Pick a nether region, any nether region, chances are a Kansas City Chiefs fan just got kicked squarely in the middle of it.
Jamaal Charles? Torn right anterior cruciate ligament.
The 2015 season? Inching toward toast.
And suddenly, at the hands of Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler, the Andy Reid Era in the City of Fountains might’ve just hit a new low. The way the Titanic hit that bloody iceberg.
In fact, Bears 18, Chiefs 17 was a bit like hitting the same iceberg with the same ship twice over the course of a month.
For the second straight home game, the Chiefs’ defense spent three quarters mostly keeping the opposition in check — only to fall apart in the final three minutes of a critical drive. For the second straight home game, the other guy’s quarterback found his rhythm late after spending most of the contest showing absolutely none at all. For the second straight home game, Jamaal Charles lost something dear. Against Denver, it was the rock. Against Chicago, it was his knee. And possibly the rest of this campaign.
Or at least, what’s left of it.
Cutler’s butterfingers-snap-turned-perfect-rainbow for a 7-yard touchdown to tailback Matt Forte with 18 seconds left was the dagger that dropped the Chiefs to 1-4 with just one home game sandwiched on the docket between Columbus Day and November 28 (vs. Pittsburgh, October 25).
From 1970 through 2014, 10 NFL teams began a season 1-4 and eventually reached the postseason, but none since the 2011 Tebow Broncos.
That’s 10 in 35 years, or one every 3.5 years, or …
Yeah. Long odds. And a boulder at the bottom of a very steep hill with Crisco slathered all over it, refusing to be pushed.
Which begs the question: Are the Chiefs’ collective shoulders willing?
The Bears (2-3) were expected to be an easy mark, comparatively, a chance to steady the bow after three straight weeks of front-line quarterbacks, front-line defenses, or both. Chicago trotted out a rookie center, new wide receivers, and more tricky holes than the back nine at Sawgrass.
And for a half, the hosts swung hard and made them pay, sacking Cutler twice, with defensive tackle Jaye Howard’s takedown-plus-strip in the end zone squirting into the hands of rookie teammate Ramik Wilson for the Chiefs’ first touchdown of the afternoon. Cutler’s counterpart, Alex Smith, was all over the place (16-for-30, 181 passing yards, one score) for most of the day, but a 17-3 lead at the break felt reasonably safe.
That is, until the first drive of the third quarter. The Andy Gang knifed to the Chicago 9-yard line on nine plays, looking to cash in the final twist of the dagger. With 9:33 left in the period, the floodgates of disaster opened wide.
On first down, Charles cut left and planted hard right. As he put the leg down to push off, his right knee appeared to buckle like an accordion, a freak twist in which the only contact was against Mother Earth. As No. 25 was helped off the field, the loudest stadium in the NFL went cold and silent.
More damning, the offense couldn’t finish the job. Two incompletions followed, setting up a 27-yard field-goal attempt. But Cairo Santos’ try was swatted down near the line by a crashing Pernell McPhee, and a drive that came away with dread and disaster also came away with no points to show for it.
Reid went into a conservative shell, vainly trying to run out the game. Bears kept pecking away. On a drive that started at its own 12 with 7:51 left in the contest, Chicago converted a 3rd-and-3 at the Chiefs’ 19 on a Cutler scramble, and a 3rd-and-6 at the Chiefs’ 22 on a touchdown heave to Marquess Wilson.
In fact, the Bears’ rally only underscored the growing frustration with the comparative timidity of Reid and Smith’s decisions, especially in the opposition’s red zone. Over the past two weeks, the Chiefs have finished the second quarter on drives that totaled 19 plays and chewed up 7:24 off the clock — and came away with only two field goals to show for it: A 34-yarder in Cincinnati and a 35-yarder versus the Bears.
So of course, when faced with total desperation at the Chicago 48 with two seconds left, it was only apropos that Big Red would trot Santos out to try a 66-yarder. And only fitting that it would miss the mark completely.