What Did We Really Learn About the Chiefs?

What happened to the Chiefs in Pittsburgh last week was somewhat akin to a man going into a bar to play in a one-on-one pool match. Angered by an economic down-turn, local factory workers decide to beat the poor schmuck into a bloody pulp simply because they are mad at the world. Not surprisingly, he is handily beaten by his opponent, who is playing on his home table.

Last Sunday, the Steelers were a desperate defending-Super Bowl champion whose pride had been badly wounded. The ugly guys up front were both angry and focused in a manner that is impossible to achieve on a regular basis. Pittsburgh's offensive and defensive lines played at the absolute peak of their abilities.

Even for a Chiefs fan, there is grudging admiration for such a performance. Oddly enough, it reminded me of a game two years ago when the Falcons walked into Arrowhead Stadium under similar circumstances. That day, a desperate Chiefs team (which had gone 13-3 the year before) put a historic whooping on a good Atlanta defense, ringing up an NFL-record eight rushing touchdowns in a single game.

The Falcons recovered. They finished with an 11-5 record and played in the NFC Championship. The Chiefs finished a disappointing 7-9.

You really can't tell much about a team from that type of beating. I know I said last week that the Pittsburgh game would show if the Chiefs had enough offense to make a playoff run, but in the NFL, emotion can overpower any rational analysis.

This week is an entirely different story. If there is anything that can wake Kansas City's once-dominant offensive line out of its doldrums, a beating like this one should do the trick. Not only did the Steelers win, they humiliated the Chiefs with near-spotless play from their offensive line, which has been Kansas City's hallmark since 2001. In the end, the Chiefs resorted to hair-pulling to make anything resembling a play.

Most of us haven't tried that tactic since grade school.

When a team suffers an embarrassment as the Chiefs did, they can do one of three things: 1) crawl into a shell, 2) react as if nothing had happened or 3) come out fighting.

If the Chiefs choose option one, the season is done. They are at home facing the division-leading Chargers. The Chiefs need a win to stay in the AFC West race. If they can't summon inspiration under these circumstances, they won't walk away with the prize, even if they were to somehow sneak into the postseason.

Playing as if nothing had happened the week before would be a disappointing response, but might not be fatal to their self confidence, especially if they pull out a win.

On the other hand, if they come out fighting, we will know what kind of heart this team possesses. We can then feel good about the direction Herm Edwards is taking them. I don't have a clue about which response we'll see on Sunday.

That's what makes the NFL fun.

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