Arrowhead Magic Not So Infallible Anymore

As soon as FOX flashed their post-kickoff graphic last Sunday during the Bucs/Chiefs game, my mood changed considerably. The graphic noted that since 1995, the Chiefs are 21-5 against NFC teams at Arrowhead Stadium.

It's weird how the Chiefs have historically looked so totally dominant against the NFC at home, but it keeps happening.

In 2006 a fairly mediocre Chiefs team played like a bunch of world-beaters in thrashing the 49ers, 41-0. Two seasons earlier, one of the worst defenses in Chiefs history made like the '85 Bears against Michael Vick and the Falcons in a 56-10 blowout. The 2003 Chiefs slapped around the Lions and Bears to the tune of 76-20 and the 2002 team should have been ashamed of themselves after running up the score on Arizona and St. Louis, 98-10.

How about Gunther Cunningham's teams? No one has forgotten the special day in 2000 at Arrowhead that culminated in a 54-34 track meet against the defending champion Rams, who at the time were undefeated and averaging more than 500 yards per game offensively. In that game, the Chiefs broke Kurt Warner's pinkie and any chance for the Rams to repeat.

The 1997 Chiefs took an NFC powerhouse 49ers team out behind the woodshed, 44-9, in what was perhaps the most dominant performance of the Marty Schottenheimer era. San Francisco had won 11 straight games before marching into a brick wall on that chilly November day in Kansas City.

What do we call this phenomenon? How do we tag the precise alignment of the stars that leads to a Chiefs blowout over an NFC team visiting Kansas City? There's nothing supernatural involved, obviously, but the best term for it is "Arrowhead Magic."

When FOX flashed that graphic, and the Chiefs went down and scored an opening-drive touchdown almost effortlessly, but quite shockingly, many Chiefs fans must have thought to themselves: "Here we go again, history is repeating itself. An NFC team is about to come into Arrowhead and get blindsided."

It didn't matter that the Chiefs were 1-6 and the Bucs were 5-3. It didn't matter that the pride of Coastal Carolina, Tyler Thigpen, was leading the worst offense in the league against one of the best defenses in the league.

Kansas City's offensive line cleared running lanes and Thigpen threw like Trent Green on KC's opening possession, leading to the first opening-quarter Chiefs touchdown in 12 games. Then, a stunningly almost-full Arrowhead got to its feet, made a whole bunch of noise as if the Chiefs weren't actually 1-6 and headed nowhere fast, and it was like a time warp.

The Bucs ran one play, and Earnest Graham fumbled. The same guy who hadn't fumbled all year and had lost just one fumble in his last 300+ touches.

The Chiefs took over, marched down the field like a juggernaut, and scored another touchdown. The Bucs kicked what looked to be a meaningless field goal, and then something completely unexpected happened when Kansas City got the ball back again.

Leading 14-3, you'd expect the average Herm Edwards team to sit on the ball, run some clock and let the defense win the game. But clearly, things had changed. These Chiefs were no longer struggling to gain first downs. Hell, they already had seven of those in barely a quarter of play.

Nope, these Chiefs wanted more. And so it was that Jamaal Charles lined up in the shotgun, took the snap and flipped the ball to Mark Bradley on a reverse. Bradley hit Thigpen deep for a wide-open touchdown. This wasn't Martyball, Bucball, or even football, some might say. This was – gasp – Arena ball!

Suddenly, the Chiefs were ahead 21-3, Arrowhead was rocking, and the Buccaneers were asking for the license plate number on that truck that just ran them over. The Chiefs had scored three touchdowns in barely 12 minutes of possession time, the defense was shutting down the run and hitting the quarterback, the fans were on their feet and stepping all over First Down Elvis' blue suede shoes, and wow, it was, for the lack of a better term, Arrowhead Magic.

Tampa Bay got the ball back again, but the tidal wave continued. After generating a couple of first downs, Jeff Garcia horribly overthrew a pass that was intercepted by Brandon Carr. The Chiefs tacked a field goal onto their ever-growing lead, and went into halftime up by 11 points.

Sure, the Buccaneers had scored on a kickoff return and grabbed a field goal right before the gun, but you figured, this won't stop. The Chiefs are killing the Buccaneers. This is just like that Falcons game in 2004. This is just like that Rams game in 2000. This is just like that 49ers game in 1997. You can't stop Arrowhead Magic!

But all those other games had one thing in common. The Chiefs never let up. They never gave the opponent a second to breathe. They kept pushing the issue on offense, throwing the ball down the field, and applying pressure on the quarterback, blitzing on defense. Once you have your foot on the opponent's throat, you don't give them an opportunity to get up off the ground.

That's where it changed for these Chiefs. As quickly as the magic had arrived, it left immediately when Herm Edwards and company were content to go conservative on both sides of the ball. On offense, they stopped throwing down the field, and in fact threw a grand total of three passes past the first-down marker in the entire second half against Tampa Bay. On defense, the number of blitzers the Chiefs sent after Jeff Garcia on his 27 second-half pass attempts could be counted on one hand.

Not surprisingly, the Chiefs totaled barely over 100 yards of offense in the second half and allowed the Buccaneers to run up and down the field. You know the rest of the story – overtime, another Tampa Bay drive, one last field goal and another loss for the Chiefs.

Since last Sunday, some have blamed Kansas City's loss on the officials, others have called into question whether the Chiefs' players were simply good enough. After all, most of them are quite young, which is the ready-made excuse for every loss this year, it seems.

But in truth, you can never blame a loss on one play or any one player. What you can blame is the philosophy Kansas City's coaches ran out in the second half after they saw what a dose of that old Arrowhead Magic can do in the first.

But hey, the Chiefs are still 21-6 against NFC opponents in Kansas City since 1995! Herm Edwards, however, is 3-2. Not nearly so dominant, wouldn't you agree? Top Stories