Saturday, January 30, 2016

Ten Most Memorable Seasons

A few years ago I wrote about the best Chiefs seasons and the worst Chiefs seasons with a variety of different conceptions considered. After enjoying a pretty danged great 2015 season, I thought I'd compile my selections for the most memorable Chiefs seasons. I'm excited about having you read them, think about whether or not you agree, and just join me in reminiscing about some truly fun times in Chiefs history.

I am making one critical qualification with this list, however. I am only including seasons since the merger. Yes, that does mean since the Chiefs last won the Super Bowl, I know. But if this list included the entirety of Chiefs history, the 1969 season would be at the top hands-down. Thing is that's just too easy. I've taken on the challenge of picking the most memorable from seasons when there was no Super Bowl to be had, indeed barely a single AFC Championship game in the mix.

I must also confess that I only really started following the Chiefs fully after our Super Bowl win. I was nine years old, about the time most youngsters start getting a veritable conception that the Chiefs are the most important thing in the universe.

There were a number of memorable seasons, definitely, in some ways more memorable because you'll note most of them occurred after severely painful times for Chiefs fans, and yes, there've been many of those. The thing that makes them memorable is thrilling to the fact that, yes, this season we're a good team! after we'd been so bad for so long.

I'm also only including seasons that were favorably memorable, which means seasons like 2012, while memorable indeed, was atrocious. Yes, the most honestly sincere among us may openly revile lots of things within these seasons, I know there is a lot for a seasoned troller to mercilessly ridicule. I got that. But this effort is all about identifying the very best of Chiefs football play. Every season on the list is one in which for much of that time, in some way in some form, Chiefs fans could be exceptionally proud of our team.

Which ones would you pick? Here're mine, counting down to No. 1.

10.  1997  Key players: Tony Gonzalez, Marcus Allen, Rich Gannon, Derrick Thomas, James Hasty, Dale Carter, Joe Phillips, Kimble Anders, Will Shields, Donnie Edwards, Andre Rison, Jerome Woods, Reggie Tongue, Dan Williams, Elvis Grbac. Featured game: Nov 16 vs Denver, Pete Stoyanovich hits a 54-yard field goal to win it at the gun.

Sure this was the season we got hosed in the Divisional Playoff against the Broncos, and I think because that game leaves such a putrid taste in our mouths we forget about how extraordinary this team really was. I have to confess I think that game also keeps me from placing this season higher on the list. Note I included Rich Gannon as a key player, but this is not to dismiss Elvis Grbac because I'm not one of those who think he shouldn't have started that playoff game. Gannon did however play exceptionally well for us after he was pretty much languishing as a career backup.

Don't forget, too, the Chiefs defense that year was one of the best in NFL history -- sorry, not hyperbole from a rose-colored glasses-wearing Chiefs fan. It was just lost in the mess of that unceremonious playoff loss -- but yeah, I guess we're just such a podunk midwest puddle to the east coast elite sports blatherers who'll never recognize that fact.

9.  2010  Key players: Jamaal Charles, Dwayne Bowe, Mike Vrabel, Eric Berry, Tamba Hali, Matt Cassel, Tony Moeaki, Thomas Jones, Brian Waters, Glenn Dorsey. Featured game: Sep 13 vs San Diego, Dexter McCluster takes a punt return to the house to seal the win on a sensational opening day after three of the most abysmal years in Chiefs history.

Just a note, if I don't include the key players you remember, forgive me, the ones I cite are just some, in no particular order. All-Pros and Pro-Bowlers will always be on the list -- some players will show up more than a few times, certainly.

Naturally 2010 is there because the '07, '08, '09 period was so depressing. We played well enough to make the playoffs, and I just think of that interception return for a touchdown by Eric Berry in the Titans game that was the clinching play.

8.  1986  Key players: Bill Kenney, Mike Pruitt, Stephone Paige, Carlos Carson, Nick Lowery, Deron Cherry, Bill Maas, Lloyd Burress, Boyce Green, Henry Marshall. Featured game: Dec 21 vs Pittsburgh. Those three splendid, wonderful, fabulous special teams touchdowns to get us the win and the playoff berth.

Before the win over the Steelers, we pasted the Broncos at home, a team that would go on to the Super Bowl that year. We intercepted John Elway four times. The following week we got by a good Raiders team, with our defense doing the job again, this time picking Jim Plunkett four times. This was another season that followed pathetic Chiefs years just before, so making those playoffs was exciting, especially since it was the first playoff berth we'd had in 15 years.

Of course our fantastic defense went limp against backup Jets quarterback Pat Ryan in the Wild-Card Game, but the season was still tremendous fun.

7.  2006  Key players: Larry Johnson, Tony Gonzalez, Trent Green, Bernie Pollard, Ty Law, Jared Allen, Will Shields, Brian Waters, Damon Huard. Featured game: Dec 31 vs Jacksonville. While we were pretty much in command of the game, beholding what happened through the evening to see if we'd miraculously get that playoff spot was unforgettable.

This was the year after a very promising 2005 season ended with the Chiefs barely missing the playoffs. It started off well at 7-4 when a crushing give-up-the-big-lead loss to the Browns and an insane loss to the Chargers put us at death's door. We scratched out a win against the Raiders and then discovered before the final day of the regular season that we had a 1 in 16 chance to make the playoffs.

Lo and behold: (1) we won, (2) Tennessee lost, (3) Cincinnati lost (with the help of a missed Bengals field goal, of all things, that would've won it for them), and (4) Denver lost when the Niners' Joe Nedney hit on his field goal late in overtime to get us in. Again, it can't be said enough -- Wow.

6.  2013  Key players: Alex Smith, Jamaal Charles, Dexter McCluster, Tamba Hali, Justin Houston, Dontari Poe, Eric Berry, Brandon Flowers. Featured game: Sep 19 vs Philadelphia. Andy Reid wins against his old Eagles team in a Thursday night nationally broadcast game, taking us to 3-0 giving us more wins than we'd had in the entire 2012 season.

This was probably the most pronounced example of the joy of winning right after a wretched previous Chiefs experience. 2012 was indeed the worst of them all, and yet this 2013 Chiefs team stormed out to a mind-boggling 9-0 start. We simply could not beat the horse teams, however, losing twice to the Broncos, Chargers, and Colts, each, the last loss that abject heart breaker in the Wild-Card Game. Still, winning and winning and winning through that streak was a beautiful, beautiful thing.

5.  2015  Key players: Alex Smith, Charcandrick West, Spencer Ware, Travis Kelce, Justin Houston, Tamba Hali, Jeremy Maclin, Derrick Johnson, Sean Smith, Dontari Poe, Josh Mauga, Eric Berry, Marcus Peters. Featured game: Nov 15 vs Denver. We clobber the Broncos, finally, at their place, forcing Peyton Manning to the bench and solidifying the legitimacy of our ferocious run to get back into playoff contention.

It is so fresh in our memories. We start 1-5 and even the best of us knowing this team was much better than that were feeling the worst despair. Then against Pittsburgh we won. We went to London and annihilated the Lions, then Denver, then an impossible streak that ran the table. The Chiefs won every single other game of the season, and doing it with style and resilience and fortitude that made this easily one of the best seasons in Chiefs post-merger history.

Of course honorable mention for the featured game must be the playoff win against Houston. The week before the game knowing we had everything in place to win a playoff game we hadn't won in 22 years, the game itself -- just a rapturously dominant win, and the week after joyfully anticipating taking on an elite playoff team in the Divisional. A very memorable two weeks of Chiefs enjoyment.

And, I mean, 2015 -- only 5th among the 10? Which seasons could be higher? Well, here're my top four picks. I think you'll like them.

4.  1993  Key players: Joe Montana, Marcus Allen, Kimble Anders, Keith Cash, Willie Davis, Tim Grunhard, Dale Carter, Harvey Williams, Neil Smith, Dan Saleaumua, Derrick Thomas. Featured game: Jan 8 vs Pittsburgh. The most exciting game of the post-merger Chiefs playoff history, by far. (And yes, we all know, our playoff history is not very expansive.) Anyway, the late blocked punt, the Montana-to-Barnett TD connection to tie it, the Lowery field goal in OT to win it. Awesome.

Joe Montana brings his magic to KC and helps get us the deepest into the playoffs of any year since Super Bowl IV. What a ride. Just that alone is the highlight of this very deserving memorable year.

3.  2003  Key players: Priest Holmes, Trent Green, Dante Hall, Tony Gonzalez, Eddie Kennison, Tony Richardson, Will Shields, Willie Roaf, Gary Stills, Jerome Woods, Greg Wesley. Featured game: Oct 5 vs Denver. Down 23-17 in the middle of the 4th quarter, Dante Hall does it again, only even more spectacularly. Take the punt at, like, his own 5, then weaves all the way back around behind the pursuit and outruns everyone to score. Easily one of the most iconic plays in Chiefs history.

We start 9-0, but our weak defense wilts even more late in the season, and can't stop Peyton Manning in the Divisional Playoff Game. Even with that, this season ranks as one of the greatest ever simply because our offense and special teams (can you say "Dante Hall"?) were so nfmgnking explosive.

I mean record-breaking explosive. Trent Green slingin' it, Priest Holmes slashin' it and Will Shields et al poundin' it (you know Holmes with this O-line scored 27 touchdowns. Get - out), Tony Gonzalez leapin' the length of tall buildings in single bounds, and Dick Vermeil gleefully calling it all. So - much - fun.

2.  1981  Key players: Joe Delaney, Bill Kenney, Henry Marshall, Carlos Carson, Gary Barbaro, Gary Green, Mike Bell, Nick Lowery, Art Still, Jack Rudnay, Billy Jackson. Featured game: Sep 6 vs Pittsburgh. The opener was a thrilling see-saw affair between the supposedly pitiful Chiefs and the certainly powerhouse Steelers -- and we actually kept up with them. The Steelers and their fans had to be shell-shocked. The Chiefs were rewarded by coming out on top at the end, a very encouraging portend of more to come during the season.

This year was plopped right in the middle of a bunch of crappy Chiefs years, and is one of the reasons it is ranked this high. Even when the Chiefs have won five or six Super Bowls in the next several years and justifiably push their way into this list, I really can't see how this season can ever drop out, no way. Even though we didn't make the playoffs, it is so memorable because it was a sublimely delightful oasis in a sea of Chiefs ineptitude.

They actually got to 8-4 after trouncing Seattle -- even hammering the champion Raiders twice along the way -- before they couldn't hold it. It was truly a miracle team. This team will forever be one of the most endearing in Chiefs' fans hearts.

And Number One among them... What do you think? Everyone has their own opinion, here's mine...

1.  1990  Key players: Steve DeBerg, Christian Okoye, Albert Lewis, Todd McNair, Stephone Paige, Derrick Thomas, John Alt, Mike Webster, Barry Word, Nick Lowery, Kevin Ross, Dan Saleaumua, Neil Smith. Featured game: Dec 9 vs Denver. Reigning AFC champion Denver was in a major rut -- they'd lost a bunch of games in a row, I don't remember how many. They came into Kansas City and John Elway encountered fans so loud he couldn't hear himself think. He whined about it, so the referee stopped play to tell the fans to be quiet. Yee-eah. 

In the 4th quarter when the game was still close at 24-20, DeBerg hit Robb Thomas on a crossing route and he didn't stop running, down the sideline for the game-clinching score.

For some reason I will never forget that play. It was just such an in-your-face-Broncos play. It was just such an it's-for-real,-now's-our-time kind of play. Phenomenally memorable.

For you see, there are a number of reasons this year gets the No. 1 nod from me.

It was the true launching point for the decade of dominance for the Chiefs. They owned the '90's. In the entire NFL only one other team, Buffalo, had a better overall regular season record than the Chiefs from 1990 to 1999 (yes, even better than Dallas' or San Francisco's record during that time). Now, the Chiefs playoff record was another story, and that requires a whole other story as to why -- which, sadly, we all know all too well. That didn't take away from the memorable nature of the great Chiefs play during that decade.

Steve DeBerg had a quarterback season for the ages, he really did. Bounced all over the place his entire career, maligned as a choker -- and much of that was justified, yes -- DeBerg was still a gamer, a hard-worker, a leader, a warrior, and you know what? When he was on he was a damn good passer. He was smart, accurate, and his play-action was some of the best you could ever see. In 1990, he put it all together and was the most important factor in giving the Chiefs their most memorable post Super Bowl IV season ever.

Yes there was Derrick Thomas and his ungodly ability to sack the quarterback. Yes there was the Nigerian Nightmare Christian Okoye still running over people. Yes there were several players of note that got us this season. All of them made this splendidly memorable, yes.

For one thing DeBerg had 23 touchdown passes to 4 interceptions. Damnnn. Do you know that this interception ratio -- 0.9% -- is the 3rd best ever? In all of NFL history? And even that isn't the greatest thing about him. He broke his pinky finger on his non-throwing hand in something like the fourth-to-last game of the season, something like that, and he never went out. He never missed a game. The backup Steve Pelluer attempted 5 passes all year. Those were the only non-DeBerg quarterback passes thrown all year. In the last game against Chicago, DeBerg was in there, the pathetic cast on his finger flapping about as he stormed down the field with his team to score points and win the game.

Do you remember this fun fact? That later Pittsburgh Steelers Super Bowl-winning head coach Bill Cowher was our defensive coordinator that year? And that later Indianapolis Colts Super Bowl-winning head coach Tony Dungy was our defensive backs coach that year? And that now Arizona Cardinals team-turning-around head coach Bruce Arians was our running backs coach that year?

The crushing thing was that insane loss to Miami in the playoffs when we were up 16-3 at the start of the 4th quarter. It was indeed just another of those ridiculous unluck losses the Chiefs are so famous for. The stupid things you can't blame anyone for, not even Steve DeBerg. That just-missed interception by Albert Lewis -- those kinds of things that are just killers.

I truly believe this team could've made it to the Super Bowl, I do. I honestly think with our strong talent, our youthful enthusiasm, our fine coaching, and the career year DeBerg was having, we honestly could've made it.

And I loved that team.

I don't know what you think. Your list may be different. A lot of it depends on the personal attachment to players, coaches, games, plays, events, experiences -- all perfectly valid.

In fact, my opinion itself has changed in the way I've looked at these seasons. When I made that list of best Chiefs seasons ever back in 2013, I had '81 above '90. I think I've just become more fond of '90 as more of a memorable one. Again, what are your picks?

Here're my honorable mentions, by the way. How about 1971 for those who remember that great season before the infamous overtime loss to Miami in the Divisional Game? There was also 1989 with the Christian Okoye explosiveness, 1991 when we beat the Raiders to finish the season and then beat them again the following week in the playoffs, 1994 when Joe Montana played in his final season, 1995 when we had another dominant 13-3 regular season, and 2005 when we went 10-6 but barely missed the playoffs.

I'm actually looking forward to being able to add some years to this list that include seasons with some thrilling playoff wins, some deep runs into through the postseason, even a Super Bowl victory or two!

Here's to expanding this list to add those seasons very soon!
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Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Chiefs 2016 Preview - Post-2015 Season Remarks II

When I was in the 5th grade my school's PE class had a softball league. I was elected a captain and got to pick players for my team in a draft, held in the main office with the other captains. Because I was in Little League and the other captains weren't, I knew I had an advantage. Even though I was a poor baseball player myself, I knew who the better players were.

Sure enough, "David's Demolishers" crushed everyone. My lineup was a murderer's row of hitters. We won every game we played by several runs, putting away each opponent early. Their defeats were so mercilessly demoralizing, the contests so tediously anticlimactic, that the PE teacher literally ended the season early.

I say this because, as I've shared in this blog before, my favorite NBA team is the Golden State Warriors. I've been a fan since my parents took me to Oracle back when it was simply the Oakland-Alameda Coliseum or something like that in 1971 to watch the Warriors play Lew Alcindor and the Milwaukee Bucks.

Yes, there was that very cool Rick Barry-led championship in '75, and yes, everyone reveled in the Chris Mullin-Tim Hardaway team of the late '80's-early '90's, but other than that, the Warriors had been traditionally one of the more pathetic doormats of professional basketball. I can honestly say I've been a fan though all of the worst of it, and believe me, there was so much of it. That was until the new Lacob-Gruber ownership radically transformed the Warriors leadership climate, and plugged in great management people to build a team around a healthy Stephen Curry.

Wow.

Stephen Curry hitting his patented teardrop jumper
The San Antonio-Golden State game last night was
the best regular-season matchup by combined 
winning percentage in NBA history
Last night the Warriors welcomed a historically great San Antonio Spurs team into Oracle, and they demolished them. I like that term because it makes me remember my 5th grade softball juggernaut, and because the term was notably used by this Slate writer in this very fun piece.

I share this too because Stephen Curry's favorite NFL team is the one from his home state, the Carolina Panthers. He is best buds with Cam Newton, who himself is arguably the best player in professional football. The Warriors are much like the Panthers, talented, well-coached, unrelenting, all those other kinds of adjectives that describe teams that pretty much demolish their opponents. Not only does each team have the best player in their respective leagues, but they each have arguably the best defensive player in their sports. The Warriors have uber-stopper Draymond Green, and the Panthers have uber-stuffer Luke Kuechly.

I also see the Warriors and Panthers as two teams the elitist media-darling-favoring ivory-tower-dwelling powers-that-be would rather not showcase. They're not from the larger or more favored markets -- I think the Powers had been juuust fine with the Warriors and Panthers being in the dregs of competition while the New York teams (Yankees, Giants, Rangers) and the Boston teams (Patriots, Red Sox, Celtics) and the Los Angeles teams (Dodgers, Lakers) and a few other darling teams (Packers, Steelers, Heat) were ruling the roost.

But see, when those Powers do the messing around with competitive integrity -- which I firmly believe they have particularly in NBA basketball when the Lakers and the Celtics have always been handed advantages to keep them winning so the league could stay afloat -- when they do that, they must still sustain some level of authentic integrity to keep the fans knowing their team has a chance.

Enter a team like the Warriors and a team like the Panthers, who've been so committed to excellence, and so dedicated to the hard work it takes from top to bottom, and so exceptionally skilled at making great teams with the tools they have, that they've actually outdistanced their competition by miles to get to the place where they are now. (The Powers must be going apoplectic with baseball's Kansas City Royals doing the same thing right now, but we'll save that for another discussion)

And I wonder. I really wonder how much the NBA is looking at the Warriors and going, "Damn, did we create a 12-headed monster. Is anyone going to keep paying attention when they run the table this year -- again. I mean, if the Spurs look like, as their own coach said, "Boys against men out there," then who can take them on? And if no one can, will fans stop watching?"

Oh yes Stephen Curry can still keep everyone's attention, he is so good. The NBA can still try to prop up some team who can beat them, and maybe they can! Golden State has yet to play the one team I think has the best shot, Oklahoma City. Don't worry, the NBA is doing just fine, and I don't think the fine play of the Warriors hasn't contributed to that in some measure no matter how dominant they've been.

Look at the Panthers. Sorry, but I don't think the Super Bowl contest is going to be anything other than a 49-10 Carolina blowout. I can't see for the life of me how the Broncos have the smallest of chances.

All I saw from the Broncos-Patriots game was the Broncos demonstrating that the Chiefs still could've beaten them in a playoff game. Very frustrating, but I accept it. There is a part of me that believes it was probably best we didn't get into the Super Bowl, because to be honest, I don't think the Chiefs would have a prayer against the Panthers, either.

But you know what else?

I like what John Dorsey can do, and I'm really looking forward to him blowing the lid off that elitist media-darling-favoring ivory-tower-dwelling powers-that-be crap and getting the Chiefs in the mix of being an AFC juggernaut.

Do you know one of my students asked me this question the other day. He asked, "So, what would you think if the Chiefs traded Jamaal Charles?" For a nanosecond I thought, "NO! No way!..." But then it dawned on me.

I realized I had a refreshing and profound confidence in a Chiefs front office that I'd never had before. That Clark has complete trust in the proven abilities of John and his team to make the right decisions. I actually found myself responding to the student, "Know what? If we can get a 1st round pick for him, I'm great with that."

Even so, I'm great with whatever Dorsey thinks is best. Please know I don't for a second want to trade Charles or think he's expendable or any of that.

But it's not my call. And I trust the people whose call it is because I know they'll make it in the very best interests of the Chiefs and their success on the football field.

Really, have you ever really had that feeling before? I admit I did a little with King Carl when he was in his prime. And for good reason -- I mean, the James Hasty acquisition, that alone, very sweet.

I don't think during the Peterson-Schottenheimer regime, however, we ever truly appreciated the gravity of not having a D&D quarterback, or D&D wide receivers for that matter! Even though, yes, we still don't have that quarterback today, we've seen that Alex Smith has the potential to get us to that elite place until we get that guy. And if not? Here's the thing.

I really like the confidence Chiefs fans can now very justifiably have in our leadership.

Already I know we've got to sign our free agents. Every year there are those guys. Yes we want to keep Eric Berry. Yes we want to keep Jeff Allen. Sure it'd be nice to keep Sean Smith too but it seems he's considered as good as gone. I've always worried what would happen if we lost this guy or that guy.

There is much less of that now, and it is so good. Again, we've got the leadership. They know what they're doing. They've got this. They'll stay the course courageously building the culture and deftly constructing the team for that major step to the next level.

Steady now, steady as she goes.

Is that great or what.
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(This weekend, wait for it! The top ten memorable Chiefs seasons in history, according to this writer! See if what I think matches up with what you think!)
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Sunday, January 24, 2016

Chiefs 2016 Preview - Post-2015 Season Remarks

I was planning to put up my final post, my picks for the ten most memorable seasons in Chiefs history, but I'm going to put that off for another week. Hey, football will still be going, so there may still be some interest. And besides, next week a few Chiefs will be playing in the Pro Bowl. Whee. Wish they were playing a week later.

Also, I just don't have time to get to it today, but I do want to say something briefly I just feel in my heart I need to say.

In my last post I'd dissected some of the key things that prevented us from winning a game I truly believe we should have won, and not only won, but won easily. Saying that right there is a key part of my remarks not just because I know the worst trolling detractors, and there are many of them, will screech "Agh, you dumbass Chiefs fan. None of those Chiefs playoff losses were because of anything other than the other team was better and your team was worse. Thuh end."

Well, I've got a few pretty veritable arguments to make my case, and while I've thought about making some here I'm not. I've shared many before (peruse the rest of this blog effort to see them, they're not hard to find), and I'm merely augmenting some other things about all that here. Again, I don't have the time for it all right now.

No, it's not as much those people, as I guess some of what disappoints me is that among the detractors are Chiefs fans themselves. "Dave, get over it, move on, it's just a game, who cares, there's always next year, don't wear it all over your sleeve so much." I'm not indicting all Chiefs fans, please. I do often speak with Chiefs fans who like to talk about it in whatever way provides the best therapy. It is why I do this blog, so we can all do the authentic commiseration. There is great value in that.

I also know that along with the idea that Winning is a curse is the corollary Losing is a blessing. I say that because I do very much want our team to do what it takes to succeed, to build the culture, to work hard to get it. Yes, I think they've been doing that, and that is wonderful, it really is.

But last week I'd mentioned something else we need, and we have just never had it, had that thing that a championship team needs to succeed.

The luck.

I mention it briefly here because some will very reasonably say, "Dave, there's nothing you can do about luck, you just need to be ready to have it happen with fine preparation and execution." Okay okay, I got that. And I emphasize that in many ways "the luck" is something you simply can't control.

But I also know every team needs it and I always wonder how much of the "unluck" are things that happen because they are arranged to happen? I'm torn. Yes, parts of me look at it as a conspiracy, I confess. I think about this recent professional tennis match fixing scandal, and believe I have good reason to be ashamed at the things the NFL could be doing to favor certain teams. There are dozens of past examples and present-day seemingly entrenched conditions like this idiotic fantasy football gaming that's going on that keep that big question mark in the back of my mind.

There are even more harrowing things I think about I'm not going to address right here, just not.

Teams needing the luck. What's the point here? Again it may be argued that luck shouldn't matter, that the pride of a team winning is in its ability. Thing is, who doesn't get excited when the breaks just go your team's way? Who doesn't watch because they want to see their team have amazingly fortuitous things happen on the football field you can gleefully shout about with your fellow fans? Who doesn't think somewhere in their soul, "Wow, somehow our team is the favored one!"

It's just, dammn, Chiefs fans have rarely been able to do that after Game No. 16. We've almost always had to endure watching it go the other way. Tipped pass in the last minute (finally what luck for the Chiefs now it's our turn to get that  splendid thrill!) only it drops in the hands of their receiver to end the game. And it is not just that but so many piled up things like that. Yeah, sorry, I just do too much mind-bending to try to figure it out, and think it may be because of too much stuff that I just can't share.

On the other hand is the final point, and one I've made before. Forgive me for belaboring it.

Why be a fan at all?

It is simply because there is something to be said for the Kansas City Chiefs and just being in the mix of what they stand for and what they're about. Yes I do take it waaay too seriously, but then, taking it seriously is a big part of what makes it meaningful.

Right now I'm still thrilled beyond belief we have Andy Reid and Alex Smith -- but on the other hand, there is that frustration, and it isn't even at all about what they did or didn't do on that last ultimately futile scoring drive! Smith's all-too-typical funk of not making pass connections in the 2nd quarter was the killer. Reid's refusal to find a more radical way to stop Brady when he had no running game was also the killer.

Jason Avant making the play of the game
In light of that I am going to stand by them because they can still win, as they've shown. They have a fine team around them, too many excellent contributions from them meriting much of the credit too. I'm already tremendously encouraged by having Clark Hunt and John Dorsey showing the leadership and skill to keep the team doing what they've been doing and keeping them working hard to do it even better.

And at some point, out of all the horrific losing motivating us to get to the next level -- that's the blessing -- we're going to make all this happen so the luck will come after all, in spite of everything thrown against us. In that sense, that's the time when we can hold our heads up high and know the luck came because of the hard work.

I like it.

So, on to the ten most memorable Chiefs seasons, just for fun, next week!
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Monday, January 18, 2016

Chiefs at Patriots - Divisional Playoff Game - Five Things

I can't neglect to say a few more things about Saturday's game, you know, the therapy and all. Even though I will emphasize right here and now, I do very much see bright light on the horizon for this Chiefs team, organization, and fanbase, there are things that need to be said for some measure of closure on the 2015 Chiefs season.

I will also add that in my final final remarks on the year, I am planning to post my own "Ten Most Memorable Chiefs Seasons" sometime within the week, looking at perhaps Saturday for that. And yes, the 2015 season is in there somewhere. Where do you think it should be? Visit me again soon to find out.

As for Saturday's affair, five things seem to be most prominent in Chiefs people's minds right now, and I'd like to touch on them. Actually, there're four that are on the minds of most, the fifth is one I don't see mentioned very much but I'd say there are a few who think about it a bit.

Please know that I looked at nothing about anything about the game once it was done. I read nothing, I heard nothing, I saw no postgame coverage from anywhere anyhow anyway. It is always too painful. If there is something of exceptional nature to look at, I will go ahead and find out what the story was with that. With that in mind my disclaimer is that if I say something here without knowing some important element that made things that way, please forgive me. I'm just looking purely at what I saw out on the field there on game day. This is the "Chiefs Game Today."

I do confess there was one exception to my Chiefs post-playoff game blackout, and that was that I did deliberately look at what happened with Justin Houston. That will be addressed in the appropriate item below.

Otherwise, I know nothing except what I think Chiefs people would right now be commiserating heavily about. Here're my five most significant takeaways.

One. Did Dezman Moses destroy our chances with the roughing the passer penalty? I agree this was a downright rotten incident that did not help our cause, I agree. But it was one play. The real issue that cost us will be addressed momentarily. If Moses' penalty was that critical, then the Chiefs leadership is also at fault for making sure our guys don't commit penalties like that. I must say it again, it is about the culture.

You can look no further than the Patriots to see how that all works, and how all that makes a team wildly successful. In fact, the Patriots are so good at it that they're accused of spying and deflating balls and all the rest of it. I do think Brady and Belichick should've been suspended for "Deflategate," but look at all that happened.

They are so good at working it that they got away with it.

I'm not saying it's right. I'm not saying they have the nicest kindest culture. I'm not saying it is okay to be a team of cheaters or anything like that.

I am saying that the Patriots are damn good with doing what it takes to win football games. I am saying that, like it or not, the Patriots are experts at pushing the envelope, and yes, perhaps even coming thaaat close to it all being criminal in some way. I'm not saying in any way that the Patriots are baaad people, indeed I am saying the Patriots are very good and work very hard to get their wins -- they did deserve to win today because they do what they do so well.

I have to tell you, I used to play city-league basketball when my knees held up. I would get so frustrated when the teams that won would do all kinds of nasty things -- fouls called against us that weren't, fouls not called for us that were -- but you know? It was the team's aura of invincibility that carried the day. The Patriots have that in spades, and have through the long Brady-Belichick era.

Should the Chiefs all learn to be mean ugly bastards so they can have things their way? No, but they do have to learn to carry themselves as if they know -- and please, I mean know -- they're going to win the game.

The Patriots had their own roughing the passer penalty that wasn't called. I know exactly why. It is, again, because they're experts at doing the things they need to do right up to the point when it is counterproductive. Sure they sometimes get penalties when they go past the line, sure. But they're so good at the craft that they can get away with it enough, and they make it so they have no more bad things happen than needed to get them where they need to be.

Here's to hoping the Chiefs soaked up all of that Patriots' Way in Saturday and have started working on it themselves.

Two. Did Knile Davis destroy our chances when he fumbled? Sure it was not good to have a turnover. But to Knile's credit, it was not a bad fumble, fumble-wise. He wasn't careless. He didn't just drop it -- much like Jamaal Charles did at the end of that second game of the season allowing Denver to pick it up and run it in for the game-winning touchdown. Here Davis was hammered by a Patriots defender in a vulnerable place for any ballcarrier while he was an inch from being down. It was just one of those unlucky turnovers that went against us.

Otherwise Davis played great. He ran exceptionally well considering Ware didn't play at all and West seemed to be getting banged up as the game wore on. The real question is, why do these kinds of unfortunate things always happen to the Chiefs in their playoff games, not to the other team? More on that in a minute.

But remember, everyone may pile on Davis for the fumble, but the thing that cost us more was having great drives into New England territory twice in the first half and coming up with zero points on each. Why put all the blame on Davis when the whole team failed to get the job done those two times?

Three. Was Alex Smith too much of a "game manager" during that last drive that simply consumed far too much time? No, no, again no. Several aspects of this need to be addressed.

The first is that this team should never have been in this situation. The offense played too well during the course of the game not to get the points earlier that would've made this academic.

The team is also built to do the grinding thing. To be honest with you, I wasn't as concerned about the time because Reid did have all his time-outs, and we did score with two minutes left. Yes, I do think Smith should've slinged that football more vigorously and had a more pronounced sense of urgency.

Thing is, Smith did do some amazing things during that drive. That one play when he bounced off four pass rushers and unloaded to Jason Avant, it was just a great play all around -- I mean, come on, Smith was actually doing wonderfully. The real problem with Smith was that he wasn't doing this earlier. One of the main reasons we didn't get those points is because Smith got into one of his typical Alex Smith-type funks when he just can't make a good throw. For a good chunk of the game early-on he was just pathetic making connections. That's the Alex Smith thing that cost us.

Then there is the coaching. Why didn't Andy Reid et al have ready and out there all the stuff the team needed with a good, what -- five, six minutes left? Again, why weren't the players already well-versed on what routes to run in what progressions -- bam, bam, bam, make the play then get to the line. If you're going to blame anyone, blame the coaches for not setting the team up for success in that circumstance. Really, was the Patriots defense that good? I don't think so. Give them credit, they played well, but we had these guys, we really did.

Where was Travis Kelce? Nowhere, that's on the coaches. Why didn't Jason Avant, who had the game of his life, get more in the mix? Aagh, coaches. Why didn't they have more faith in Knile Davis, a pretty good receiver, when that earlier fumble just wasn't really him -- why didn't he play a part in making things move along much more briskly? Errrgcchk, COACHES.

And one more facet that must be mentioned, one of those things that makes you crazy when putting all this together -- Smith misfiring and coaches being brain-dead -- is that our offensive line was playing splendidly. Their pass protection was solid, their run blocking was crisp. This offense had all the things in place for us to win!

Four. Here's the main thing that cost us. The main thing of all.

What in the world happened to our pass defense?

See, every time the Chiefs go into the playoffs, something they do really well just flat-out evaporates before our eyes. It is so typical: they play so well all year dominating in one area or another, and then come playoff game-time, and it's like we left it back in the locker room and couldn't find it. Remember that image of Thurman Thomas of the Bills looking for his helmet as that Super Bowl game was starting?

The Chiefs are always looking for something more important than a helmet, something they need every single playoff appearance, namely a critical facet of their game.

This time it was their pass defense. Oh my. Where was Marcus Peters? Where was Ron Parker? Where were our nickel safeties, who were out there almost the entire time because the Patriots could not run the dang football? Poor Eric Berry, yeah he foolishly bit on that touchdown pass from Brady to Gronkowski, but that play only made him the poster child for our complete ineptitude out there in the defensive backfield. Sean Smith was the only one who appeared to have a modestly decent game, but then to be fair to the Chiefs D-backs, and it must be said again, Tom Brady is a fantastic quarterback.

I must confess here, as I emphasized in my disclaimer, I didn't see everything. To the D-backs' credit, there're things those D-backs may have been doing that were terrific -- after all Brady did only get two touchdown passes, when in some playoff games he gets four or five. The Chiefs D-backs actually had to be doing something right for that to happen. I actually thought, wow, we held the Pats to 27 points total. That's actually not bad.

But still. Puh-lease. Once againfor emphasis:

The Patriots were not running the football.

In fact, the Patriots were almost screaming at the Chiefs, "Look! Look here! Just so you know: WE'RE NOT GOING TO RUN THE FOOTBALL. In fact, we might as well tell you: WE CAN'T RUN THE FOOTBALL FOR SHIT. Here watch: [They try a running play] See? See how miserable we are at it? I know! Pathetic! And just so you know we're not lying, here's a running play where we're really trying hard to get yardage on the ground. Go ahead and do your least to tackle us, go ahead! That'll prove it to you. Here goes. [They try another one that fails] See? So please you might as well know that all we're going to do is PASS THE FOOTBALL, THAT'S IT, okay?!"

Which means that, as much as you want to blame Dezman and Knile and Alex and Eric and whoever else you want, this one again is on the coaches. Once again, forgive me...

EVEN WITH TOM BRADY THERE IS NO WAY AN NFL TEAM SHOULD HAVE BEEN ABLE TO WIN A PLAYOFF GAME WITHOUT RUNNING THE FOOTBALL.

And here's the thing. The only way they could've been successful with the run is if we made the decision to let them win the game with the running game, but not with Tom Brady. That's just the tremendously bewildering thing about our coaching. It was apparent this just did not cross their minds.

Why didn't they start rushing three? Why didn't they find a way to get our D-backs on track?  Why didn't they try something a bit more radical to shake up Tom Brady? I mean they did blitz a bit at first but then they stopped cold and seemed to make everything predictable for him, and that just gives him even more invincible superhero powers! Come on, blitz as many as nine once or twice! Why not?! Then rush only two! Whuh, that's confusing! Shift guys around, in coverage! Mix up the rush package! You may tell me they tried it, but I sure didn't see it and if they did, they did nothing to make it work like they had before.

But then, that's the other facet of this that is so aggravating, the pass rush. It too was invisible. That's the Justin Houston factor, and it was huge. What for cryin' out loud was he doing not in the game?

You know, way back after the Bills game I was thinking, okay, he got leg-whipped, got his knee messed up, went out, they said it wasn't a big deal, but like you I'm sure: I wondered. I wondered yet hoped, hoped that all these weeks of just resting it and recuperating and getting it healthy and all the rest of it would be the ticket.

Not.

He went into the Texans game and even though he said he was just rusty, I think he messed it up more. And I think he did meet with Dr. Andrews because it was worse than we thought. Remember all that? "He's going to see Dr. Andrews it must be worse!" They then assured us, "No, no, no, it's just a precaution. Everything's fine."

Well, everything wasn't fine. That injury really cost us, because he wasn't in there in this game when we really needed him to put pressure on Brady. Even if it was one sack or one pass pressure or something that keeps them from getting one of their touchdowns means we win this game.

Turns out the excuse was that he was bothered by the knee brace. Whuh? Sorry, but this is one of the most exasperating things of all. Please Chiefs official people, just level with us. Did you keep all this from us, try to keep it secret somehow to try to psych out the Patriots? Ergh, you don't realize they can't be psyched out, they're too above that. And if he could play even though the knee brace annoyed him, why didn't he get out there?

I believe missing Houston was the biggest killer of them all. This all seems like I'm blaming Justin and the Chiefs -- nothing could be farther from the truth. If anything I'm just pointing out his value to this team. I like that he and the Chiefs wanted him to play in the worst way, and I agree it is stupid to sacrifice his health when he's not able to contribute as he truly could. I'm great with that, and it'll be good when he can get healthy and ready for next year.

Meanwhile Tamba was invisible, and I wonder if his career is over. Dee Ford made one fine play to get into Brady's face, but by then it was a done deal, the Patriots were comfortably ahead.

As I continue to write all this, I still come around to that one thing that just makes me shake my head every time this happens.

Thing No. 5 on this list. Here it is.

Five. That wretched, crappy, ugly, shitty, schmegmalous unluck.

I do have to begin by saying that I know every year 11 of 12 teams go home without a ring, and I'm sure the fans of those teams just scream about their wretched unluck, too.

But the Chiefs are different. They just are. And there is proof.

This now makes nine of the 18 playoff games we've had since the merger games that, by my own humble estimation, we lost when we clearly should've won.

Please, I'm great with seeing a game we lost when we truly should've lost. Oh I'm disappointed, but I understand, that's fine. Those games, by the way, were Jets '86 (season), Bills '91, Bills '93, Colts '06, and Ravens '10. There're five of the 18.

I'm very great with the games we won when we should've won, that's of course very very great. Those are all four of our wins, Raiders '91, Steelers '93, Oilers '93, and Texans '15. I know some may argue against any one or two of those being games we should've won and not them, but I truly think I have a good case for each. I'd blogged on these before with my arguments, and I think they're good ones. Anyway, that's four more for nine.

Needless to say, then, there are no games I think we should've lost but won... ::sigh::...

Then there are the games we should've won but lost. ::Deep breath:: They are Dolphins '71 Dolphins '90 Chargers '92 Dolphins '94 Colts '95 Broncos '97 Colts '03 Colts '13 Patriots '15.

Thar ya go.

Nine.

I know you may ferociously point at me and screech "Sour grapes! Sour grapes!" Okay, go ahead, I can take it. Go. Go ahead. Hmm-hmm-hmm-mmm... Finished?

Okay, you may say I'm bleating sour grapes regarding a couple of those games you may select and point out, in your estimation, "Nope, they should've won," and I do understand your arguments. And believe me, I know just about all the arguments, trust me. Some parts of them are valid, I confess. But even if I concede you two or three, this is still an inglorious panoply of the most abysmal unluck on the football field.

We can just look at the close scores of all the games. Let's do that, simply as a preface to the main point I want to make in this.

Games decided by a touchdown or less, by scores of seven points or less:

Chiefs wins - Raiders '91 (4 points), Steelers '93 (3). Tha's it.

Chiefs losses (brace yourself) - Dolphins '71 (3), Dolphins '90 (1), Colts '95 (3), Broncos '97 (4), Colts '93 (7), Colts '13 (1), Patriots '15 (7).

I agree most NFL games are close affairs, I got that. But the things that happen to the Chiefs that put them on the losing side of all these games are things you can point out and go, "Guh?" and it happens so often it just makes your stomach turn. I've blogged about many of them already, and I'm sorry but all I just shared above is just more evidence.

When this game against the Patriots was well on its way, towards the end of the first quarter or so, and I was watching our offense move the ball surprisingly well and beholding the Patriots inexplicably refusing to run the football, I actually thought, This game is ours. We will win this game.

But, nnmffnmf, sure enough, way back deep in the back of my mind was the thought about the unluck. I'm hearby calling it that because I'm tired of even calling it "the curse." No more of that. I don't even want to give it that credibility. (Another reason has to do with my last remarks here, in a moment...)

It is still a profound unluck just the same, and I knew the only thing that could deny us was that. Everything lined up for a Chiefs win, except there was that.

For you see, a team winning a playoff game simply must have at least some luck if it hopes to be successful, especially teams that are reasonably evenly matched. In the NFL both teams are always very talented, both teams have worked very hard to get where they are. Most games do turn on the lucky things that happen for one team or the other. This is often why considering the outcome of a game between two fine teams, when asked who's going to win the answer is invariably, "It'll be decided by turnovers."

This year the Chiefs did well with the turnover game. They won games being opportunistic, getting the turnover edge, having a tough swarming defense against both the run and pass. Once again, where was that in this game? How does it vanish so easily once we get into the playoffs? Happens over and over and over again.

Point belabored: Chiefs fans knew all too well what happens in a close playoff game. Over and over and over again, we simply can't get that critical break to gives us a delightful clutch win. And in most of those games it is the other team that gets it. ::Sigh:: after :: Sigh:: after ::Sigh:: The New England game was no different.

The following play is the epitome of this destitution at work. It says everything.

The Patriots had a 2nd down at midfield, with just under two minutes left. We had just scored to make it 27-20, and we had all our timeouts so we could burn them all and force them to give us the ball back, if we could stop them. Remember, they simply could not run the football. On 1st down they did, and got stopped. 1st called timeout.

Now, if we stopped them twice more, we get the ball with about a minute-and-a-half left. That's something, not much, I know. Thing is, that's not the unluck thing, that's just being stuck deep in your own end with no timeouts and needing a touchdown. Happens all the time, okay.

No, the unluck thing had to do with what happened on 2nd down. Do you remember?

Brady passed the football. And guess what.

It was tipped. Tipped high in the air right behind the receiver no less. AND GUESS WHAT?

Marcus Peters picked it and ran it back for the game-tying touchdown!

NOT.

It was caught by another of their receivers for the 1st down that sealed the win.

Yet another game with grief that causes the most violent head-shaking any fan could ever have. I'm pretty sure those days we lost playoff games we should've won by a touchdown or less are the times nearby hospitals had the highest incidences of neck injury treatments, I am sure of it. If they looked it up they'd find it happened on those nine dates in January. Somebody oughtta look into that, seriously.

Maybe with this year's overload the hospitals will.

You see, if the Chiefs actually had the luck, that would've been the play right there. 97% of the time that pass gets picked, and if anything we get the ball with an offense that, while it took its time the last time, still just got a hard fought touchdown to get within a single score. And even then, even if we only got down to midfield after a fortuitous interception, why couldn't we get a hail-mary pass to tie it, then get the game-winner sometime in overtime? The extraordinarily always-lucky Packers got a last second game-tying hail-mary touchdown against a far-superior Cardinals in the game that followed the Chiefs game, and even though they didn't win the game, still...

Ultimately, though, there is nothing the Chiefs can do about the unluck thing except do what they're doing, and it is for that reason I am still thrilled with our efforts this year. Yes, right now is the wailing and mourning and writing-all-this-for-therapy time.

I'd like to think the Chiefs saw some stuff out there at the Patriots place that will give them encouragement for doing the things they need to do to be at a point where you could just practically will yourself wins like the Patriots can. It is a measure of Got-It that comes with staying the course, building on the culture, constructing an exceptionally quality football team top-to-bottom so the unluck becomes incapable of hurting you.

I really think we're doing that, I really do. That's why I look forward to this offseason when I can more fully appreciate what we did and where we're going to be next year.
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Saturday, January 16, 2016

Chiefs at Patriots - Divisional Playoff Game

I can't say that I'm not disappointed, but I am way less disappointed than I should be. I'm also way less disappointed than I've been for any other playoff loss, really. It isn't even that we weren't in this game, because we were. I'm proud of these Chiefs for that, really.

I'm far less disappointed because for the first time in a long time, I feel comfortable with where the Chiefs are going. They're moving boldly on the "steadiness" Clark wants, with all the pieces being put deftly in place for more playoff success. Look at the Patriots. More power to them, they just got into their fifth straight AFC championship game.

One of the key distinctions between the two teams was in the steadiness, but it had to do with the difference in the two team's steadiness on the field. The Chiefs matched up perfectly with the Patriots, and quite frankly, should have won this game.

But there were too many "unsteady" things the Chiefs did. Many will point to the Knile Davis fumble, but earlier there were two other strong drives into New England territory that netted us zero points. There was the miserable clock management on the last drive. There were the dropped interceptions and the interceptions we couldn't get, like that one at the very end that bounced UP ------ and right into the hands of their receiver for a 1st down we couldn't let them get.

There was Kelce stumbling and then barely not being able to reach and grab Smith's pass that would've been a touchdown we needed and didn't get. There was Wilson snatching that ball at the five then not sprinting enough to get us into the end zone, costing us valuable time with a scant few minutes left in the game. Then back in the first half there was the fumble by the Patriots receiver not called that no one saw well enough for the Chiefs to challenge in order to keep the Patriots from scoring a touchdown a couple plays later.

That's how the Patriots beat you. They just play smarter and luckier, really, that's it.

I mean, the Patriots did not run the ball. They did, maybe a half-a-dozen times, for a total of 10 yards or something. All they did was pass, yet Tom Brady is such a phenomenal quarterback that he just carved us up without needing any running game whatsoever. Give the guy credit.

And give us credit for seeing what happened with all this and...

Being ready for it next year.

For you see, we hadn't really seen a quarterback of Brady's caliber all year long. I really knew this would be an issue. The only two who were really anything -- and by that I mean, really anything, I mean Super Bowl terrific-anything -- were Aaron Rodgers and Andy Dalton, and they carved us up pretty good too.

So yeah, we'll be working on that next year, I'm confident about that.

Still, I think we could've beaten Brady if we had Justin Houston out there and Tamba Hali in fine form. Houston didn't even take the field and Hali was a non-factor. It is indeed disappointing to hear all about the many injuries, the Patriots' Gronkowski and Edelman and all those guys supposedly hobbling, yet they played great, while our injured guys didn't make a dent. It was nice to see Maclin out there, but he packed it in halfway into the game.

His replacement, though, Jason Avant. Have to give the big shout-out to him. What a game. Every time we needed a big catch he made it. His last one was a laid-out grab on 4th and 8 to keep our last drive alive! Very exciting!

As it is, the Patriots now join the old AFC East group of teams -- Colts, Dolphins, Bills, Jets, and Patriots -- who just have it in for Kansas City in the playoffs. We're now 0-11 against them all since we won the Super Bowl on January 11 1970. Yes, I'm thrilled we finally got our playoff win last week. Now we've got to work on this dreck.

Thing is, I like what we've got. I like that this is a Chiefs team that is poised to take all this in and learn from it, to see what this Patriots team does to win playoff games, and then go out there

And do the same thing.

Steadiness on the field, I'm great with that. I'm great with the deeper run through the playoffs this young and soon to be much-more-experienced team will take next year.

As for now, I'm done blogging. I may squeeze in an extra postseason post with a few more things to note I didn't get to here. Maybe sometime this week, we'll see. I may add a postseason review with something neat -- I have been thinking about putting together one with our ten most memorable seasons. And you know what?

2015 was definitely one of them.
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Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Chiefs Playoff Win - The Take, Part Five

The final post until Divisional Playoff Game action Saturday against the New England Patriots HOW GREAT IS THAT Kansas City Chiefs fans! (Here's the first of this set in case you want to start there.)

25-0. I really like Jon Gruden. He's the former Super Bowl winning coach (with the Buccaneers in 2002) who is now the color guy in ESPN's announcing team. He's just so exuberant and goofy, kind of today's John Madden.

At one point in the Texans game, sometime during the second half when we had a comfortable lead, he went off on how unbelievable the Chiefs were playing and how obscure some of their players were.

"Where did the Chiefs get these guys?" you know, that kind of thing. "Charcandrick West, where'd he come from? Look at this guy, and that guy [he names names] Who are these guys? And look at this -- check out this offensive line. They've got this guy playing here and that guy playing over there [more specific names mentioned] and they're playing terrific football."

As I beamed with pride for our beloved team, being celebrated so enthusiastically there by the top ESPN color guy, I thought of a couple things. Did you think these things?

That we're just sooo obscure and that its just sooo unbelievable that this piddly little team from some podunk town in some benighted midwestern place somewhere nobody else cares about would actually be playing truly exceptional, genuinely quality football. Huh, who'da thunk...

Should I be insulted? Even more, isn't this a plain indication that the Chiefs are simply never really considered seriously, especially by the eastern media snobbery who seem to take such affront that any team not a New York or Boston or Washington team would deign to be remotely competitive in a major professional team sports league?

My two sons (one is in college on winter break and the other works nights) told me two days after the game they spent two hours just chillin' watching Monday morning quarterback stuff on whatever sports station it was. They told me there was a ton of coverage about the all the other playoff games yet a scant couple of minutes on the Chiefs win. In fact, when the station boasted about their brief preview of the Chiefs-Patriots game, they ended up spending 90% of it on how great the Patriots were. It was so aggravating that they ditched the whole thing and just played video games.

Now I know two hours is not the most thorough sample, but it is indicative enough.

Whuh?

I know whuh.


It's because it's the Chiefs, "that obscure team from some podunk town..." well, you know the rest of their story. Never mind that the Chiefs have played miraculously this season, as we all know. Never mind that the rich character of the players in the midst of adversity (think Eric Berry, think Alex Smith, think a dozen other guys we could mention) should be justifiably showcased. Never mind that their 30-0 win deserved as much attention as the unseemly slugfest in Cincinnati, if not merely because no team has achieved a road playoff shutout since 1988.

I wonder what to think. I could think, as I usually do, that we're getting shafted, and think, "Hey, media blowhards, give the Chiefs a little cred!"

Or, how about I just ride with it?

How about we just let people be surprised by our accomplishments, simply because they've never seen us before? I'm great with that. It's always neat to find something new and exciting, and maybe people being introduced to the Chiefs this way will be the thing that gets us the most meaningful cred. And really, we've already got it whether or not people notice, so who cares?

The not-so-great thing has to do with the stuff that the powers-that-be/media-darling-exploiters do to manipulate things in their favor. Here's what I heard one sports item somewhere (I forget where) declare...

26-0. "Will we see one more Brady-vs-Manning matchup?"

Sorry, but this stuff is criminal. Sure it's all entertainment. Sure they're trying to draw the viewers. I get that. And yes I know they would have to go out of their way to unfairly mess with competitive integrity to make something like that happen, and no matter how much they try, it is hard to do. Yes, I'm afraid I do give them the benefit of the doubt -- they have to understand that to deliberately work a game to acquire some kind of outcome is indeed ultimately going to drive people from the game because they know it isn't all on the up-and-up.

I mean, really, why should I root for the Chiefs if I know the system has stacked it all against us? I do indeed stay and cheer on the Chiefs because I know there is enough there to keep the integrity intact. Do officials make calls that favor the home team or the darling teams? Yes, they do, it's been proven they do. (Check out the book Scorecasting for more.) Is it done with diabolically prearranged intentions? I don't think so, but sometimes I've had my doubts.

The last time we had a Divisional Playoff Game was 2003 against the Colts. But the time before that? Know when that was? 1997 season, against Denver. We all know so well how that went. More on that after Saturday if it merits mention.

For now I should add that I still kind of keep my Chiefs rooting interest healthy because I feel that the Chiefs are better served when they know what they're up against and employ the best football play to beat it. That's a lot of what makes this special. (See the video at the end of the third post in this series. It says everything.)

So yeah, we're not only facing the Patriots on Saturday, but we're facing all the east coast favoring biased media manipulation crap that goes with it. It will take a Herculean effort to take on that.

Our Chiefs have it to get it done.

27-0. One brief mention must be made of this, something that made me especially proud.

Seeing Clark Hunt up in the booth at the Texans stadium. It was at a point when the Chiefs were comfortably ahead, and they showed that gratuitous shot from every playoff game of the owners, enjoying things up there in their boxes. You know, you always see the Robert Krafts and Dan Rooneys and Jerry Joneses up there, all the time.

Wow. To see Clark there, finally, on the left half of the screen with the Texans owner on the right, it was just neat. I do firmly believe a lot of the Chiefs success right now is because of him, and it was good to see him get a good six seconds of recognition.

28-0. Now, to the facet of the game that gets its share of mentions, but not like this one.

Special teams.

When they talked about how the Chiefs won with "three phase" football, sure there's offense and defense, but damn.

Yes we need good play from the offense. Yes we need good play from the defense. Got all that. They get their proper respect, yes, it's all good.

But I'm going to go ahead and say it, say something that may be a bit radical.

This Chiefs special teams unit controls the game.

Do you know what I'm saying when I say that? They control the game. They actually take the reigns of the entire rhythm of the game's progression, and put it in a stranglehold that fully favors the Chiefs.

One of the Chiefs main weapons is field position, and you barely hear a thing about that. But do you notice that more times than not the opponent's offense is starting drives deep inside their 20, while the Chiefs are starting drives around their 30 or 40? It happens all the time. The most instrumental reason that happens is our special teams.

One, Dustin Colquitt. I've said time and time again how valuable this guy is. On Saturday he looked to be in his standard future Hall-of-Fame punter form -- yes, I think the guy should be in the Hall, though punters, regrettably, are rarely considered. He was pinning the Texans back deep at their end every time he punted (which wasn't much in this game, granted) and that gives the defense that much more of an edge.

Two, Knile Davis. Now I mention his name, but the entire kick return team's names should be here because they opened a lane as wide as the Grand Canyon for him to sprint through on the opening kickoff. Know how many times they returned a kick on Saturday? Easy question. Answer, one. Thing is, when they do, they run it out. I like that. Any time a team gets a kick they can even remotely run back, they should. Don't down it in the end zone! You're not even trying when you do that! The Chiefs run it out, that's awesome.

Three, Cairo Santos. We already mentioned the field goals, but want to know something amazing? When Andy Reid gave his official post game remarks Saturday, he made mention of a single Chiefs player, then he fielded questions. Know who it was?

Cairo Santos. Guh? He he was mentioned because on the seven kickoffs we had, Santos got a touchback on every single one. 7-for-7. Reid knows the value of that field position edge, and Santos got us that edge every single time.

Not only do we have an incisive, grinding offense led by a smart, agile quarterback, not only do we have a defense that smothers the passing game and deftly contains the run, but we have a special teams unit that controls the game.

Very nice.

29-0. It's about time we got a playoff win after having a season in which the Chiefs sent a bunch of guys to the Pro-Bowl. This year it was Justin and Tamba and Eric and Marcus and Travis. Alex and D.J. were named alternates. Sean and Dontari and Jeremy should've been named. There is just no way a team that gets that many guys into the Pro Bowl can go another year without winning in the playoffs, no way.

Remember when the Kansas City Royals had almost every member of its team voted to the major league baseball All-Star Game this past summer? Everyone went apoplectic. Their All-Star Game is in the middle of the year. Well, turns out the team won the World Series in October, if you didn't notice.

I mention the Royals because few teams I've ever witnessed play baseball had as much Got-It as those guys did. Sure I'm biased, okay. But they still had record levels of Got-It.

Remember when the Chiefs won the first game of their current 11-game winning streak? Against the Steelers at Arrowhead on that sunny October 25 day? The Royals had just won the American League pennant, and guess what.

Several players came to the game.

Just want to thank you, Royals, for giving us that extra measure of Got-It.

It's awesome to keep enjoying it deep into January.


30-0. This has been fun. Blogging like crazy about this team. Just sharing with everyone the joy of  riding the arrowhead pride wave.

Again, the focus this year is the joy. The joy of seeing these guys go to the mat with devotion and dedication, soaring out of the ashes of despair, of facing death in the face as Eric Berry did. To go to battle with the thoughts and prayers in all of our hearts for people like De'Anthony Thomas, here's to hoping things are well with him.

Oh I do so want to watch the Chiefs beat the Patriots on Saturday, don't get me wrong. But as of now we're one of the best teams in the AFC, holding our own among the premier teams of this football era -- Denver, New England, Pittsburgh -- how much prouder can you be?

Just seeing them take the field on Saturday...

What pride we will feel.

Except, the greatest thing...

They're not done.

The Chiefs players and coaches, they've got unfinished business.

Awesome.
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Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Chiefs Playoff Win - The Take, Part Four

Whew! This is hard, blogging like crazy about something you're impassioned about. I'd love to post Chiefs things all the time -- when we win a playoff game, it's maniacal! I've got family obligations pulling me in one direction (a wonderful thing actually!), then I've got work obligations pulling me in another direction -- I don't have time! I think I'm being reminded somehow that I've got to respect the sports celibacy, which, yes, I do manage to sustain for long periods of time.

But dang.

The baseball Royals are winning and are champions. The basketball Warriors are winning and are champions. Now the Chiefs are making their run. It is the golden age for my favorite professional sports teams -- I'm overwhelmed, but yes, in a very good way!

So right now I do have a few minutes. I get to pound out more of the 30-0 score items from Saturday. Again, in no particular order, with the exception of shifting things around a bit for a little continuity. Other than that, it's freestyle placement, which means really, you can just start here and scroll to gorge on all things Postseason Chiefs. (Otherwise, here's Part One, then Part Two, then Part Three.)

On with more of 30-0...

18-0. I thought I'd get to some items related to the Texans game itself. Situational issues, really, about how we did in particular situations.

On defense there were a couple of times the Texans had 3rd and 10 and I was just hoping hoping hoping we could stop them. I really think I had nightmarish visions of the 2003 season's Wild-Card game when we never stopped the Colts on 3rd and long, and that truly cost us. Today I didn't have to worry.

Besides the four interceptions, on these particular 3rd-and-10 situations I made note of, Eric Berry had a terrific pass defense on one, and Husain Abdullah had one on the other. Needless to say, with the four picks, our pass defense was in fine form, and that's encouraging. We've got Tom Brady on Saturday.

The offense was more of a concern, when a number of times we had 3rd and short and failed. A couple of times we unimaginatively ran the ball on the short side of the field and got stuffed. The first two field goals off those failures were both virtual carbon-copy 49-yarders that Cairo Santos hit splendidly.

19-0. Those field goals. To a large extent they were more instrumental in demoralizing the Texans than I think people have felt they were. Some say the game was over when Davis got us the kick return TD 11 seconds in. But when Santos kept hitting those long field goals, it whittled away the Texans morale considering how well we were playing on defense.

You must know that it reminded me of Jan Stenarud's 48-yard field goal against the Vikings, a first-score kick that set the tone for Super Bowl IV. The Vikings realized that the Chiefs only had to move the ball to mid-field and they'd score -- remember, the goal posts were on the goal line back then.

BTW, there is another critically important note about our special teams, but that is reserved for a 30-0 score bullet point of its own. Stay tuned!

20-0. What is happening with Jeremy Maclin? Yes, everyone held their breath when he went down. We all thought the worst, that his ACL was gone.

Well how about that: ACL intact. He does have an ankle sprain, and they're saying he may be able to go Saturday. We could definitely use him, but I think we'll be fine if he's not out there. Chris Conley has been accelerating his mastery of the system, and Frankie Hammond and Jason Avant are capable. We have good receiving backs in West and Davis also.

To be honest with you, the injury situation of Justin Houston and Tamba Hali is of more concern to me. Houston appeared to wrench his knee at one point and we were all gasping watching him limp off the field. Sure he returned, sure he said he was rusty, but I'm wondering if he's really 100%. I mean yeah, he isn't 100%, we know that, but we'll need him to be less rusty on Saturday.

21-0. The play that gave me the first major spark in my heart that we were going to win this game came when the Texans had the ball on our two-yard line and -- no, it wasn't when their QB threw the interception to Josh Mauga, it was the play before that, do you remember what it was? -- the Texans had the ball on our two-yard line and...

J.J. Watt came in to run the wildcat. It wasn't even that he was ruthlessly stuffed at the line, but that the Texans were trying this at all. Here they are down 13-0, and they brashly try to pan off this play as worth a dime. They couldn't utilize their well-oiled regular offensive weapons, so they have to try this gimmick. As the following play demonstrated, even their well-oiled machinery was pretty much conked out.

22-0. The whole approach to all of this was, and continues to be, so different than during that first week of January, 2014. Remember that? Remember the abject despondency? Even before that game I was screaming about how much we deserved to beat the Colts. It was only when I came to that moment of acceptance afterwards did any of this truly mean something. I don't know if that means anything to you. If you are an old grizzled Chiefs fans like I am, I think it does.

Here's the link to the post I made back then about the acceptance, and then there is this final post concluding with a photograph I made of the stunning Chiefs red sky the morning of Tuesday the 7th. Yes each post still begins with the viscerally scorching attempts to figure it all out, but that's what we do. That's what we all do with everything that is meaningful in life. Nothing wrong with that.

The key though is the acceptance.

This year it was different, the whole approach to this game was just different. After work this past Friday, the afternoon before the Texans game, I'd actually picked up a philosophy book at the library and the first quote in the thing was from Epicurus: "Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for." Now it wasn't as if I hadn't adopted this into my psyche for all this, but this merely confirmed it. It was nice, and so profoundly relevant to Chiefs anything.

They're in the playoffs for cryin' out loud -- how awesome is that. Just revel in it.

I then went out on my regular Friday afternoon walk, my mind filled with the acceptance project and prayers filled with joy about what is meant to be. Along the way even happened to hear Incubus' Drive on the radio: "Whatever tomorrow brings I'll be there, with open arms and open eyes..."

While walking I looked up and saw this sunset. It was as if Eric Berry's arrow shot into the sky lit it up with that deep cherry Chiefs red.

Later that night went for more walking, through my Beats headphones listening to Michael Manring's Welcoming -- absolutely transcendent music. Along with other songs from that classic Windham Hill collection, I also had streaming through my soul the last words of the 16th Psalm, "You will make known to me the path of life; You will fill me with joy in Your presence, with eternal pleasures in Your right hand."

Oh my, has God blessed us with Chiefs winning kinds of things.

It's good to just soak it up, right now, whatever happens later.

23-0. Nkay, on to the later. "No arriving allowed," I've also been reminding myself. "Further up and further in" as C.S. Lewis writes in The Last Battle of the rapturous sprinting toward the sublime.

On to face New England.

Because I do enjoy browsing the historical perspective with this blog, I can't neglect to bring up our postseason success against AFC East teams. Remember?

Not good.

Losses to Miami in '71, '90, and '94. Losses to Buffalo in '91 and '93. Loss to New York in '86. Make it the old AFC East throwing the Colts in with them and since Super Bowl IV we're 0-10 against the entire bunch.

Notice, however, which team is missing from this murderer's row?

Yeah, New England. We've never once faced the Patriots in the playoffs through all the years of the 50+ years of AFL-AFC football.

Many are saying we match up well against them. Sweet. But here are my brief Patriots-oriented concerns.

First, Bill Belichick is an expert at exploiting weaknesses and doing insanely sneaky things that work. There's a reason everybody is suspicious of them, what with deflategate and spygate and all that. He knows how to get into his opponent's heads, and he is a genius at getting away with it. Yes he's a good coach in his own right, but he has the psych game down. It isn't even just the off-the-field whack jobs he does, it's the on-the-field ones too, opportunely pulling out of his hat surprise tactics and edgy stuff that just works.

Second, the Patriots can attack a team quickly and mercilessly, and I'm kind of nervous about what will happen if the Chiefs get behind by a couple touchdowns. I don't know, but I really can't remember a time all season when we were behind by much except for the Green Bay and Cincinnati games, and it was like plowing a planet through drying concrete trying to get back into those suckers. Every single other game we were within reach or we were just flat-out firmly ahead for by however much and just grinded it.

Third, it should be a close game, and if it is, I'm also nervous about those stupid things returning to haunt the Chiefs that can happen in a close one. Tom Brady is flat-out phenomenal working things to get a close win late.

The things the Chiefs have going for them? To wit...

24-0. One of the obvious beat-downs against the Texans was in the battle for trench territory.

The Chiefs utterly dominated. On both sides of the football.

Games are indeed won by the team who wins at the line.

On offense it wasn't as pronounced as we struggled to run the football like we should. West made decent yardage, Ware a bit better. But considering the O-line was again racked with injuries -- Morse was already out with the concussion and Duvernay-Tardif went out with a concussion early in the game, we actually did really well. Tackle Jah Reid came in nursing his own injury and played guard, and did extraordinarily well considering. Here's to hoping Andy Reid continues spreading his O-line guru wisdom all over this crew.

On defense it wasn't even funny. The sacks, the pressure -- the Chiefs D-line is huge and quick and smart and our All-Pro edge guys are getting healthy -- this is the real key to beating New England. There were a number of plays Dontari Poe made that have been justly awarded glowing commentary, but one I think about was when he was blatantly held bulling his way right up the gut into the face of the quarterback, and a penalty flag flew. Good, they called it. But the call was holding against one of our D-backs. The officials had to have known the only way the Texans would even have a chance is if they hit the Chiefs with the ticky-tac fouls. And they did so more than once.

See, this is the key. When the New York Giants inexplicably won the Super Bowl in 2011 from a 9-7 regular season record, I thought, "That's inexplicable!" That was until I took a closer look at what they had and how they played in the playoffs. Turned out to be very 'splicable.

And those three key things are things the Chiefs have in spades right now.

1. A versatile head coach in Andy Reid.
2. A resourceful quarterback in Alex Smith.
3. A ferocious pass rush in Justin Houston et al.

That's what'll get us the W this Saturday.

Oh, and know what team the Giants defeated that January day in 2012? Remember?

The Patriots.

A handful of neat items to come in this blog post series! I just have to get to it tomorrow! See you then!
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