But to the 53 men who sat disappointed inside KC's locker room after Brett Favre had crushed their hope, I say take heart. There is reason for optimism, because the question has been answered.
A week ago that question was posed – who are the Kansas City Chiefs?
Judging by Sunday's result, now we know – a football team that can compete with the best the NFL has to offer.
The Green Bay Packers waltzed into Kansas City as one of the NFC elite, and didn't fail to live up to their reputation. They dominated the Chiefs for two quarters and trailed at halftime only because they took an unnecessary risk.
Benny Sapp's amazing play notwithstanding, this game had all the appearances of Chiefs vs Jaguars, Part II, at halftime. You remember the first episode of this debacle – Jacksonville essentially shut out the Chiefs and held Larry Johnson to 10 yards rushing about a month ago.
It was déjà vu through 30 minutes Sunday. Kansas City's offense had 62 total yards, no third down conversions and couldn't run the football. It appeared as if the Packers would easily dispose of and expose the Chiefs as a team that really had no intentions of going anywhere this season.
But then something changed after halftime. I won't say the Chiefs started running the football, because they didn't, and I won't say they started throwing the ball to Tony Gonzalez, because he had five catches in the first half. But something changed.
Trailing 13-7, Damon Huard hit Tony Gonzalez with a 17-yard strike at the close of the third quarter. The Chiefs would finish that possession with a 30-yard screen pass that went for a touchdown.
When Huard got the ball back, it was more of the same. Kansas City's offense went right down the field and scored another touchdown, this time a pretty 17-yard scoring pass to Gonzalez, thrown so perfectly you would have thought it was 2003 and Trent Green was still around.
That's two drives, 15 plays and 156 yards, much of it generated without the services of Larry Johnson or Dwayne Bowe (get well, you two).
Now, who knows what prompted this unexpected offensive explosion. Maybe the Chiefs just got desperate, perhaps it was merely the law of averages playing out, or it could have been Mike Solari inexplicably stumbling upon a window of dazzling offensive strategy so perfect that it was like he was playing Super Tecmo Bowl and calling the exact right plays at the exact right time.
Who knows. What matters is that the Chiefs were ahead 22-16 at the end of this magnificent stretch of football, Arrowhead got to its feet and 80,000 people believed the Chiefs would beat the Green Bay Packers, the team with the best record in the NFC.
Everyone in that stadium (except the road-weary Packers fans) could feel it. This was the moment the Chiefs would prove they had what it took to beat one of the NFL's best teams, to go 5-3 and stand alone atop the division, to win their fifth game in the last six attempts and, yes, perhaps even to vault into the Top 10 on ESPN's power rankings this week.
Now, what happened in the last five minutes was disappointing. Brett Favre did what he does (or rather, what he used to do, and is now doing again for the first time in a while), Kansas City's offense resumed it's regularly scheduled program of ineptitude, and the Chiefs probably came within a foot (Jeff Webb's) of winning the game.
It's tough to swallow, and Herm Edwards has a big job ahead of him this week, picking up his team's spirits and preparing them for the Denver Broncos.
But at some point, maybe he'll tell his team (and maybe he already has) that for 10 minutes on an unseasonably warm November afternoon, the Kansas City Chiefs competed at a high level with an elite football team. They had the game in their hands, and it slipped away, but no one would have questioned the legitimacy of a win had one of Brett Favre's godlike throws sailed a little off target.
The good news: not every team has Favre. If the Chiefs continue to play as they did within those 10 minutes, the AFC West Division championship is as good as theirs. That means a home playoff game, and another opportunity for 80,000 to rise to their feet and believe, no matter the opponent. And that is an encouraging thought, even in defeat.
Ten Minutes of Greatness
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