanity in the veins of a raging Odin, could it get worse than what we've had to endure so far?

I really don't think any Chiefs fan could refuse to confidently say this one was the absolute worst of them all.

This was just like all the nightmares, really, each and every one of them through the years harrowing nightmares no one would wish on their worst enemy. What makes them so incredibly wrenching is that they feature just the right combination of things to make them such. Any one of these things not happening and we've got a win. You'd think, a Chiefs playoff win. Ahhh...

Here are just some of them from this game that provide ample proof. These are just the ones I know about. I can't even imagine the handful of others in the mix you may know about. (Yeah, I know, in case you were wondering, I'm in a bit better state emotionally today, a bit easier to go deep into the Hell without cracking. Thanks for your concern. I'll, I'll be okay, thanks.)

- How did we get so pounded with injuries in such a short period of time? In fact, what's the deal with this -- how many playoff teams have had their No. 1 key player go down with a concussion directly resulting in a catastrophic drop in play because of their absence? In '93 it was Joe Montana, and Saturday it was Jamaal Charles. Yes we continued to play great without him, but he still wasn't there to help us run clock when we needed it in the end. What?

- How come after the Charles injury, it just wasn't enough of a drop required to fully pulverize us? There were, what, five other injuries that really did us in, some of them also scary concussions. One wasn't enough, there needed to be more? Even beyond this, regarding just life and quality of life, what about the impact on these guys' personal lives irrespective of anything football or winning or Chiefs? Whaaat?

- How could an offensive line that was playing so phenomenally well throughout the game suddenly play so poorly that they couldn't protect Alex Smith at the most crucial times he needed it (sack and fumble, intentional grounding penalty -- those were especially costly), much less just get our running game untracked to run clock late -- even if it is with Cyrus Gray? Whaaaaaat?

- How could Smith miss a wide open Gray streaking for a certain game-clinching touchdown when his passing was so extraordinarily pinpoint for the entire game? I've heard it'd have been different if it'd been a quicker Jamaal Charles out there, but come on. Wide open? Gray is that much slower? Whaaaaaaaaat?

- How come one of the most proficient sideline receivers ever in NFL history could not get both his feet in bounds for the key catch that would've set up the game-winning field goal? Of course their defensive player can barely stay in bounds when wildly scrambling after Smith's fumble, but our receiver can't on a play carefully designed with the use of our last timeout against their least talented cover men. Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat?

- Where in the world was our vaunted pass rush, missing again against Indianapolis for a second time in three weeks? Where was Eric Berry or any surprise pressure on the quarterback? Where was all the defensive depth that was so splendidly showcased in San Diego just the week before? And if we were so tired, what happened to their defense that got them to be so beast against us? Why weren't they tired? We didn't have all three-and-outs in the 2nd half, and their offense had quick drives that lasted about two minutes. Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat?

- How can eleven lean quick 200+ pound dudes all at the same time have the most massive brain fart on in the history of planet earth right when the opponent's guy fumbles at the line of scrimmage two yards away from your own end zone? Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat?

- How come even without Brandon Flowers in there, our D-backs so loosely let their receivers get so wide open over and over and over and over and over again, while the very few times we just needed to just get just a couple of key 1st downs their D-backs suddenly became an entire race of Supermen? What 4.29 x 10 to the 53rd power?

- How many times have the Chiefs given up 35 points in a half, at any time in their history? How many times does any team give up 35 points in a half in the any postseason game? How many times has it happened when a team is ahead by 28 points get only six more but give up 35, just enough to lose the game by one point? Remember for the first nine games of this season we gave up no more than 17 points in each game. Sure we ourselves uncharacteristically put up a 31-spot in the first half, but since when does that mean they have to better it in the second, in that one particular half? And all of this in the one game when our kicker was actually making all of his field goals?!

What? INFINITY

Joe Posnanski is a great sportswriter who's been intimate with Kansas City sports stuff for quite some time, added his take. I'll share it with you, it's here. It's really nothing different than all the stuff we already know. It's good for commiseration, yet again, good for therapy -- all of this is. And you know, this link was on NBC's news site, not its sports page site, but its news site, right there on the home page. I never look at the sports stuff anywhere, in the newspaper, on the web, unless it crosses my eyes by accident or I'm looking for something historical or factual to help with my takes.

I'm with Posnanski about how gruesome it all is, but I don't blame anyone, really. How Andy Reid may have misused timeouts or mismanaged the end of the game, ehh. Sorry but he's being played by The Curse. Sure he's shown he's not the best two-minute game manager, but in some respects none of that was really in play here. And if Reid's weakness in this particular area was a factor, how come it was so amplified? For the very same reason all the Chiefs weaknesses are amplified beyond belief in playoff games. Why? Yepp, you got it.

I mean, don't the teams we play have any weaknesses? They do, but you'd never know it in any of the playoff games we play. It's like magic: Their strengths suddenly become quadrupled, while our strengths just somehow evaporate. When trying to exploit their weaknesses no matter how bold and incisive and courageous we are, something tremendously stupid happens to bail them out.

None of this is lost on any Chiefs fan who's refused to avert his or her eyes.

So then, let's get right to it. After the agony, after the exasperated resignation, what's with this thing acceptance? What's with that?

For one, that Monty Python thing? Just a coincidence. But it is, indeed, a very creepy coincidence. Those guys using the Ouija board and hearing "Up yours." Wow. Who's been hammering the Chiefs with "Up yours" for those 44 years now? And what's with the Viking sitting there, for no apparent reason, next to the police officer who's putting pins in the doll? The morticians, the old dead guy -- that's a picture of The Hell of Chiefs Playoff Anything right there. Yes, just an odd, mildly intriguing coincidence, but still, crazy...

Also note that I am not in any way one who thinks God picks the team with the most moral rectitude and somehow favors them, adjusting outcomes accordingly. Who will win a football game between a team of the most wretchedly evil 220-pound prison gang members and a team of the most righteously pious ten year-old choir girls?

With that in mind I am, however, convinced that somewhere, somehow, someone with a great deal of hatred against Kansas City, against the Chiefs, against Arrowhead Stadium, against something related to our Chiefs has got something going that's just plain flat-out obliterating us. Whether or not it is deserved -- One of H.L. Hunt's distraught wives? Some investor really upset with the silver buying fiasco? The most decorated witch doctor on the planet who happens to be a Vikings fan? -- I mean, I just don't know. I am certain it is much more sinister and obscure than we may ever know. The one thing that is for sure is that there is such a heavy atmosphere of defeat hanging over every Chiefs playoff effort you just cannot miss it. Think about Saturday's game, just think about it. I mean -- daaaamnn.

Yeah, I do spend far too much time trying to figure it out. How, where, why, when, how -- What is the deal with what is happening to our team?... Yes, I do know that we should just simply be playing better football than the other team until the clock says 0:00. To attribute all of this to supernatural forces does kind of take away from what winning football games is all about. We want to hail a team that did the job and won the game and deserved the accolades and earned the rewards and yaaay us! I fully understand that. Furthermore bad things do happen to every team, all the time, really, let's face it, every year 11 of 12 playoff teams go home, often very miserably. I got that.

But the Chiefs. And their playoffs -- there's just something very different. I still can't help but think...

Sure our past failures could certainly relate to Lamar Hunt's inadequacies as an manager (not to say he was terrible at it or he wasn't fully devoted to his team, by any means) or to the nasty things that have happened to the Chiefs organization through the years, from simple administrative ineptitudes to the awful rash of tragic deaths that have plagued the Kansas City Chiefs through the years (including I believe Lamar Hunt himself, dying at 74 -- yeah a bit old, but still too early). I don't think those things in whatever measure are not critical factors in all of this. But I can't deny that these are simply part of the evidences of this curse thing. I just can't.

Oh but Dave, isn't this just a game, really just a modest form of entertainment? Yes, I know that. But that is in many ways beside the point. The Chiefs are a healthy catalyzing force for those of us who enjoy rallying behind fine individuals working industriously together as a team to accomplish something great in the field of athletics in order to provide a deep sense of civic pride and a vibrant forum for community identification. The Chiefs are about belonging, believing, connecting, crusading, interacting, just wanting the very best for those with whom you've made some meaningful relationship -- all good wonderful things, very normal things people must do to fulfill their social needs. This is the way it is for every team and their fans.

Oh my, Dave, please, aren't there other things far more important? Yes, I know that too. I'd say pretty much every person has some sense of taking care of family, doing their jobs well, being kind and gracious to others, giving some of the fruit of their labor to help the less fortunate, even acknowledging what happens to a child with cancer is extremely important. Yes. But these things don't obviate the healthy gratification people get from cheering on their team. There is a place for this and it isn't insignificant.

One of those factors has to do with the profound purpose of professional sports team athletics: It provides a way for people to be richly in the mix of great accomplishment. Often those things we consider far more important -- doing our jobs, caring for others, all that -- are in many ways quite nebulous, undefined, difficult to process. Sports makes it easy: We can see the results of hard work and teamwork quite plainly, clearly, intensely. This makes it so enthralling, as well as addicting -- something I've attested to in my own life, I confess.

And I confess, in light of all this, I couldn't stop feeling it after Saturday. Not again, not again not again not again -- I couldn't help it.

This was until a number of things started to happen to get me to much more of a place of acceptance.

I have to tell you, if you don't know already, that I'm a follower of Christ. He does inform everything I think and believe, and yes, feel. Yes, feelings are often horrifically painful (anyone for reliving Saturday?) But in my devotional moments soon afterwards I came across some Scripture that told me that in Christ I have all things. To wallow in the thought that I am somehow deficient spiritually is to deny what Christ has done for us and given us. Sure I can be emotionally shredded by Chiefs playoff madness, but then God said that's what happens -- life happens.

I've had to get back, get deep into the first part of the letter to the Ephesians, with words that assure me about all the extraordinary things God has given us. I'm always praying now as King David did, that in light of all this He'd "show us His goodness in the land of the living."

Finally, He asks me to "consider it a joy" whenever we face trials. That's a key one. That's one that seemed to shout at me from the things I'd been seeing around me, almost as if God was speaking quite firmly to me. This got me to think that whatever The Curse is, God is allowing it. I mean, really, if we presume with great reasonableness that God has everything in His hands, then, ahem, The Curse is as well. No, He didn't start it, make it, have it -- none of that. But He certainly lets it go.

And He does so to make it a blessing.

I know that sounds insane, I'm good with that. You can think that, that's cool, I understand. But I firmly believe that what happened, what has happened with the Kansas City Chiefs for years and years and years and years is ultimately designed to be a good thing somehow someway somewhere.

In a sense, we are blessed to be Chiefs fans because God will do something great out of anything that happens to them, even if it is a "momentary light affliction."

This is why after a hideous debacle that should make anyone turn away from the Chiefs, I will still cheer them on as enthusiastically as ever. This is why they could have 57 more such gruesome affairs and I'll know. I'll know that somehow, someway, God is turning it into something profoundly meaningful for His Kingdom.

That's the acceptance.

And the Chiefs team itself?

Still smarting from the sting of Saturday, something happened in my soul today, I can't explain it, but suddenly I just felt a lot better about our team. I thought about something I saw or heard a Chiefs player, coach, I'm not sure but I think it was Andy Reid, something he said. Just that he and the team are committed to excellence no matter what, that they'll move forward with eager dedication to be the very best.

I know every team can say that, and they always do, but there was just something about it this time. Combined with the thought that all this may just be part of making them not only better players but stronger men, it really engendered something good deep inside my heart, right smack in the middle of the still swirling pain.

Yes, I find myself still always praying, "May I consider it a joy..." "May we see the good..." "May I rejoice in being included with Christ..." I've also already been blessed by some pretty awesome talking-it-all-out with fellow Chiefs fans, that's pretty invaluable too. We've got to do that. It's not just about the Chiefs but about rich fellowship with one another. That's a very great thing. This is not even to mention the astounding blessings that will come, for whoever, may not even be me. Some I will never even really know about but are very real just the same.

This is the essence of the acceptance factor.

The Curse doesn't even know what it's in for.

If you read the passage in James' letter, by the way, about considering it joy when you encounter trials, the results are two pretty damn great things, endurance and wisdom.

God is answering. He is giving, providing, sowing, speaking. He always does, no matter what. No matter what insanity happens. There'll always be a dawn, yes...

No matter how many one-and-outs there are, for whatever reason.

For whatever awesome blessing that is.
_

Saturday, January 04, 2014

Chiefs at Colts - Wild-Card Playoff Game

I imagine introductions are in order.

Andy Reid, please meet The Curse. Curse, Andy Reid.

Annnd Alex Smith, Curse. Curse, Alex Smith.

John Dorsey, step up here -- John Dorsey, The Curse. Curse, John Dorsey.

Clark Hunt -- oh, wait, I believe you two have already met. Fine.

Oh, and the rest of the world happening to peek in on this, this Chiefs fan-thing, please, may I.

Now that we're all acquainted, let's get down to business.

This is the eighth straight playoff loss in a row for the Chiefs, an extension of the NFL record for consecutive post-season losses ever already held by, yes, the Chiefs. This is the seventh straight one-and-out we've had, the 11th in 13 postseason appearances since the merger. The Colts have now beaten us in 13 of the last 15 games we've played them, and sure enough, The Charm that covers them was on today, full-blast.

In my previous blog post, when I previewed this game, I predicted that without The Curse we'd win 34-10.  But with The Curse we'd lose 15-14. Go ahead and look it up. I'll wait. I didn't change a thing in that blog post. Seems like Odin was asleep for the entire 1st half and some of the 2nd. When he woke up his wrath about his brief carelessness was so fierce that he did this to the Chiefs. And for those who didn't quite catch it, we were ahead 38-10 in the middle of the 3rd quarter, and lost 45-44.

I could regale you with every stupid thing that happened to the Chiefs in that quarter-and-a-half. That fumble by Donald Brown? Only to be recovered by Andrew Luck around a sea of Chiefs and leapt in for a touchdown? That says it all. I mean, that one play has got to shoot right into the, say, top five of the interminably long list of contemptibly stupid things that happen in every Chiefs playoff game there is.

All I can say is this is hell, really. I really feel like I'm in the worst kind of hell there is, right now. Jesus said there'd be weeping and gnashing of teeth in hell. For Chiefs fans there is certainly a lot of that, all the time in January. Right now it is particularly excruciating. This must have a title, yes. The Hell of Chiefs Playoff Anything. That's it. With all that the Chiefs had going for them, before the game as far as matchups go, as far as quality of talent goes, and for what they did in the 1st half and then some, there is no way what happened today could happen in a normal, reasonable world -- this is truly some kind of special hell for the Chiefs and their fans. Truly.

And what about the hell that was all the injuries our team suffered today. Our players were hammered, physically, by that bastard today. Damn, what is it with this? This just goes beyond even the whole whether-we-win-or-lose element.

Yeah, I'm too passionate about this team, and too crushed by a curse that is too real and about which Chiefs fans feel too impotent to do anything about. There is that thing inside me that does think we should be proud of a team that did so well after doing so terrible last year. That we'll learn from this, get better, and come out firing next year. These are very good things to think.

But I also know that unless something happens to end The Curse so we may finally get out of The Hell of Chiefs Playoff Anything, and yes, something supernatural, we'll just be wallowing here forever. After today there's nothing that really gets me thinking it'll ever be anything different.

For now, just some links and a couple last thoughts. If you want to get intimate with the brutality of The Curse, just look at my last post. Here's the link to it again. Oh, and by the way, I found out something else to add that, well, I just didn't know about before. With all that stuff about the weather being so cold this weekend, how it could affect playoff games, I happened to see a list of the coldest games in NFL history. No. 1 was the Dallas-Green Bay "Ice Bowl." Everyone knows that. No. 2 was the San Diego-Cincinnati game in 1982. Some know about that. Do you know what No. 3 was? That game in 1996 at Arrowhead between the Colts and Chiefs. Yeah, uh-huh, another head impaled on another stake of The Curse.

For some of the very standard exasperation experienced being in The Hell of Chiefs Playoff Anything, here's the blog post I put up after our loss to the Ravens in 2010. You'll get the idea of how this all feels. Why repeat it all again here.

I also have to direct you to this piece, if you haven't seen it yet, appearing just yesterday, written by a guy I'm not familiar with but who I believe writes about Kansas City sports kinds of things. I have not actually even read it yet, but will. Soon I will, as part of the commiseration, part of the processing, part of the therapy. I haven't even read it but I already know so well what it is about.

One of the first songs that came on the radio after having to endure the agony of listening to the closing minutes of the game (remember, I was driving home from paintballing for my nephew's birthday) was "Heartbreaker" by the Rolling Stones. No, you can't make this up. A bit later was Bruce Hornsby's "That's Just the Way It Is," and if you know the song the follow up line to that is, "Some things will never change."

I write the word ::Sigh:: countless times in this blog. That sentiment is plastering the insides of my soul right now, as it is for every Chiefs fan out there. But yeah, there are some Chiefs fans who'll continue to stand by their team. I'll stand with them, still. The Chiefs could lose the next 57 playoff games, and I'll still be their fan.

Maybe the whole point to all this is when The Curse does end, it'll just be that much sweeter.

I'd like to add one last thing, just one more. I've made a commitment to dwell on a few other pretty damn great sportsy kinds of things that've happened relatively recently, just to get a nice, small, refreshing breath of air sticking my head out from The Hell every once in a while. Hey, one Kansas City football team are World Champions, Sporting KC, the fine professional soccer team, there's that. My major league baseball team, the San Francisco Giants, recently captured two championships in somewhat short succession, and hey, that was after years and years of Baseball Hell for Giants Anything.

And my son's high school football team went undefeated in their season this year, triumphing proudly in their league after they'd spent years playing very below average football.

There'll be some day when the Chiefs will triumph. There will.
_

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Chiefs at Colts - Playoff Game Preview

I'm going to start right off the bat by telling you this playoff preview post is not for the faint-hearted. Yes, I will be addressing The Curse, so if you're just too skeptical and consider yourself above it all, then this post, indeed this entire blog is just not for you. This blog is for Chiefs fans who want to get at what's going with their team, the good and the bad. And if the bad involves stuff that happens that simply cannot be explained by natural means, then let's get into it. Let's talk about it.

In fact, in all honesty, I see very few -- even among the heartiest of Chiefs fans -- who really want to get into the ugliness. I see very little about The Curse Against the Chiefs. And what I do see out there even remotely related is whimsical plap or passing references to some silly consideration of a curse. I'm sorry but I don't believe all those who chortle at the Bobby Layne curse that has afflicted the Lions do so without some stirring in their souls that the thing is actually real.

Well here you're getting the full breadth of consideration about how insane The Curse is in actuality by simply going deep into how many times stupid things have happened to the Chiefs in the playoffs. Before I get into the actual details of the game before us this Saturday, I am going to share with you those things, here -- yes, right now. I do this for all those who incessantly bleat, "Nah, get outta here with your 'curse' talk, it's just the way things go," or "it's just a matter of who plays best," or "it's just a game, let it go." Again, this post is not for you. Please, save yourselves the next five minutes and go do something more worthwhile, that's fine.

But for those of us devoted Chiefs fans who just know, this is for you.

On January 11, 1970, the Kansas City Chiefs defeated the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl IV. While all the pundits screeched that the Vikings would roll over the Chiefs, it is now firmly considered by all that the Chiefs were the better team at just about every level of the game. They clearly deserved to win the game, and did so convincingly. The Chiefs closed out a decade in which they and their coach Hank Stram introduced some of the most innovative football both on and off the field.

When they game was over, the AFL was over, because it was then going to be merged with the NFL to form two conferences, the AFC and NFC, comprising one National Football League.

This was when the agony of Chiefs football success, or severe lack therein, was to begin. Somehow, someway, something happened to annihilate the Chiefs postseason prospects for every single year since -- a ruthlessly grotesque legacy lasting 43 years all the way to the present day. If you'll allow me, I present to you the unsightly details -- don't worry, I'm not going to get into everything, just the impossibly stupid things that happened over and over and over again. Yes, you'll see that in every single game, every one, all 15 of them, there were truly, palpably, identifiably stupid things happening to the Chiefs, in every single one. I'll tell you about many of them, right here.

Yet again, it won't be pretty, but this is all therapy anyway. Chiefs fans' grief counseling, as it were. Let's begin the group session, shall we?

1971 Dolphins. This would take a book, and it was a book actually that introduced me to probably the stupidest thing of all in this game, something I hadn't known about until I'd read Michael MacCambridge's America's Game just a couple of years ago. Great book about the modern NFL, and as a Chiefs fan himself he had a lot of great Chiefs stuff in there.

Of course this was one item that was particularly painful: the messed-up field goal. Long snapper Bobby Bell was supposed to snap the ball to Jan Stenarud so he could run for the 1st down, but Stenarud and holder Len Dawson sold it so well that Bell was fooled and thought they didn't get the call. Bell snapped it to Dawson, surprising both Stenarud and Dawson. Whupp-yupp-eeupp... Missed field goal.

I could go on about the other missed field goals, Ed Podolak's courageously awesome day all for naught, any of a dozen different ridiculous things... ::Sigh::

1986 Jets. You'd think this wasn't that stupid, since we were beaten so badly. It was just us being bad. Probably the most crushing stupid thing of this game was that this game, ladies and gentlemen, this game was Todd Blackledge's one and only playoff game. Those other five quarterbacks taken in the first round of that classic 1983 draft? You know, the John Elways and Jim Kellys and Dan Marinos -- a total of 63 postseason games among them. 34 wins in that mix. 11 Super Bowl appearances. The whole Blackledge thing is probably Stupid Thing Number One in all of this.

One of the stupid things related to that was that one of those quarterbacks in that draft, Ken O'Brien of the Jets, was unable to play in this playoff game. So he was replaced by Pat Ryan. Now, Todd Blackledge, 7th pick overall, Pat Ryan, 281st pick (1978). Blackledge-Ryan, Ryan-Blackledge. Well, of course, Ryan torched us, throwing for three TD's, even once running for a first down from a fake field goal. Because of this Freeman McNeil, who was pretty good, I agree, was able to run for 135 yards.

And please, our defense was not poor. Remember this was when we had that fantastic secondary of Deron Cherry, Albert Lewis, et al, and we also still had Bill Maas and Art Still on the defensive line.

1990 Dolphins. Steve DeBerg was having a career year. Christian Okoye was running over everyone. Our defense was one of the best in the NFL. But...

We were ahead 16-3 in the 4th quarter after a regular season in which we allowed two touchdowns in any single quarter only twice all season long. Erghkkk... On one touchdown pass Marino throws, Albert Lewis misses the pick-six by about 19 picometers. Errrrrghhckk...

We get a good drive going with about a minute left, down 17-16, and Christian Okoye rumbles deep into Dolphin territory setting up super-accurate Nick Lowery for that easy game-winning FG. Except, holding penalty on Dave Szott. Seems like the most untimely penalties is a theme of inane stupidness afflicting the postseason Chiefs, ever notice? In the '71 game Larry Czonka can rumble for great yardage in OT to get his team's game-winning FG, and we should return the favor, right? Ahem.

Anyway, Lowery simply can't hit the long 50+ yarder to win it, so... um... yeah.

1991 Raiders. Don't think our playoff wins didn't have really stupid things in them? Even though we beat the Raiders -- (Yay!) In the playoffs! (Yay yay!) -- we barely beat them, and they had a raw, unproven, inexperienced, and eventually complete bust quarterback Todd Marinovich running their offense. The touchdown we scored would not have been allowed with current NFL rules -- Fred Jones caught the only touchdown and was pushed out of bounds before he could get his feet down in the end zone. And Nick Lowery missed two field goals. Huh. The field goal stupidity. Seems like that's kiiind-of a theme here, too.

1991 Bills. Our vaunted run offense generated a grand total of 77 rushing yards. The "FROHZEN TUNNDRAH" of Buffalo football just killed us. Yeah, this was probably the game with admittedly the fewest number of stupid things, just because we got trounced so badly. Guess there has to be some loss in here without too many stupid things happening. Except that, how many games in this series have Chiefs with their very fine team (and there have been a few) been able to trounce their opponent? Okay, keep the laughter to a small roar, please.

1992 Chargers. This year the Chiefs were second overall in the NFL in pass defense. Their QB still gets nearly 200 passing yards on us, no interceptions. Our run defense was decent, 15th overall, yet they scorch us for over 200 yards on the ground. Our offense was 7th overall in the NFL, pretty good, really -- annnnd we get zero points, three turnovers, two of them interceptions. Our vaunted Chiefs O-line? Allowed seven sacks.

The following week San Diego was blasted by Miami, 31-0. Talk about stupid.

1993 Steelers. Yes, one of the few we won, but it took a mad scramble at the end, a Joe Montana comeback with a 4th down touchdown pass just to send the game into overtime. Really, think about that, it took a Joe Montana to fiercely stare down The Curse for us to actually win a stinkin' playoff game!

And besides, here's one of the top stupid things of all. Do you know how many playoff games the Steelers have won since that game? Do you? Seventeen. They've won more playoff games since '93 than the Chiefs have even been in since '70.

1993 Oilers. Another playoff win, but the last of the meager three in the 43 years. This was actually a wonderful, wonderful game we won with toughness and splendor and all that. I admit it really was.

But why is this the one we've got to hang our hats on? One little fine playoff game yippy! And here's the actual veritable stupid thing about it -- the Oilers. Yeah, the team we played. Do you remember the '93 Oilers? Very talented, but they were quite famously an emotional train wreck of epic proportions. In the final game of the regular season defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan punched offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride on the sidelines, during the game. And this was just one of the issues this team had.

You could tell on the football field, especially in the second half, that the Oilers were just not playing like a fully prepared finely focused football team should be playing. All that stuff was going to bite them sometime, and there's no way someone like Joe Montana was not going to exploit it.

Ahh, how beautifully splendid it would be for the Chiefs to soundly defeat a fine, strong, well-prepared team in the playoffs... ::Ahhhhhhh...:: To wistfully dream...

1993 Bills. The only AFC championship game we've played in for the entirety of this time. The farthest we've ever gotten since the merger, just this one year. When Joe Montana went out with a concussion, that was the end. But before that we were very much in it, but the stupid thing here was very sure-handed Kimble Anders letting a pass at the endzone bounce right out of his hands and into the hands of a D-back to stop the most critical scoring chance we had.

1994 Dolphins. Joe Montana throws a pick on a quick slant at the Miami two-yard line. How often do Hall-of-Fame quarterbacks do that in a playoff game? Only if you're on the Chiefs. Marcus Allen allows a D-back to simply take the ball right out of his hands. How often do Hall-of-Fame running backs who never fumble have that to happen to them, in a playoff game no less? Only if... you know... Chiefs. Derrick Thomas commits a defensive holding call on a critical 3rd down when the Chiefs need the ball back. How often do Hall-of-Fame linebackers who never intercept the ball in their career commit that kind of penalty in a playoff game? How many times do all of these things happen all in the same playoff game to sabotage yet again your chances to win a stinkin' playoff game??? Only - if - you're - the - youknowtherest...

1995 Colts. Okay, here's your homework. Go look it up. How many times has the home team division winner lost a playoff game by three points and endured three missed field goals by their kicker? Go ahead, run your little sabermetric computer program thing and see what you come up with. How much you wanna bet it's this?

- Chiefs loss to Miami, 27-24, 1971 - kicker: Jan Stenarud.
- Chiefs loss to Indianapolis, 10-7, 1995 - kicker: Lin Elliot.
- No other team ever in all of pro football history.

That's stupid enough, but I still have to ask, do all of our coaching staffs just do so poorly every single time the Chiefs prepare for the teams they play? What was Marty Schottenheimer thinking? Sometimes I just want to ram Martyball right down his throat. When you're in the playoffs, dammit, you have to do some things to match up. Come on. Thing is, it has just happened all the time with any coach we had.

1996 (No one). Special note must be made here because we were 9-4 and needed one more win in the last three regular season games to ensure a playoff spot. Other special notes could be made of other years like this, such as '81 and '05, when in each of those years we were 8-4 and still missed the playoffs. Sure this happens to other teams often enough, but again, this is the Chiefs.

The '96 version was particularly excruciating because we had a chance to redeem ourselves against the Colts at home, again, with a better team, again, and still lost. Added to that was the terrifically stupid FG miss by Hall-of-Famer Morten Andersen on the last day of the regular season -- an 18-yard super-chipshot for Atlanta to beat Jacksonville -- that would've allowed the Chiefs to back into the playoffs.

1997 Broncos. This may just be the game with the most mindnumbingly stupid things of them all. To recount them all would just be criminal. The one that is the most pronounced to me is the made-FG by a very reliable kicker (finally!) Pete Stoyanovich, but then, the holding call. Give - me - a - break. An offensive hold on a field goal attempt. I believe that happens once every 57,000 millennia, I think. His next attempt, ::boink:: off the upright.

The referee of this game was Jerry Markbreit, and before the game I knew how much this guy regularly messed with the Chiefs in their games. I just knew it, but thought, no way can he mess with this game again, no way. It just can't happen again, it just can't. Well it did. Sure I could hold some bitterness, but I don't, really, because I know he's just a pawn in Odin's hands. And sheez, there are so many who are!

One final note of supreme stupidness. The Chiefs have to be the most dominant team in any given decade with the absolute least to show for it. They owned the 1990's -- but only in the regular season. Here's a monumentally stupid thing for you: Kansas City Chiefs overall in the decade: 102 regular season wins, diddly squat postseason anything. Dallas Cowboys overall that same decade: 101 regular season wins, but a dozen or so playoff wins and three Super Bowl titles. Eeeeee.

2003 Colts. Watching this game was just plain torturous. The final score was 38-31, but we were never in it. We were playing catch-up the entire game. Yes, our defense was weak, but we'd actually done a pretty decent job of stopping them until it was 3rd down. And they'd convert. And convert. And convert convert convert convert convert -- every single time. If I remember correctly there wasn't a single punt the entire game.

The one major stupid thing was watching Priest Holmes finally break into the open field, running deep into Colts territory, maybe even for the score, and then -- ::rip:: -- the Colts defender strips him, fumble, party over. Really, it was over for sure then.

One of the crazy things here was the following season watching Trent Green take The Curse of Johnny Unitas by the throat and strangle it, I mean he was blistering the Colts at quarterback, leading the Chiefs to an obliteration of their defense, putting up 45 on them. Thing is, of course, why didn't we do that in this game.

2006 Colts. Sure this is one of those games in which the Colts -- with a much more experienced and hungry Peyton Manning -- were just better than we were, I understand. But since when did that kind of thing stop the weaker teams we'd played against in the playoffs from beating us when we were better?

The goofy thing in this one was that we had a terrific running game with Larry Johnson, Trent Green was healthy, and here's the key thing, the Colts had an extraordinarily weak run defense. Ha! Naturally we get utterly, contemptibly stuffed at the line. We didn't get a 1st down until the middle of the 3rd quarter. Ironically our defense was playing like maniacs, amazingly keeping us in the game. I think Ty Law had two picks on Manning if I remember. It was great!

But, tremendous stupidness. We had one, good drive on offense in the whole thing, one -- we got eight points total to their 23. Umm. Stupidness alert. How come we couldn't get this defense and our '03 offense to play the way they did in the same game. What - is - with - that.

2010 Ravens. Just one more classic example of us getting pounded after going through that Kryptonite portal we always go through as we start the playoffs. The stupid things that happened are in this blog post, which includes much of the obvious exasperation we all have as Chiefs fans when enduring this stuff over and over and... uhh. I'm telling you.

How many more stupid things can you come up with? I'm sure you've got a few of your own. Still convinced there isn't a curse? I can't see how.

Some may say it has to do with the unfortunate officiating. Yeah, I'd say there is some of that. It's said it all evens out, and I really work hard to put that firmly in my psyche. It's not unreasonable, it isn't. But come on. How many times have the Chiefs been crushed by inexplicable ref calls? I just don't think it's evened out, and I certainly don't want to get any poor calls favoring us in the future so it can be said we've lucked out.

Some may say it has to do with the advantages the large-market media-darling teams have, which is in some ways connected to unfavorable ref calls. Yeah, I'd say that has to do with it too. I'm not so sold on any of it. Officiating, media favoritism, Chiefs just plain sucking -- sorry but it is a whole package.

It's all The Curse, whatever it is. It is the harrowing dread that just hangs over everything and anything Chiefs whenever they're in a playoff game. Have you felt it? It's that creepy vibe that just saturates everything Chiefs in the playoffs no matter how good they are, no matter how much they're enjoying home field advantage, no matter how ferociously hard they're playing on the field. It's as if they're all injected with some drug that makes everything go whacko against them.

You know all the charmed teams? You know them, the Colts are one of them, the Steelers too. The Giants and the Packers are classic examples. These are teams that just belch and they win. Really, think about it, how many times have you watched any of these teams play and watched them get the craziest, luckiest plays? They are perfectly capable of going into the playoffs off a meager 10-6 regular season run and then just play like they own the place. What makes it so mindbogglingly bewildering is, it is as if those things happen to the Chiefs, only in reverse. Splendidly amazingly gratifying things all - the - time for the charmed teams, but crushingly horrifically depressing things all - the - time for the Chiefs.

So let's get to it then, shall we? Let's look at this game with the Colts, this Saturday. Let's look at this team and see what the deal is. I'll say it right now.

We should win this game.

There is no reason we shouldn't win this game. Why? With no curse we're just better than the Colts. We are. In every facet of the game we have the edge. And if that's the case, then we should win, right? Things should go our way for once, right?

I mean, why can't Eric Berry just be better than Andrew Luck? This isn't just whistling in the dark, this is veritable. Berry is a fantastic safety, and even though Luck is pretty damn good, why for once can't our guy just play better than their guy in a playoff game?

Why can't our fine run defense with Pro-Bowler Dontari Poe, Tyson Jackson (who's shown he can play pretty good run defense), and super run-sacker Derrick Johnson do better than their running game, which is statistically not very good to begin with?

Why can't our running back, Jamaal Charles -- not just a Pro-Bowler but if it weren't for Peyton Manning would be winning the NFL MVP award this year -- why can't he just go off on an average Colts defense?

Why can't our fine offensive line simply win the battle in the trenches against a defensive line that just isn't all that? Yes, they have Robert Mathis, but so? When is it when we'll just be better when it is not unreasonable to see that very plainly?

Why can't our exceptional pass rushers be better than their O-line? We've got Pro-Bowlers Justin Houston and Tamba Hali in there, why can't they just refuse to suddenly be milquetoast on Saturday?

Why can't our fine special teams make a difference in this game? Dustin Colquitt and the punt coverage team pins opponents back inside the 10 all year long, why can't he just do it regularly on Saturday? What about our terrific return teams, especially with Pro-Bowler Dexter McCluster getting us great field position? (Did you know the Chiefs are number one in the NFL in starting field position?) Why can't that just be something so overwhelming the other team can't overcome it?

Why can't our fine, resourceful, smart, versatile, athletic quarterback do better than their average D-backfield?

Why can't our terrific, experienced, wise, inventive, inspiring coach just get our team to play splendidly to our strengths and exploit their weaknesses with reckless abandon, for once?

Why can't our team have a playoff game where everything comes together, where we really match up well again their guys, and we play like we mean it?

It's simple.

There's some curse thing goin' on here.

Yes, we do have some deficiencies. Our kicker has suddenly been possessed by the spirit of Lin Elliot -- this scares me to death. I thought we had little depth at the D-line, but after watching our second stringers play great against the Chargers on Sunday I think we may not be so thin there. Our wide receiver situation is also troubling, but again, reserve ends A.J. Jenkins and Junior Hemingway played great on Sunday. And our corners are soft, but then, what's with Brandon Flowers -- he's a corner and he's, yes, a Pro-Bowler.

Damn, this Chiefs team has EIGHT PRO-BOWLERS! There is no reason in the world we should not be winning this game convincingly.

Except for...

In fact, let me just put it as plainly as possible. Here's what will happen.

No curse: Final score 34-10 Chiefs.

Curse: Final score 15-14 Colts.

That's it right there. You just watch. That's really what it comes down to.

Recently the NFL Network had a "Top 10" show about curses in the NFL. Sure enough the Bobby Layne curse was No. 1. I didn't catch what the other curses were, but I can't see how one of them was not some curse related to the Chiefs.

Anyway, the episode closed with some voodoo lady saying something I've heard before. She said, "If you think there's a curse then there'll be one." Um, excuse me, but I really want my Chiefs to win. My thinking there's a curse or no curse has nothing to do with it. If things happen a way, they happen, natural or supernatural. I think the NFL as well as most materialistically minded folk shy away from this kind of stuff, however. They usually repeat these "Top 10" shows all the time, but I haven't seen the "Top 10 Curses" aired since it was on a number of weeks ago.

All you have to do is look at the Chiefs and easily see the verity of The Curse, and they can't handle that.


Courtesy Los Angeles Times
What is great is that there are a lot of genuinely devout Chiefs fans who love this team no matter what. That is great. That gives me a great deal of pride. No matter what they live and breathe red and gold. In my Los Angeles Times the other day was a featured human interest story about a waitress here in southern California who loves talking sports with her guests, and she is, yes, a full-on Chiefs fan. What I'm hoping for is all devout Chiefs fans will be rewarded with some non-Curse success.

The damn thing can't last forever.

Maybe this time we'll get the blessings of a good mean Trent Green-like stare-down.

We'll see what happens Saturday!
_

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Chiefs at Chargers - Week 17 - Record: 11-5

This was a game that meant absolutely nothing standings-wise or playoffs-wise one way or the other for the Chiefs -- they're already locked into a No. 5 seed for the playoffs. It meant everything for the Chargers -- win or go home for the postseason.

And yet our inspired backups almost won the game for us.

Really, they should have won it, but alas, we were again blistered by The Curse of Sid Gillman (or whatever version of The Curse has been so ruthlessly hammering us against the Chargers). I mean, all we needed was a gimme Ryan Succop field goal to win it, but, alas, The Curse. He totally bricked it, while former Chiefs kicker Nick Novak nailed his two to tie it and then win it. Now we've got beat by these guys 10 of the last 12. How sucked-up is that (couldn't resist, sorry).

But really if The Curse is going to bite us in the ass again, today is a perfect day for that to happen. This one didn't mean a damn thing. Sure The Curse can spank us by way of the effects of having all our top guys resting today leading to their lethargic uneven play next week. Now, yes, on the other hand they could be well rested enough and protected from injury enough to be righteously beast next week. But well... I won't bring up that thing again. But it's still there.

As far as this game goes, there was indeed another Chargers really stupid punt thing that went against the Chiefs, and sure enough I thought about the Chargers really stupid punt thing that was the crushing factor in that late 2006 game. This one was completely unjust if what I saw on the replays was actually what happened, and it did really cost us the game. Just have to share it here because it was just too stupid.

We stop them on their first series in overtime in their territory, it's something like 4th and 2. They try a fake punt with Eric Weddle, I think it was him, taking the snap and running up the middle. He gets the first down. Problem is, we stop him behind the line of scrimmage. No whistle blows. The pile moves forward a bit just past the 1st down marker, wherein he fumbles the ball before he goes down, at least that's what the one single replay that they showed indicated. Cyrus Gray ends up with the football and runs for a touchdown.

But, ahh, once the pile moves forward and no one knows what actually happened there, the officials blow the whistle. First down Chargers. I see. I see how it is. Everyone's tired, we all want to go home. I see how it is. The television people didn't even pursue the matter further. This is the Chiefs, and, well, they're supposed to lose to the Chargers. I see how it is.

Sorry, but if this happened to a Cowboys or a Giants or a Patriots they'd be all over this. They'd be reviewing the video on every highlights show and every pundit on the set would be carefully dissecting it and ranting and raving incessantly. There is no question this contemptible neglect of anything Chiefs is at least some vital part of The Curse, it really is.

I'm planning to put together a Playoff Preview Post here sometime this week, when I'll spit and spew and hock and holler about what I think about Chiefs at Colts. Yeah, nothing is new. Still feel that harrowing dread, sorry. Just being honest. But more about all that later.

As for now, the Chiefs record this year against backup, second-string, third-string, just-signed, and whatever fill-in quarterbacks there are: 9-0. Their record against top-flight Pro-Bowl caliber quarterbacks (namely Manning Rivers and Luck): 0-5. Just as I feared weeks and weeks ago. Oh, and next week that could be 0-6 on the year. Yhee. (The other two were Tony Romo and Eli Manning, two pretty decent quarterbacks we beat this year, but both had very subpar years.)

As for next week, The Curse affects the whole scheduling situation, too. My brother-in-law's already scheduled a huge paintball day for his son's birthday, on Saturday. I'm thinking, ya know? They're going to do it, I just know they will. They're going to schedule the Chiefs game for the first game of the weekend, on Saturday afternoon. ::Please-oh-please-oh-please-oh-please-don't-have-our-game-be-that-game...:: I thought all week long.

Not.

Guess which game is first, 1:25 PST next Saturday?

Errrghkkkkk.

Well, I don't know how this'll play out. Will our paintball be done so I can see the game? Maybe the second half of the game? Or hey, maybe I should just not watch, just enjoy the paintball experience and avoid the televised pro football agony. Maybe, I dunno. You'll see how that all plays out in next week's standard postgame post -- what I watch, how much, whatever. At this point I still just feel so resigned no matter how much our team has going for us. Again, next post, preview, sometime this week, I'll get into it.

Thought I'd add this, after being generally disturbed over these awful recent records we have against these teams. You'd think we'd have a poor overall record, but remember, through the 53 years of the Chiefs existence, we do have a winning record overall -- 415-392-12. How can that be? Who then do we have winning records against? Well, first, our worst records are against Pittburgh (9-19) and the New York Giants (3-10).

Speaking of Pittsburgh, kinda glad the Steelers didn't get in the playoffs through a Chiefs win today. There was a bit of talk about the Steelers' displeasure with Andy Reid for resting his starters and playing all the reserve guys. Well, Steelers whoevers, for one, those guys almost won the game, and for two, shut your trap because you had eight games this season you could have won yourselves but didn't. You've played the most charmed football for decades, people, 'bout time you got a taste of our curse.

Anyway, most teams we're pretty even with through the years, but the teams against whom we have winning records of some sizable margin? Five teams are worthy of note. We're seven games up on Tennessee, interesting because the Oilers are the team we're best known for beating in the playoffs -- in that AFL championship game in '62 and then in '93. We've also been really dominant over Seattle, and not just when they started out back in the late seventies. Since that awful game in 1990 when Derrick Thomas set the sacks record but we lost on the very last play, we've played the Seahawks 25 times and beaten them 19.

Our best records by winning percentage are against Arizona and Washington. We've only been beaten by the Redskins once in the entire history of Chiefs-Redskins games, comprising nine total meetings. But how about this team we have a pretty dominant history against:

The Packers. How about that. We're 7-3-1 against them, and one of those losses was Super Bowl I. Crazy, huh.

Oh, and something else kinda funny?

We have overall winning records against the Broncos and the Patriots, the two top seeds in the playoffs this year. Yeah, a lot of that success was in the AFL days, especially against the Broncos who we beat 25 of 27 times (yowza!) from the very get-go into the early seventies.

But hey, hey...

Maybe we can get some of that charm back for this run...
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Sunday, December 22, 2013

Colts at Chiefs - Week 16 - Record: 11-4

The game started with the Chiefs D stopping the Colts O cold. Yay! Then we got a great punt return from Dexter. Yay! Then our O-line split the Colts defense to get Jamaal a fine touchdown run. Yay!

Yepp, it sure looked like it'd be a long day for...

The Chiefs.

Why? It's simple.

The Curse.

Right after Jamaal's touchdown, it was clear that Odin was so angry at himself for forgetting to activate the standard Colts curse against the Chiefs before the game that he put an extra ruthless spin on it. I mean, really -- that first few minutes of the game, that silly hope we'd have that we'd actually beat the Colts. Ha!

Or was it the ghost of Johnny Unitas? Or the spirits of the American Indian dead buried underneath... Okay okay, I'll spare you. But there is a curse. You can't convince me there isn't. Today's loss makes it 12 in the last 14 games against these guys. Until the Chiefs henceforth beat the Colts five or six straight times -- with a good team and a bad team, in the playoffs and not -- you cannot tell me this blight is just the product of anything far more benign. You can't.

Do you want me to regale you with the gory Colts-vs-Chiefs details from the past several years? Why. For one you probably already know about it. For two I'll be getting to a bit of it when, yes, very possibly we play our first playoff game in two weeks at the Colts yard.

I mean, how about just this, from our second-to-last game from last year? Yepp, it was against the Colts, at Arrowhead, and we actually played so well that we ran the ball on them for a blistering 352 yards rushing -- and still lost. Remember that? Probably not because it was lost in the sputtering out of an abysmal season, but the thing is, if you do remember, that mark is an NFL record -- most rushing yards by any NFL team ever in a losing effort. Neat.

Today featured some of the worst from The Curse. The Chiefs looking like shit and the Colts looking like champions. What's new when these guys meet. Remember the last time the Chiefs beat the Colts? In '11 they had Curtis Painter at quarterback and we still had to come from way behind and squeak out a 4th quarter win. Never mind that whole Painter-filling-in-for-an-injured-Peyton-Manning-helping-the-Colts-stink-so-much-that-they-get-top-quarterback-stud-Andrew-Luck-with-the-first-overall-pick-in-the-draft-the-year-before-the-Chiefs-stink-so-much-they-get-the-first-overall-pick-but-discover-no-such-quarterback-there-for-them-when-they-were-the-one-single-NFL-team-ever-that-needed-one thing. Never mind that. Oh, no, there is no curse, of course not.

So putting the brutal reality of The Curse aside, let's pretend that this is indeed all about who plays better and who is the better team and all that. Today it was proven the Colts are a better team, I admit. No shame in that. The crazy thing is that they really weren't by much. This whole thing just makes it that much more crazy.

The Chiefs curse: Alex Smith had an atrocious game, but so did the whole pass protection team. He got sacked and roughed up and threw picks and coughed up the ball. When he did get the ball off our receivers were still not getting separation. Our vertical passing game, let me just say it with one simple noise: ::Whimper::. Today Dwayne Bowe was back to his pathetic Dr. Jekyll self -- simply not running good, clearing routes. The Colts charm: Andrew Luck managed to get his receivers untracked and wide open at just right times. He really wasn't any major world beater, it's just, his team managed to make the plays. In fact the score should've been 30-7 because on one play Luck threw a perfect strike on a deep pass strike to a receiver who'd beaten our defender and he just dropped it.

The Chiefs curse: The Chiefs stuffed their run game today probably about 99.992815% of the time, but the one time they just didn't their guy got a spectacular run for a critical touchdown. And this was one of the several plays in which we just forgot how to tackle out there. The Colts charm: The Chiefs running game was actually pretty good, but their defense got the key stops just when they needed them. What did I see, the Colts something like 27th in the NFL in run defense? You have got to be kidding me -- them 27th in stopping the run, us with Jamaal Charles, and we score only seven points on the day? Come on. The Curse was turned waaay up today...

The Chiefs curse: Maybe the vibes of Lin Elliot are in the mix somewhere here. Youthfully robust Ryan Succop came in to attempt one field goal, a piddle 40-something yarder, and he utterly, thoroughly, embarrassingly bricked it. The Colts charm: Even though he did miss one, dodderingly aging Adam Vinatieri still easily made three, from all over the place with all kinds of swirls.

The Chiefs curse: Our pass rush is nothing without Justin Houston. That's extraordinarily scary come playoff time, mainly because even if he's in there I'm not sure we're nearly as good as we were the first half of the season, and when he's not in there our pass rush is completely vanilla. The Colts charm: So many little things that went their way it wasn't even funny, much of that was just the feel that they knew everything we were going to do. Give them credit for being exceptionally prepared for us, give them that. But we helped them a lot with not only the uninspired play and the turnovers, the blown coverages and missed marks, but the stultifying penalties. Oh my, it was grotesque. One of them was a taunting call on 3rd-and-long by a usually very composed Dontari Poe. I shake my head even more as I write this.

Damn, that's what makes all of this so scary.

We have a playoff game coming up in two weeks dammit.

We still haven't made a statement win, still. (Oh, and BTW, just FYI, the Colts have already registered three pretty major statement games, beating the Niners, Seahawks, and Broncos -- yeah, all of them this year.)

We've been beast against the least in the NFL, but we look like we're carrying a load of Kryptonite on our backs when we play the Denvers and Indys and San Diegos.

Speaking of which, we have the Chargers next week in San Diego. There's a phenomenally powerful Curse of Sid Gillman against us there, having lost 9 of the last 11 against them. The last time we won there was in 2007.

We have nothing to play for, either, having already clinched the 5th seed. We'll be having to travel to somewhere, some other team's stadium to enjoy playoff hell -- New England, Cincinnati, Baltimore, or Indianapolis. Whatever. Yes, I am very discouraged. I'm just resigned to the inevitable, I just steel myself for it, and if by some miracle The Curse won't crush us again and we actually win then I'll be that much more ecstatic. But as it is...

I know, I know, why should I feel that way. We were 2-14 last year, and we're going to the playoffs this year. What a turnaround. We should be happy. We've been the talk of pro football. We should be proud. We've got a fine team no matter how many think we're overachieving. We should still be exuberant, joyful, contented...

Why can't I be happy about that.

Sorry but... Okay, to maintain some decorum here, I'll just stop talking about it. There'll be plenty of time for that when appropriate. Whatever anything is about anything, for the next two weeks we can revel in being a playoff team -- for now, that's actually a terrific thing, and after today wears off a bit it'll be nice to feel the hopefulness however much there is.

There's that.
_

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Chiefs at Raiders - Week 15 - Record: 11-3

One of the things I learned during the course of this game was that Jamaal Charles has the Jerry
Rice-like dedication to his physical constitution. A disciplined regiment of healthy eating, focused exercising, and overall body management helps make him one of the best players in the NFL.

Courtesy ESPN
And if you watched him play today, you'd see the product of such commitment.

First play from scrimmage, screen pass to Jamaal, down the sideline, touchdown Kansas City.

He'd have two more long screen pass touchdowns on the day, as well as one splendid play we ran on third and short. Alex Smith executed play action brilliantly allowing Jamaal to break open against the linebacker and grab a perfect strike for the long touchdown pass play.

Bam. NFL record. No other running back in NFL history has ever had four touchdown pass receptions in a single game.

We could beam about our NFL season-high 56 points -- not even Denver (boo-yahhh) has put up as many as 56 this year. We could cheer about this playoff clinching game -- we're in for sure somehow somewhere. That's always cause for celebration no matter what, especially this year, a year right after the rank unpleasantries of last year.

But I am still concerned about our consistency. Very concerned. We blasted out to a 35-10 lead before Oakland put up a quick 21. 35-31 just like that. Yes, I was nervous. Sure we got some more clutch turnovers (seven total on the day) to really help us out, but please. Their QB was no world-beater in a system that is presently experimenting with two quarterbacks. How many games will a team win trying to find the right mix of quarterback platooning? Anyone for Marques Hagans to come back and run some wildcat for the Chiefs?

Both our pass defense and run defense was very soft today, and, again, both got rescued by some fortuitous picks. Yes, it can be said the defense works hard to make those happen, and I don't disagree. Damn, if we could just get our first-half-of-the-season defense to match the offense we've had the last few games -- damn.

What we need is Justin Houston back in the worst way. But that's the thing.

When playoff time comes around we'll need to have everything blending just right to have success there, something that has never really happened since, well, since you-know-when. It's been a damn long time, that's for sure. I promise I won't get into that for now.

For now we actually still have a shot at the No. 1 seed in the whole thing. Denver got shocked at home by San Diego Thursday night. If Denver can lose one more time and we can beat Indy and San Diego we've got it. If not and things twist and turn in a very possible way we may actually get New England at their place to open things up. Ow-wow-owch.

Denver closes their season at Oakland. Sing with me now, come on, get in the Christmas spirit, ::It's-beginning-to-look-a-lot, like becoming-a-Raiders-fan, everywhere-you-want-Chiefs-good-things-to-happen::
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