Unfortunately, that's not what happened.
On second and goal from the eight, a throw to Eddie Kennison was dropped by the much maligned receiver, and as he looked down and bowed his head to try and collect the ball, Denver safety John Lynch nailed him. Arms out. Head down. Had Kennison not ducked as he dropped the ball, Lynch's helmet would have hit him square in the chest.
And then the flag came out. Suddenly it's first and goal at the four. One play later, the Chiefs runaway freight train of a tailback, Larry Johnson, ran in for a score. Game, Kansas City.
I can't actually say that the bad call cost us the game, especially when there were blatant holding penalties by the Chiefs linemen all day long, and especially egregious offender Tony Gonzales got off without so much as a finger shaking despite the highlights of him holding guys on numerous occasions. I can't actually say that we lost because of the officials. I can't actually say that the Chiefs are a better team, and I can't actually say that the home-field advantage was that significant.
What I can say is that Willie Roaf is the best offensive tackle in the game.
I can say that the Chiefs wanted it more.
But I can also say that I'm not worried. Through the course of a season, teams lose games and they become very big reminders that we don't know it all. We lost to a good Chiefs team, yes. But we lost because we ran out of time, not because they're a better squad. I still think this Broncos team is the only one that can hang with Peyton and the Colts for four quarters and live to tell about it. I still think this Broncos team is the second-or-third best in the NFL.
I've been down this road before. My Broncos (and your Broncos, if you choose to take ownership of the team as I do) have seen this sort of thing happen before. The year was 1997. We lost some games we shouldn't have and ended up playing for our playoff lives, first at home against the Jaguars, then a dreaded trip to Kansas City. We dubbed it the "Revenge Tour," and I still have my tee shirt. We beat the Chiefs on a day that was not unlike yesterday, and it was where it mattered, in the playoffs, in January. Then we had to travel to Pittsburgh, where we beat the Steelers and headed to the Super Bowl, where we beat the Packers. All four of those teams had beaten us in the previous calendar year. All of those teams couldn't get it done against a feisty Broncos team when it really mattered.
The point is this is no reason to hang our heads. Had we lost 45-17 like last year, I'd be much, much more upset. But I would reason that while KC is a better team than they were last year, so are we. Last year we buckled on the road; this year we're a "tough out." Last year we were average at home; this year, the Mile High advantage really is a mile high.
I still say that this Broncos team is one of the best I've ever seen. I've been a Broncos fan since I was four, in 1983. My daddy carried me into Mile High Stadium to see a player that he thought was the future of the game. Turns out, he was right.
Since then, I've seen quarterbacks come and go, I've seen coaches come and go, I've seen defenses and running backs and the Three Amigos and a barefoot kicker and Super Bowl wins and Super Bowl losses… and there have been very few points during those years when I was as confident about my team's chances as I am this year. The defense is better than I've ever seen it (yesterday being the exception). The offense moves the ball, and our running backs are top-notch. We have the best cover/shutdown corner in the league, and two rookies are making me feel this youth movement all the way down to my shoes.
So don't worry about yesterday. Tomorrow is what we need. We'll beat Baltimore. We'll beat Buffalo. We'll beat the Raiders. We may lose to San Diego, but by then, it may not matter.
We may go to the AFC Championship. And as we learned in 1997, when the Broncos beat a Packers team that was favored by 14 points in Super Bowl XXXII, anything can happen in the post-season.
Count on anything.
Sam DeWitt is a sports writer living in Denver with his dog, Bailey. He spends his time reading, writing his novel, and commuting between his home and his favorite coffee shop to do both. He can be reached, via email, at BUMoose@gmail.com, or by his Scout.com handle, TheRealMoose.
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