What's Next?

I found myself watching the Chiefs Packers game again this morning, every play without commercial interruption. It was not easy to fast forward through the Packers 14 and 17 point runs. But I had little choice. I was mesmerized by the Chiefs 40-34 overtime victory on Sunday against the Packers and I wanted to watch every minute of it all over again.

I started my post game article lambasting the defense and their inability to stop the run. I was ready to start labeling them the 32 defense all over again until Jerome Woods plucked the ball out of the air and ran it back for a touchdown.

It brought back December 23, 1972 all over again. It reminded me of one of the most definitive plays in NFL history. It was the ‘Immaculate Reception.' It was one of the most defining moments in Pittsburgh Steelers history. It was also a franchise turning play.

The ‘Tip and Catch' that I'll label Woods game changing interception; was not as dramatic as the one that Franco Harris plucked out of the air over 30 years ago. But it was the catch catapulted the Steelers into NFL prominence and the Chiefs appear to be heading into the same direction.

Comparing the two catches is easy based on where the ball was to the ground. Harris narrowly picked of the ball before it hit the ground clutching the ball with his fingertips. Seconds later he was in the end zone as the Steelers sunk the Oakland Raiders 13-7 to win the AFC divisional game back in 1972.

On Sunday, Woods feat was not lost on the game and it could catapult the Chiefs to a near perfect season.

With Kansas City trailing 31-21 in the middle of the fourth quarter, Woods and his defensive mates stepped up. The 32 defense made a statement. After being shredded by Favre all afternoon, the Chiefs noticed a predictable formation that would change the game.

The Packers needed a first down to continue the drive, cornerback Dexter McCleon prevented Green Bay receiver Donald Driver from completing his slant. He reached back for the rocket from Favre but managed to only tip the ball into the air.

Woods moved toward the ball that seemed to float in the air just long enough for the Chiefs to keep their perfect season alive.

In the NFL, games are decided by inches not feet. They are decided by veteran players stepping up in crucial situations. Woods is a veteran and he made a terrific catch. It's not easy to pick off a tipped pass.

You practice tip drills in the NFL from the onset of training camp. You spend hours and hours working at it, diving on the field going all out for the ball just because a game or a season might depend on catching one of those errant balls.

Woods caught the ball and with McCleon racing ahead of him and pushing Brett Favre out of the way, he had clear sailing into the end zone. His 79-yard interception return put the Chiefs back into the game. They already understood to a man that they were going to win the game.

No team in the NFL had ever won in Lambeau field trailing by ten points or more.

NEVER!

But the Chiefs made a statement on Sunday of their own. They never have lost in Lambeau field entering the contest in their history.

The Chiefs much aligned defense had given up over 400 yards in total offense for the second week in a row. They looked tired, lethargic and missed more tackles than they should have. If they had simply tackled better early in the game, the Packers would have had to settle for field goals and not touchdowns.

Still regardless of the yardage given up, the defense made plays when it had to. They fed off the offense and they believed in their teammates. Nobody pointed fingers. Nobody blamed anyone else for the missed tackles or blown coverages. They hung together.

That togetherness shined brightly in overtime after the Chiefs missed a potential game winning 49-yard field goal. As Ahman Green was once again headed into Kansas City territory after breaking even more tackles, he coughed up the football.

Woods could not get his arms around Green so he poked the ball out his hands by squarely hitting the ball with his helmet. The ball bounced perfectly into the hands of Mike Maslowski and the Chiefs scored the game winning touchdown on the very next play.

Time will tell if the significance if the Woods interception leads to a flurry of AFC Championships and Super Bowl runs for the Chiefs but it's a good place to start.

For the Steelers, that single play delivered them from the depths of mediocrity that had plagued the franchise since their inception.

The Chiefs on the meantime hope that their 6-0 start is a prelude to a Super Bowl run that might get people talking about a prefect season. It's not been done since the Dolphins did it back in 1972 going 14-0 and running the table in the post season.

But for those who want to jump ahead need only look in their rear view mirror as the Denver Broncos are 5-1 and one game behind Kansas City.

My guess is the Chiefs will take the win over the Packers in stride and focus on the hated Oakland Raiders. They won't look past their struggling division mates and the Monday Night showdown one week from now. They understand you are only as good as your last game.

Woods and his teammates have work to do and they've not even peaked as a defense or as a team in general. But the win over the Packers was a statement to the rest of the NFL.

It told any opposing offense that it might gain over 400 yards each week like the Broncos and Packers have done back to back. But even with that accomplishment, your team still will lose the game.

That's a powerful statement to the ten opponents that remain on the Chiefs 2003 schedule.


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