History Won't Repeat Itself

In a game nobody gave them a chance to win, the 2008 Chiefs opened their season by playing right down to the wire against the New England Patriots. Not only was the final score much closer than anyone anticipated, but if not for Dwayne Bowe letting a sure touchdown pass bounce off his chest, the Chiefs would have tied things up the final seconds and sent the game into overtime.

After spending the entire 2008 offseason talking about the struggles of rebuilding and going with youth, watching the team come so close to pulling off a monumental upset created a lot of excitement. Moral victories don't help anyone in the standings, but the overwhelming majority of Chiefs fans felt like one had been achieved that day.

Some pointed out, of course, that the game never would have been so close if Tom Brady – arguably the best quarterback in the NFL – hadn't suffered a season-ending injury in the first quarter. But notwithstanding that minor detail, there was a definite sense of optimism after the first game of 2008.

Unfortunately, that optimism disintegrated the following week when the Oakland Raiders came to town.

The truth was a difficult pill to swallow. Despite the close loss in the opener, we learned in Week 2 that the Chiefs weren't any good after all. In fact, they weren't even in the same ballpark as "good." They needed a passport just to make it to within 100 miles of the border surrounding "good."

We were forced to recognize that being competitive against the Patriots, no matter the Brady-less circumstances, had blinded most of us to the reality of that game. The issue of whether Brady would have picked the Chiefs apart suddenly became irrelevant, because two even larger issues had been lurking right under the surface.

For one, the Chiefs' offense had struggled mightily in the opener, only amassing 10 points on the day. Most noticed the lack of production, but we were content to blame it on the hostile conditions, the skill of the Patriots' defense, the genius of Bill Belichick, a new offensive system, or the conservatism of Herm Edwards.

Even worse, though, was the performance of the Chiefs' run defense, which had no readily available excuse. The Patriots ran for 126 yards that day – not horrible, all things considered – but their two top backs both rushed for more than five yards a carry.

After the game in New England, the struggling offense and bad run defense were just background noise when compared to topics like Brady's injury and the final score. But when the Raiders came calling a week later, those two issues bubbled up from under the muck and exploded like hydrogen bombs.

The Chiefs' offense continued to sputter against Oakland, only managing eight points against a defense that finished the season ranked 27th in the league. Worse yet, Kansas City's run defense practically laid down and quit, allowing 300 rushing yards in total.

Darren McFadden averaged nearly eight yards per carry. Michael Bush averaged 5.6 yards each time he touched the ball. Justin Fargas must have been razzed by his teammates for weeks after only mustering up a sorry 4.8 yards per carry average against the Chiefs' defense that day.

An embarrassing 23-8 loss immediately sent Chiefs fans over the edge. After a week filled with optimism, lots of fans were suddenly speaking out to demand that coaches be fired, players get cut, trades be made, and so on. Some even called for Clark Hunt to sell the team.

The angry reactions were responses to an unpleasant truth, one that had caught many of us by surprise. No matter how things had looked in the opener, the Chiefs were a bad football team. It was a reality we had to live with for the remaining fourteen games on the schedule.

Sweeping change came through Kansas City after the season ended, with the Chiefs getting a new general manger, a new head coach, new players, and new systems. But after all of that change, we go into Week 2 finding ourselves right back in the same spot we were in a year ago.

The Chiefs, not given a chance in their season opener, were in last week's game right until the end against the extremely tough Baltimore Ravens. Most of us don't care how it happened. We just care that about the fact that the Chiefs still had a chance late in the fourth quarter.

However, having gone through the events of 2008, we're a little wiser now. We recognize that the Chiefs' offense did little for most of the Baltimore game. In fact, they had nearly 100 fewer yards against the Ravens than they did last year against the Patriots.

Like last year, we know we can make excuses – hostile conditions, the skill of the Ravens defense, a new offensive system, no Matt Cassel. But we also know that, quite possibly, the Chiefs' offense is going to struggle this year no matter who they're playing against.

And after surrendering nearly 200 yards on the ground to the Ravens, we recognize that the run defense still appears to be a major weakness. We know we can talk about the players getting tired, but we also know that the run defense may simply be bad.

It goes without saying that when the game kicks off on Sunday, we're going to hope those issues don't bubble up and explode on us for the second year in a row. We want to see a solid offense and a defense that isn't giving up one long run after another.

Deep down, though, we know it's possible that we won't see either of those things. As unpleasant as it is, we know it's possible that, once again, some unique circumstances in the first game of the season may have helped the Chiefs look more competitive than they really were.

If that proves to be the case, it's not going to catch us by surprise this time around. It will hurt, no question, but we're not going to lose our heads. We're not going to overreact like we never saw it coming. On Sunday, when the Raiders return to Arrowhead, we aren't going to let history repeat itself.

If we can prevent it from happening again, maybe the Chiefs can too.

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