I only vaguely recall the playoff loss to the Jets in 1986, as I was all of six years old. My first serious setback in this relationship came five years later in 1991, when Nick Lowery's game-winning, 52-yard field goal attempt fell short in a playoff game in Miami. I was distraught. It would be the first and only time I ever cried over a football game. I vowed the next time I cried over the Chiefs would be because they just won the Super Bowl.
That was about 16 years, six playoff appearances and several asinine Decembers ago. I'm still waiting with dry eyes. It's been easier to deal with the death blows to Chiefs seasons as I've gotten older, although I'm torn between whether that is due to maturity or complacency. Like many Chief fans, I've come to expect to be let down before any semblance of a Super Bowl is in sight. That unbridled pessimism helps me to deal with the idea that, yes, our season is all but over.
In the wake of the death of one of the greatest sports ambassadors the world has ever known, the Chiefs had a game Sunday night that held their already teetering playoff hopes in the balance.
Lamar Hunt was not watching from a hospital bed in Dallas as he had been the previous three games, but he was watching as the Chiefs played their collective asses off against what looks like the best team in all of football.
After Lawrence Tynes' 45-yard field goal bounced off the upright before fluttering through to get the Chiefs on the board, I couldn't help but be reminded how football is literally a game of inches. An inch or so more to the left and that ball would have bounced right back in the Chiefs' faces. Down by four late in the second quarter, I now thought lady luck was donning the red and gold.
Instead that notion went up in blue-and-gold smoke, as the Chiefs would fall victim to the most unlucky of circumstances. After Bernard Pollard got his paw on a Mike Scifres punt, Derrick Ross was unable to corral the deflected ball, which had traveled beyond the original line of scrimmage. The Chargers would end up retaining possession. It was the first time I'd ever seen a blocked punt result in a first down for the other team. It turns out lady luck is as indecisive as a six year-old in an ice cream store.
Initially, I was furious with Ross and his overzealous actions on the play. However, after consideration I decided that I, or any other Chief for that matter, would have done the exact same thing. While similar only in ruling to the Leon Lett play several years ago on Thanksgiving, this was not even in the same realm on the boneheaded scale.
One play later the Chargers would go up by two scores on an 85-yard touchdown run by LaDainian Tomlinson. What proved to be either a 10 or 14-point swing kicked the Chiefs to the bottom of a mountain they would be unable climb. It wasn't for lack of effort that the Chiefs lost 20-9 in San Diego. In fact, they played as hard as they have all season. If anyone was lacking effort it was, again, the offensive coaching.
Twice after the Chiefs penetrated Charger territory, Larry Johnson was taken out of the game for the rest of the series. I have an awful hard time believing a competitor like Johnson would take himself out, so this had to be a call from the sideline. Johnson is the best offensive weapon on the team and he has to be in the game when trying to overcome a deficit.
On a third-and-12 from the Charger 41 and trailing 14-3 with under a minute to go in the first half, the Chiefs ran a five-yard out to Dante Hall that was incomplete. In this instance it seemed the coaches were more content with getting Tynes a little closer than actually trying to convert a makeable third down. The Chiefs then punted and Rivers knelt on the ball to close out the first half.
An ‘F' isn't a low enough grade to assess this clock management assignment. The simple fact that the Chargers were out of timeouts at that point gave the Chiefs plenty of options. I would have liked to have seen a draw here. Pending the result of that play the Chiefs could have then gone for it on fourth down or gave Tynes and his mammoth leg a shot. Worst case scenario? The Chargers take over at their own 40 with no timeouts and less than twenty seconds to go. It was a cowardly and unintelligent move and Edwards went into halftime with his tail between his legs.
With two games left the Chiefs have a viable shot to finish at 9-7, but unless several other teams fall flat on their face they'll once again be watching the playoffs from home. Anytime you have to use the word "mathematically" when describing a team's playoff hopes, the situation isn't good.
For entertainment purposes only here's the only playoff berth scenario: The Bills, Steelers, Titans and Broncos each must lose one of their final two. The Jets must lose both of their remaining games and, of course, the Chiefs must win out.
But who really cares about the playoffs? I'd almost rather save myself the mental anguish of another letdown in January.
A Rocky Relationship
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