Tuesday, November 1, 2011

chiefs! chargers! where great opportunity gave berth to a great moment ...

"Show me that smile again.
(ooh show me that smile!)
Don't waste another minute on your crying!
We're nowhere near the end!
The best is ready to begin!


As long as we got each other?
We've got the world spinning right in our hands!
Baby you and me?  We've gotta be
The luckiest dreamers who never quit dreaming!

As long as we keep on giving?
We can take anything that comes our way!
Baby rain or shine?  All the time?
We've got each other,
Sharing the laughter and love ..."

-- the theme song from "Growing Pains".  Or, if you prefer a less reverential version, Chris Daughtry and Dane Cook's cover ...


I'm supposed to recap THAT?

No, seriously.  I'm supposed to recap THAT?

As I start typing this, it's been nearly twelve hours since I made my way out of that stadium, went straight to the cooler, grabbed an unopened bottle of champagne, and began chugging it in celebration.  Straight skipped the middle man, skipped the cup.  Just held on to that bottle for dear life.  And now, twelve hours later, the only thought still running through my mind, is what Tim McCarver so perfectly stated after that incredible, once in a generation Cardinals win in game six last week.

"What just happened here?"

In a game that saw just about everything you could imagine as a Chiefs fan -- both good and bad -- the game ultimately came down to three moments in time, one of which not even this most optimistic of Chiefs fans would have ever imagined occurring when the game kicked off.  A Jonathan Baldwin incredible touchdown catch.  An incredible 3rd and 14 conversion in overtime, when the Chargers for some idiotic reason left Steve Breaston uncovered. 

And of course, the brain fart of a lifetime by alleged franchise quarterback Phyllis Rivers. 

I've been privileged enough to witness a lot of miraculous moments in that stadium.  Sixteen years ago, against these same Chargers, on a gorgeous October Monday night, we witnessed a moment never before seen, and never seen since -- a punt return for a touchdown in overtime.  A play so unfreakingbelievable that the author of it, Tamarick Vanover, simply collapsed in the end zone and began sobbing.  (In his defense ... he wasn't the only one crying at that moment in time.  And to this day, the SECOND anyone says "Boy, did he loft that one!", I immediately begin bawling.  If that means I need to "man up", in the words of the resident reader who roots for denver?  Screw it.  It'll never happen.  That night was too f*cking amazing to EVER give up ...) 

Last night?  Might have topped that on the "what the hell just happened here?!?!"-o-meter.

In the end, give the Chiefs this -- they NEVER quit.  God knows I did.  When San Diego converted that 3rd and 1 with a minute and change remaining, to set up a gimme field goal, and the Chiefs couldn't stop the clock?  I quit.  I turned to the guy next to me and simply said "season over." 

Sure, Nick Novak might have yanked the kick, some crazy block might have occurred, but let's be honest.  As Chiefs fans, we knew EXACTLY what was going to happen after Jacob Freaking Hester ran for four feet on that 3rd and 1.  Phyllis was going to take two knees, the Chargers would call timeout with :02 remaining, and they'd drain a 32, 33 yard field goal as time expired to basically end any postseason hopes and dreams here in Kansas City.

Never in a million years did I expect "The Phumble" (as Pro Football Talk named it) to occur.  And I know I'm not alone.  But when Andy Studebaker emerged from the pile, holding the football high into the star-lit sky, and 72,000 plus erupted in celebration?  I'm not too embarrassed to admit that I had tears in my eyes, rolling down my cheeks.  And when the third of the HU-YUGE three plays in this game occurred, when Matt Cassel, facing a 3rd and 14, with the game, a meaningful season, and possibly a division title on the line, when he completed a simple checkoff to Steve Breaston, who was WIDE, WIDE open in the flat, and Breaston turned upfield, to put the Chiefs in field goal range, when that occurred? 

Ballgame.  Season EPICALLY on!

There will be those Chiefs fans who will view this win as a fluke, as a perfect confluence of luck, leprechauns, and magic.  And they might be right.  Let's face it, and I even noted it in the picks on Thursday -- this team is the legitimate underdog in this game nine times out of ten.  99 times out of 100.  999,999 times out of a million.

And so, if last night was our "one in a million" victory, you know what?  I'm not apologizing for it, and neither should you.  I kept coming back all night, really all weekend, to Herb Brooks line before the United States staged the greatest upset in modern sports history.  (I think “Christian beating pack of hungry Lions” in the Coliseum days might have been slightly more epic.) 

"Great moments can only arise from great opportunity".  Whatever you think of this Chiefs team, give them this.  They NEVER quit.  I've rarely been prouder to be a fan of a team, than I am of this one.  At least 20 out of 32 NFL teams would have quit, opening 0-3 in the way we did, suffering the crippling injuries these guys have, blowing a double digit lead at home, and now the team we're chasing is inside our 20, with a solid kicker, the clock ticking, and no way for us to stop it.  God knows the Colts quit, the Dolphins quit, the Redskins and Rams and broncos and Cardinals are waving the white flags of surrender on a weekly basis. 

These guys?  NEVER quit.  I can't think of a more appropriate way to describe the 2011 Chiefs.  They NEVER quit.  They just keep fighting.  They haven't wasted a minute on their crying, wondering "why us", giving in to those misguided fans who wanted to sink an entire season over two bad games.

These guys?  The Fine 53?  They’re nowhere near the end. 

They're the luckiest dreamers who NEVER quit dreaming!

I'm going on about 1 hour of sleep.  I'm probably still over the legal limit in 50 states, 6 territories and the District.  My voice is shot.  My hands still sting from pounding them together and on the seat in front of me as much as I did.  I no longer have discernible finger nails.  The towels they handed out last night?  There’s a GIGANTIC bite mark in mine from pretty much eating that thing the entire second half.  There's a ringing sensation in my ears that won't go away.  I swear I'm still hearing the Tomahawk Chop in my earphones.

And it's the best I've felt the morning after* in a long, long time.  If you were there yesterday, if you watched yesterday, I hope you're feeling every damned bit as proud of these guys as I am.  These guys aren't the most talented team in the League.  They aren't going to win any beauty contests for style or appearance.  But sweet Jesus, I have a level of pride in these guys I haven't felt in a Chiefs team in YEARS.  Whatever you might think of how we got to this point, let me hammer it home one more time.  These guys NEVER give up.  And in those five words, are the greatest compliment you can ever pay a sports team.

(*: the game, the morning after the game.  What, you thought I meant something else?)

Here you go, your morning (ok, late afternoon) recap of the incredible, awesome, thrill-inducing Chiefs / Chargers instant classic:

* I left work a little bit before noon, to head to Raytown and load up for tailgating.  I turn onto 67th Street, start heading towards Woodson, and wouldn't you know it, the EXACT song I wanted to hear?  Pops onto The Highway (XM59).  "The More I Drink" by Blake Shelton.  Why do I mention this?  Because of one phrase in the chorus, that so perfectly described that stadium last night.

"I get loud.
I get proud.
And it gets worse!"

Last night, we were loud.  We were proud.  And for the San Diego "Blooper" Chargers, it definitely got worse.

* A very healthy contingent of tailgaters riding out at 12:30 yesterday.  I counted 12 riders, not bad for midday on a Monday.  Also not bad?  We weren't even close to the first people to arrive at the gates.  By 1:30ish, the entrance to Gate 6 was almost halfway back to Stadium Drive.  By the time the gates opened a little bit before 3pm, it looked like 8:30am on a Sunday out there -- cars everywhere you looked, honking, growing impatient, ready to start tailgating.

* We were set up and ready to go by 3:15 yesterday.  Once again, I went on my pregame crusade, heading down to the team store in search of the gray t-shirt Coach Haley wears at his presser every week.  And once again, I struck out.  (stevo sighing in frustration) Chiefs Team Store Dudes?  I'm TRYING to give you $30 for a t-shirt that you've overpriced by at least a ten spot.  You know, a t-shirt that you make the head coach "model" every week, in hopes of (I would presume) SELLING it.  Can we make this thing available already?  At least online?  I can pay with plastic and cover the shipping charges if you need me to.

* An early Gregg sighting yesterday, as he was at the tailgate when I walked back up.  And because ... well, just because, we made it an "Old School Monday", as we took the walk around the stadium before settling in to tailgate. 

* Funniest moments from the walkabout ...

1. We entered a makeshift merchandise tent, to see what all was available.  As I noted, "Look!  Herm's sweater vest!  How 2007ish!"  To which Gregg replied "wow, a replica Brian Waters jersey!  I'm sure those are flying off the shelf!"  The merchandise workers were not amused.

2. Reminiscing about all the horrendous executives and coaches this team has employed, as we walked by where said executives and coaches used to park.  Gregg: "I don't remember the middle initial, but JS was the worst."  I gotta agree -- Jack Steadman was the worst.  (Yup, Ol' Jack was there last night for Alumni Weekend.  I'm guessing that if he drove to the game, he took out a stop sign, a light pole, and the parking attendant on his drive in.  God, he was eight levels of awful.  "Wait, so my place kicker thinks I should fire my head coach, who just took us to our first postseason berth in fifteen years?  And he wants me to replace the head coach with the only coach on the coaching staff who wants my place kicker to return?  OK!  Let's do it!"  You're the best Jack.  No, really, the pleasure that was the 1980s was all ours, seriously.)

3. Remembering that magical Monday night in October of 2000, when this exchange occurred at the Players Entrance:

(gregg) Sweet Jesus!  It's Ed Hochuli!
(ed hochuli) Is that a problem?
(everyone) (laughs all around)

Of course, the last laugh was saved for Chiefs fans that night, as Hochuli somehow overturned a first down catch by Seahawks TE Christian Fauria, to preserve a Chiefs victory.  Let's just say, I'm glad last night didn't come down to an official review, because Al Riveron's crew left a LOT to be desired.

* The menu yesterday rocked every bit as much as Chiefs fans did last night.  Steak and chicken fajitas, jalapeno poppers, margaritas, and some red On the Border tortilla chips. 

* Not much else to report from the pregame.  We came, we saw, we drank.  Rinse, lather, repeat.  So let's hit the game highlights, lowlights, and at least one well-timed, spectacular “lights show” ...

* Chargers win the toss, choose to receive.  And IMMEDIATELY the crowd lets the Chargers know "hi guys, we're here!", as they force a false start to open the game.  After a three and out, the Chiefs take over, and quickly drive for a field goal, to take the lead 3-0.  What impressed me on this drive, other than the Chiefs taking a lead they would never relinquish (although the Chargers eventually drew even)?  The Chiefs had 3 separate 3rd and long plays on this drive.  On 3rd and 10, Cassel hit Baldwin on a beautiful crossing pattern for a first down.  On 3rd and 9, Cassel bought time and hit D Bowe for 26.  And even on 3rd and 15, Cassel smartly took what the defense gave him, gaining 10 yards and ensuring a legitimate field goal attempt.  I thought this was a very positive sign of things to come.

Of course, the Chiefs could have gone three and out, and Cassel could have taken a leak at midfield, and I'd probably have found a way to make that a positive sign of things to come.  As I noted to Gregg on the walkabout: "I woke up this morning convinced we'd win.  I am now convinced we are going to whip their ass."  The lesson?  As always, if I'm THAT sure about something ...

* After grabbing the lead, the Chiefs defense then responds, with Kendrick Lewis picking off Rivers' pass and setting the Chiefs up deep in Chargers territory.  And in the first of two "what the hell did they see that I didn't?" replay moments of the night, the officiating crew upholds McCluster's fumble right back to the Chargers.  I thought McCluster was down.  Apparently one whole ass squarely planted on the ground does not equal a knee or an elbow or the definition of "being down".  But whatever.  Al Riveron, you blow. 

* Because from the "these guys just NEVER quit" file ... absolutely the Chargers ensuing drive ended with another Phyllis Rivers interception, his second of the quarter, eleventh of the season, this time on a deflected ball into the arms of Derrick Johnson.  This would set up the first of the three biggest plays of the night.

* Hu-Yuge Play Uno: the Chiefs have quickly moved to the Chargers 40, thanks to a Cassel scramble, a Cassel first down completion, and a stupid personal foul penalty on the Chargers.  (Side note: how awesome was it to watch how physical that game was last night?  Both sides were called for multiple personal fouls for hitting too hard, hitting late, etc.  I loved it.  Nothing wrong with brawling with your arch-rivals every now and then.  And I'm looking squarely at you as I type that, timmy tebow ...)

Cassel goes play action on 1st and 10 ... and airs it out, completing a "WOW!" pass in the center of the end zone to Jonathan Baldwin, who reaches up, makes the catch, and hangs on as he falls on his back.  Touchdown, Chiefs.  I have to say, that was one of the 10 or 11 best catches I've ever seen a Chiefs receiver make.  The Chargers defender had perfect coverage.  Cassel had to put the ball in the perfect spot, Baldwin had to make the perfect catch.  Cassel did, Baldwin did.  10-0 Chiefs.

* After the Chargers punt to open the second quarter, it was all set up for the Chiefs to grab this game by the throat, and choke the life out of it.  Unfortunately, Dwayne Bowe is flagged for offensive pass interference, and the Chiefs wind up punting.  I mention this, not only because we really wasted an outstanding opportunity to blow this game wide open ... but holy God, how many offensive pass interference calls did they call last night?  I can think of three off the top of my head, including the bullsh*t call on Antonio Gates in the second quarter that kept the Chargers off the scoreboard.  The next time you see three offensive pass interference calls in a game, will probably be a long time from now.

* On the ensuing drive, the Chargers cross the Chiefs 30 for the second time.  And in what would become the theme of the night, the defense bent ... but it really never broke.  The Chargers wound up with 9 separate possessions inside the Chiefs 30 ... and only managed four field goals and one touchdown (along with three turnovers and a missed field goal).  One of the made field goals was on this possession, and it's 10-3 Chiefs midway through the second quarter.

* After the Chiefs go three and out, the Chargers again march down the field, again cross the Chiefs 30 ... and again fail to capitalize.  This time, Jon McGraw (who was a beast last night) strips Ryan Mathews of the ball, and Kendrick Lewis recovers it at the 16.  I thought the pan to Norv on the sidelines after this play was not only priceless (he had a "why does this stuff always happen to my team?" look of shock on his face) ... but fitting.  Because these things ALWAYS happen to a Norv Turner coached team.  It's why Norv has never won a Super Bowl, and never will win one, let alone reach one.

* Unfortunately, the Chiefs can't get anything going, as the Chargers force a Cassel fumble and recover inside the Chiefs 25.  For what it's worth ... I did agree with the replay confirmation on this one, I thought Cassel's arm wasn't going forward yet.

* On second down and five, Rivers drops back and hits Antonio Gates at the goalline.  Whether he was in, or touched down just short of the end zone ... was ultimately meaningless, because for the THIRD time in a half, a player is flagged for offensive pass interference.  I thought this call was total bullsh*t -- at best, it was offsetting PI calls, and in all honesty, the refs should have just let the play stand.  But, am I complaining about it?  Nope.  Not at all.  Good call, back judge!

The PI call knocks the Chargers back, and Nick Novak winds up missing from 52 yards out.  Taking over at the Chargers 42, Cassel quickly moves the Chiefs into field goal range, converting a 3rd and 2 at midfield for a 30 yard gain to Steve Breaston.  Again, I cannot stress this enough -- when Cassel HAD to come up big last night, and he had multiple gigantic third down pressures, he did it.  Do I think Matt Cassel is the answer at quarterback?  No.  No I don't.  But give the kid credit -- when he HAD to deliver last night, he did.

Succup's field goal is good, the first half ends, and the Chiefs hit the locker room with a 13-3 lead.

Cue my favorite halftime show of the season.

* Oh hell yes it was Alumni Weekend!  This year's Ring of Honor inductee was Kevin "The Hitman" Ross, who helped anchor one of the most underrated (and talented) secondaries of the last 25 years.  There were many alumni who showed up to honor Ross, but the three who got the biggest applause, in order:

3. Priest Holmes.  Good for him finally returning.  Good for the fans giving him a well-deserved ovation.  Now, let's do good by him, Scott Pioli and Clark Hunt, and make Priest the 2013 inductee into the Ring of Honor.  Or 2012 if you aren't ready to do right by Carl Peterson and induct him.  I mean, my Lord, if Jack Steadman rates a spot in the Ring of Honor, Carl deserves his own wing of the place, if only for all the sh*t he had to clean up when he took over from Ol' Jack.

2. Christian Okoye.  In the interest of full disclosure ... Okoye is my favorite Chiefs player ever.  I LOVE that he's always the player who gets the biggest applause every year.  Louder than for Len Dawson, louder than for Priest, louder than for the inductee into the Ring of Honor.  But the longest, loudest ovation was saved for someone who never "suited up" for the Red and Gold ...

1. Marty Schottenheimer.  I'm going to make a statement that as recently as a year ago, I never would have imagined I'd ever type, but here goes: I have a feeling that, when it's all said and done, and his tenure with the Chiefs is over, that Todd Haley will be remembered every bit as fondly as Marty is.

Steve DeBerg was on hand to a nice round of appreciative applause.  Sadly, my favorite running gag of Alumni Weekend doesn’t get to appear in today’s recap … because “Holding, 69, Offense” … excuse me, “False Start, 69, Offense” … no wait, I think it was “Leg Whip, 69, Offense” … no, I think I heard “Illegal Hands to the Face, 69, Offense”.  Anyways, Jeff Criswell tragically was not there.

(Side note: the FUNNIEST moment of the Andre Rison catch game at oakland is without question the extra point after Rison scores.  Oh, you forgot about this beauty?  Rison scored with :03 left on the clock, to put the Chiefs up 28-27.  The Chiefs (correctly) line up to go for two, as an extra point does them no good.  Keep in mind, the stadium is in abject shock.  All the fans are pouring out of the exits.  You could hear a pin drop at this point.

FIVE consecutive false start flags on Jeff Criswell later, the Chiefs attempt the two point conversion.  God bless it, I miss Jeff Criswell.  Hope all is well with you champ!  After all, this is the man Norman Chad once wrote about, noting “In honor of Derrick Thomas’ 100th career sack, the NFL stopped the game and presented him with a plaque.  In honor of Jeff Criswell’s 100th holding call on the next series, the NFL stopped the game and presented him with an honorary flag.”  Jeff Criswell, everybody!  (kazoo voice) !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)

Anyways, the Alumni Ceremony was world class last night.  Good job Chiefs, former Chiefs players, and Chiefs fans, most of whom stuck around and watched the ceremony rather than dash off for last call at the concession stands.

(Also, congrats to Marty for going with the contacts!  As someone who just recently has switched to contacts after a lifetime of wearing glasses, you’re looking quite good, sir!)

* Chiefs open the second half and go three and out.  For the fifth time, the Chargers cross the Chiefs 30 ... and for the fifth time, they fail to capitalize, settling for a Nick Novak field goal to cut the lead to 13-6.

* After a horrendous Cassel interception, the Chargers again enter the Chiefs scoring zone ... and again fail to capitalize, settling for a Nick Novak field goal to cut the lead to 13-9.

* After a three and out, the Chargers enter the scoring zone for an incredible SEVENTH time (and we're still in the third quarter, keep in mind) ... and AGAIN fail to punch the ball into the end zone, settling for another Nick Novak field goal after having goal to go.  The lead is now down to 1 at 13-12.  The Chargers have all the momentum.  It's up to the Chiefs offense to get things back on track.

And boy did they.

* Chiefs get a quick first down, and the third quarter draws to a merciful conclusion.  It probably didn't come through on TV, but you could sense in the stadium that ... well, some of the faithful were beginning to lose their faith.  Let's face it -- the Chargers had whipped our ass in that quarter.  The Chiefs had one first down in the half, and they'd just picked that up.  They'd been outscored 9-0, had done nothing on offense, things were looking grim.

(That also was one long ass quarter.  I timed it at slightly under 75 minutes.)

Cue the PA guy picking the perfect song at that moment.

"Just a small town girl
Living in a lonely world ..."

Which led to 72,000 plus singing along to the words of the song that probably best defines these scrappy Chiefs, "Don't Stop Believin'".

My God, would those three words come into play about 40, 41 minutes later ...

* Facing a 3rd and 2 at midfield, Cassel drops back to throw, and NOBODY is open.  The pocket is breaking down.  So Matt Cassel, who will never be confused with someone who is "fast", "speedy", "elusive", or "difficult to track down in the open field", manages to somehow break through, gain seven yards, and keep the drive alive.  Four plays later, Jackie Battle takes off for the end zone, and scores!  Yes! 

Uuh, not quite.  Replay showed he clearly came down short of the end zone.  With some teams, maybe that's an issue, but not with these guys.  Battle, on the very next play, plunges over the top, looking like John Starks going up for a reverse dunk -- flying through the air backwards, arm outstretched, ball on the edge of his hand.  Touchdown, Kansas City!  Touchdown, Jackie Battle!

It is at this moment, that I think the people around me believed I lost my mind ... because I thought we should go for two.  My reasoning for this was quite simple: I felt that the way the Chargers were moving the ball, they were eventually going to score a touchdown.  If we kick the extra point and go up eight, the Chargers can still tie the game with a score and a two point conversion.  If we go for two and fail?  You're still up seven, and a Chargers touchdown and extra point still results in a tie.  But if you go for two and get it?  You're up two scores again.

Chiefs kick.  20-12, 12 minutes to play.

* And as if I drew up the script, the Chargers immediately march down the field, and score a touchdown that replay upheld.  (Some fans were hacked because they thought it was a fumble, but the Chargers had clearly crossed the goalline prior to the ball coming out.)  That's not the play that bugged me.  It was the two point "conversion" that infuriated me.

I've been told by people far more rational, sane, and composed than I am, that Brinkley did somehow get at least the nose of the football on the goalline.  Sorry, I ain't buying it.  I thought the Chiefs held.  But in any case, it's a whole new ballgame, tied at 20 with a little over seven minutes to play.

* It is at this point, that even I began to have my doubts that we would win this game.  After the Chiefs go three and out, and Dusty C outkicks his coverage, resulting in a huge return to midfield, the Chargers begin driving.  Slowly and steadily.  This Brinkley dude (who apparently went to Syracuse, go figure) converts a 2nd down and 4 at the two minute warning, bringing the Chargers inside the Chiefs scoring zone for the ninth (and potentially most fateful) time.  For the Chiefs, its now very simple: with only two timeouts, they had to hold the Chargers, make them kick the field goal with about 1:15 to play, and then mount a last minute scoring drive.

First down: Brinkley up the middle for four.  Timeout KC.
Second down: Brinkley up the middle for five.  Timeout KC.

3rd and 1.  1:48 to play.  It's simple: hold ... or die.

Third down: Jacob Hester up the middle for one ... and a half yards.  First down Chargers.

It is at this point, that I just shook my head, and resigned myself to the fact that this season, that this team had worked so hard to save, so hard to revive, so hard to bring meaning to, was about to have the life support unplugged, and it was going to be done by Jacob Freaking Hester.

The mood in that stadium, at that moment?  Was probably EXACTLY what the mood at your watching party or living room or bedroom or local watering hole was like.  Abject depression.  Dejection. 

And in that situation, the words of Herb Brooks that had been haunting me all weekend, finally made sense.

"Great moments can only arise from great opportunity."

What I failed, what most Chiefs fans failed, to take into account ... is that at the exact moment we lost faith in the miraculous to occur, these guys were about to deliver the miracle.  The Chiefs had created this great opportunity by refusing to give up the previous three weeks.  And now, that great opportunity was about to give rise to one of the greatest moments in franchise history.

Hu-Yuge Moment Dos.

* 1st down: FUMBLE!!!  Oh sweet f*cking Jesus!  For a solid two, maybe three seconds, it was eerily quiet in there, waiting for the pile to unscramble, waiting to see if the Chiefs Christmas goose was cooked*.

(*: cue “the voice of reason” nodding in approval at that choice of phrase.)

And then, as Andy Studebaker, the hero from the shocking upset of the Steelers two years ago that really was the catalyst for everything we've enjoyed the last year and a half, the springboard for this run of success, as Andy Studebaker stood up and raised that ball high into the night sky, well, in the words of Jack Buck, "go crazy folks! Go crazy!"  (Which is exactly what I attempted to text at that moment ... only, I was trembling from relief, excitement, and probable alcohol withdrawal so much, to say nothing of wiping back the rapidly forming tears in my eyes, that I literally couldn't type.  It was neat!)

And you know what else was trembling?  Was that stadium, to its foundation.  Clark Hunt this morning described his reaction to the play this way: "I stood straight up out of my bar stool and began screaming "YES!  YES!  YES"!"  Funny -- other than the fact I was already standing, that's pretty much EXACTLY how I reacted.

As Rivers and his dejected teammates headed towards the sidelines, I just kept staring at the field.  I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop.  I mean, it's the Chiefs.  You know what's coming, right?  Riveron would have been buzzed to the replay booth, found a way to reverse the call, and give the Chargers their opportunity back.  After all, this is an officiating crew that ruled a dude sitting flat on his ass wasn’t down by contact not even four hours earlier.

It was a buzz that never came.  After ending a last gasp desperation drive on an interception (looked from my view like Cassel's arm was hit as he threw.  Either that, or that was the WORST forward pass I've ever seen attempted in a NFL game) that ensured we were going to overtime, well ... let's just say, as loud as it was on the 4th down stand last year against these guys?  As loud as it got after Dante Hall's incredible punt return against denver eight years ago, or on “The Stand” two years later against those f*ckers, when Bill Leavy overturned the spot?

The reaction after that fumble last night, was louder. 

And the loudest moment was yet to come.

* Did you catch what occurred right before the Phumble?  Fireworks!  Yup, some moron prematurely set off the fireworks that (I assume) were intended to go off after the game if the Chiefs won.  They went off as the Chargers were lining up to take that ill-fated snap.  Fun stuff.

* Underrated moment -- during EVERY timeout in the fourth quarter, care to guess what Ryan Succup was doing with his time?  If you had "practicing field goals into the wind on the side of the field the Chiefs drove towards in the fourth quarter and overtime", congratulations, you're a winner.  Yes, Succup was out there with Dusty C and whoever the hell our long snapper is, practicing, gauging the wind (which was deceptively tough), making sure that when his moment to stand and deliver arrived, he would, uuh, stand and deliver.

You can b*tch about a lot of things with this team, Chiefs fans, but one thing you can't complain about -- these guys are giving everything that can possibly think of giving, to will this team to victory, right down to cheating.  (Apparently Riveron wasn’t supposed to allow Succup to practice kicks, without allowing San Diego’s kicker the same opportunity.  Whoops!)  That's not just a credit to Scott Pioli, to Todd Haley, to the assistant coaches – it’s a tribute to a team that had every reason in the world to quit at 0 and 3 ... and instead finds itself in first place, in complete and total control of its postseason destiny.

(Or to put it another way ... do you think Norv Turner's Chargers recover from an 0 and 3 start?  You think Phyllis Rivers recovers from the start Matt Cassel had (1 TD, 7 INTs through three weeks)?  And more to the point: do you really think Norv's Chargers, Phyllis' team, that collection of soft underachievers we beat last night in dramatic fashion, is going to recover from how they lost?  Because I sure as hell don't.)

* Chargers call heads, and go figure, it's heads.  Chargers elect to receive, proving that despite as in over his head as he is, Norv still isn't as stupid as Marty Mornhinweg.  Although it's close.  Here's the strange thing though, and maybe it was just me or the folks I was around, but you just felt inside that stadium that we weren't losing this game.  It was one of those "we've come too bleeping far to bleep this up now" feelings of calm.

After a short gain on first down, Rivers drops back to pass and rolls right.  Coming fast behind him was Tamba Hali, who pummeled Rivers from behind, and the ball came squirting out.  Holy sh*t!  A scramble ensued ... and sadly the Chargers won it.  Fortunately, it cost the Chargers nearly fifteen yards, forcing them into a harmless 3rd down play to simply get enough room to get the punt off.

The Chiefs take over at their own 19, after a gorgeous 60 yard punt with an illegal block penalty tacked on to boot.

I thought it was interesting -- the radio broadcast at that moment, during that change of possession timeout, played the "Do your job!  If you do your job, we'll win this game!" line that Coach Haley implored on his team during that Steelers upset two years ago.

"If you do your job, we will win this game".

Jesus, even the commercials are lining up for us now.  Really?  THIS is the Chiefs?

(Hell yes, this is the Chiefs!)

* First down, Cassel to McCluster for twelve.  Then Cassel hits Baldwin for eleven.  Then another first down pass to McCluster.  And then, on 2nd and 7 at the Chargers 40, a curious playcall -- a pitch offtackle to Thomas Jones.  To the surprise of noone, Jones lost two yards.  And then, after a brain fart false start on (I believe) Branden Albert, the third huge play of the day.

(The COOLEST thing about the drive in overtime?  Think back to either a week or two ago, and my whining about the Chiefs play calling.  What did I specifically go off about?  How teams get too cute, how when they find something that is money, that works anytime it's called, for some reason they stop calling it?  The FIRST FIVE PLAYS of this drive were the EXACT SAME PLAY!  We went right at Quentin Jammer (who was playing hurt) and exploited him.  Hell, even the one running call in this series prior to Hu-Yuge Play Tres?  Went offtackle right, right at Jammer.)

* If Baldwin doesn't make that circus catch in the first quarter, we aren't in overtime.

* If Studebaker doesn't recover Rivers' fumble five minutes earlier, we aren't in overtime.

* And now, if Cassel can't convert a 3rd and 14 in said overtime, it’s highly likely that we aren't winning this game.

Hu-Yuge Play Tres.

Cassel drops back, and hits Steve Breaston about seven yards downfield.  Breaston turns, looks upfield ... and sees plenty of open space in front of him.  What I loved the most about this play?  Wasn't even the play itself, it was what happened immediately afterwards, as the Chiefs now had 1st and 10 at the Chargers 30, squarely in Ryan Succup's range.

The streamers.

In the upper end zone on the east side of the field, where the streamers always come flying down from, they came out after that conversion.  Usually you save those for after a scoring play.  That play, that conversion, that moment, was so freaking huge for this season, that the streamers came flying down.

Good call.

* After no gain on first down, Jackie Battle goes for 9 down to the Chargers 20.  I argued the time to try the field goal was right then.  Don't allow the chance for something screwy (like, I don't know ... FUMBLING A SNAP IN GIMME FIELD GOAL RANGE!!!) to occur.  The Chiefs line up, pitch it to Battle, who rumbles for six and the first down to the Chargers 15.

I love being wrong.

* After two runs to set up Succup on the left hashmarks, in he comes.  The snap (which was low), the hold (which was shaky given the low snap), the kick ... it's good!  It's good! 

And if you thought it was loud before ... you hadn't heard anything yet.

* Remember the Pete for President Game in 1997?  The Vanover return referenced earlier from 1995?  Remember how NOBODY left those games early, and NOBODY left immediately after they were done?  Let’s just say, nobody left early yesterday, and nobody was ducking out to beat traffic after Succup’s kick went through.

* The walk out was incredible.  The pounding of the columns.  The Tomahawk Chop flying.  Dejected Chargers fans being openly taunted.  In the words of Ronnie Milsap, "I wouldn't have missed it for the world."

* I finally make it back to the Bus, and hugs all around.  I then hop in, walk down to my cooler, grab a huge bottle of champage, and walk out into the grassy lot to begin celebrating.  Someone dropped the "what, no cup?" line.  Hell yes, no cup! 

I didn't let go of that bottle until I climbed into bed about 2 1/2 hours later.

* So ... where do we go from here?

Look it, nobody enjoyed last night like me.  I NEEDED that game.  As much as I love the NFL … my favorite professional sports league should be tipping off tonight, and they’re not, because both sides are absolute f*cking idiots and should be tortured in the worse prison a Middle Eastern dictator can offer up for use.

And I am aware that I'm one of the few people who, even at 0 and 3, counciled that this season wasn't over yet, that the Chiefs COULD win six straight, split with the Patriots and Steelers, split with the Jets and Bears, and win their last two inside the division to steal this thing at 10 and 6.  And I'm not saying that is going to happen.  This team has serious flaws, has serious injury issues, and still (apparently) can't get a damned headset to function properly.

But what I am saying, is that right now, gun to my head?  I'd bet on that scenario to play out.  Why CAN'T the Chiefs beat a winless Miami team at home?  Why CAN'T the Chiefs beat an awful denver squad at home?  Why CAN'T the Chiefs upset the Steelers, win in Chicago, and beat the raiders (who we already beat by four touchdowns in their house), and then close by beating a denver team playing for nothing other than pride (which, come on, it's the broncos.  They have no pride worth playing for)?

If last night showed us anything ... well, its that no matter how many times these guys face adversity, they're going to fight through it, and find a way to at least manage it.  But if last night showed us anything, its this:

The luckiest dreamers who never quit dreaming?  Be it the Chiefs players, coaches, owners, or us, the fanbase?

We're nowhere near the end.

The best is ready to begin!


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