Here's Chiefs coach Dick Vermeil after his team dropped its season finale, 24-17, in San Diego against a Chargers team that didn't even bother to suit up quarterback Drew Brees, top runner/scorer LaDainian Tomlinson, top receiver Antonio Gates and top defensive lineman Jamal Williams. Oh, and did we mention how Marty Schottenheimer played his other defensive starters only sparingly?
"Maybe we aren't as good as we thought we were," Vermeil admitted. "When you win four in a row you think you're pretty good. But today we sure weren't."
Kansas City's bid to win a fifth consecutive game and turn a 3-8 losing campaign into a mere 8-8 non-winner was a microcosm of the entire frustrating season.
The Chiefs horrendous defense, which finished dead last in passing defense, watched 42-year-old Doug Flutie, playing for the vacationing Drew Brees, throw for 199 first-half yards and run up 17 points while leading what essentially was a band of JV players. To make matters worse, San Diego third-team QB Phillip Rivers threw his first NFL passes in the second half and engineered the scoring drive that put the Chargers up 24-3.
Then, like the season in general, the Chiefs mounted a too-little, too-late comeback that only served to make the game modestly interesting while running up a ton of offensive numbers.
Tony Gonzalez became the first tight end in NFL history to top the 100-reception barrier in a season and Trent Green threw the ball all over the field to lead Kansas City to two fourth-quarter touchdowns, both by Larry Johnson. But a last-ditch drive in the final minute ended in Green's fourth interception, and Kansas City ended its season with a 7-9 mark -- the third non-winning season in Vermeil's four years in Kansas City.
"It's tough to swallow when their second-team guys kicked our butts," said Gonzalez, who wasn't allowed to enjoy the 14-catch, 144-yard career day that boosted his season reception count to a tight-end record 102.
"I'm glad I got the record," Gonzalez added, "but at the same time it's hard to take satisfaction in getting it in a losing cause. Maybe it's something I'll look back on in another week or so and enjoy. But right now it's tough to take knowing they didn't have their key starters in."
Added Vermeil: "It leaves you with an empty feeling we'll have to live with for a long time."