“Some dreams? Stay with your forever.
Drag you around, to bring you
Back to where you were.
But some dreams? Keep on getting better!
You gotta keep believing,
If you wanna know for sure!
Oh! I can hear them playing!
I can hear the ringing of
A beat up old guitar!
Oh! I can hear them singing!
Keep on dreaming,
Even if it breaks your heart!”
-- “Even If It Breaks Your Heart” by the Eli Young Band.
1:55 to go, third quarter. The Chiefs have just won a challenge regarding the spot of the ball, overturning a Giants first down, and setting up a 4th and inches at the Giants 30. The Chiefs lead 10-7, and the longest third quarter I believe I have ever experienced, had once again sputtered to a stop. (My seatmate clocked that baby at 1:13 Sunday. An hour and thirteen minute long quarter! And it wasn't the fourth, or overtime! And if anything? It felt longer than seventy three minutes!)
The STH next to me, whose mother also had the amazing intelligence, wisdom, and foresight to name him Steve, turned to me, and we both had the same reaction to the situation -- the Giants HAD to go for it.
They're 0-3. They've literally had one play all day that worked (the bomb to Victor Cruz to open the second quarter). Eli Manning has been under constant assault, constant pressure. And again -- they're zero and three. With sixteen minutes left in the game, trailing by a field goal. This is their season, for all intents and purposes. Only one team in NFL history has rallied from 0-4 to make the playoffs -- your 1992 San Diego "Super" Chargers, who (go figure) boatraced the Chiefs 17-0 in the wildcard round on this (not even remotely) humble blogger's sixteenth birthday. They HAD to go for it.
A 3-0 team in that spot, is justified playing the field position game. And to be fair, Steve Weatherford's punt was a nice one, traveling nearly sixty yards in the air. A 3-0 team in that spot, punts the ball, puts its defense on the field, asks it to force a stop, and gets the ball back at their own forty yard line early in the fourth quarter.
An 0-3 team? It is utterly indefensible to punt in that spot.
An 0-3 team that literally had done nothing all day, nothing all season, and needed a kickstart to its offense to at least continue to give its defense (which played one helluva first forty five minutes yesterday) a reason to keep fighting? HAS to go for it.
Tom Coughlin chose not to.
So Steve Weatherford took the field.
Which let Dexter McCluster happen.
And a quarter long celebration a (florida evans voice) damn, damn, damn! long time coming, commenced.
This one felt different, peoples and peepettes.
And here's why. These are the last five home wins, prior to Sunday, in games that count **:
* vs Cowboys, week 2 2013.
* vs Panthers, week 13 2012.
* vs Packers, week 15 2011.
* vs Chargers, week 9 2011.
* vs Vikings, week 4 2011.
(**: these are all on this site; if I get time, I'll go back and link to each recap. And to this day, the Panthers recap is still the most read post on this site ... and it's still the single most difficult thing, I've ever written in my life.)
And these would be my number one overwhelming reaction(s) -- and I would suspect, many of you, the readers, overwhelming reaction(s) -- to the outcome of each of those five games:
* vs Cowboys: restoring our faith and pride in this franchise.
* vs Panthers: utter disgust and contempt of what this team has become.
* vs Packers: utter shock and awe; never saw it coming.
* vs Chargers: arguably the luckiest win in franchise history.
* vs Vikings: stopped the 0-3 bleeding.
Sunday, I didn't feel like this team stopped any bleeding, lucked into an improbable outcome, stunned the world, disgusted even a morally bankrupt individual like myself to the point of utter hatred and contempt for who and what they have become, and Sunday’s win didn’t restore my faith in anything.
The Cowboys game was fun.
Was about more than fun.
Sunday, is what we've sat through the last three years of crap, to not just enjoy. We sat through it, to enjoy Dallas.
Sunday, is what we’ve sat through the last fifteen years of crap, to earn.
Folks? The fun has just begun.
Because Sunday? I felt something that – if I’m being honest – I haven’t felt, in at least ten years, inside that stadium.
And if I'm being honest? It's been fifteen, since I truly, totally, and completely, felt this way.
I am trying my level-headed best not to get too caught up in this start. For starters, this team went 2-14, and earned the number one pick in the draft, less than twelve months ago for a reason. And it doesn't take a Voice of Reason to figure out, that reason is they were no good at anything -- coaching, quarterbacking, offense, defense, special teams, the front office, ownership, avoiding shooting your girlfriend in the chest nine times -- anything this team attempted last year, was a Chernobyl style disaster.
For seconds, we play in a division with the denver broncos, who like it or not (and you can guess my leaning to that choice), are without question -- (allard baird voice) without question! -- the best team in the AFC at this point, and quite frankly, I still wouldn't put the Chiefs ahead of New England either. We're in that muddled second tier with Miami, Indianapolis, and Houston (who we get our shot at in three weeks), just above the third tier of Cincinnati, Baltimore, and Tennessee. I am fairly confident the Chiefs would beat either of those three squads on our good buddy Ol' Pete King's proverbial neutral field in Wichita. (Which, to be fair ... might not be so neutral, if the Chiefs were involved in the contest). I am reasonably confident this team won't wet its' pants facing the Dolphins or Texans, regardless of where they played. But unless denver or New England are coming to Arrowhead, I'm not seeing a victory for the Red and Gold. And even then, I struggle to envision one.
For thirds, this team has started 4-0 only twice before in franchise history: 1996 and 2003. Both times, ("clue" voice) the Colts murdered the season, at Arrowhead, with a late season-ending victory that prolonged their journey at our expense. The 2003 playoff loss, everyone remembers. Everyone tends to forget the week sixteen battle in 1996 that gave the Colts a wildcard berth, and ultimately cost the Chiefs one, in a virtual "winner's in, loser's out" battle.
Go figure -- Indy's coming in week sixteen, in a potentially gigantic showdown for a playoff berth. So there's that Hindenberg-style trainwreck potentially awaiting this team.
And yet, something feels different this time.
Something feels very, very different.
I'll get to the recap of the day, and my thoughts of the game as it unfolded, momentarily. But it's that different feeling, that I think fueled that fourth quarter celebration, that truly kicked off with about ninety seconds remaining in the third quarter, as Mr. McCluster crossed the goalline with the clinching points.
That fourth quarter on Sunday? Is the strangest feeling I've had inside that stadium in a long, long time. And I guaran-damn-tee you, the other 77,000 in attendance felt it too. Because from the moment Dexter McCluster took it to the house, to the moment Dwayne Bowe grabbed in a 35 yard bomb with three minutes to play to put the Giants out of their misery? It was so damned loud in that stadium, you couldn't think. You just yelled. You just clapped. You just pounded -- pounded! -- the chair in front of you.
Because the feeling you had watching these guys in that fourth quarter? The overwhelming, absolutely crushing sensation that flowed through all 77,000 of us that witnessed that amazing forty five minute run of football?
(Pause). What? You didn't think I'd give it to you up front, did you? :)
"Life is but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage, and then is heard from no more. It is a tale told by an idiot -- full of sound and fury, signifying nothing"
-- from Shakespeare's "Macbeth".
For fifteen years, this team we love has been that walking shadow. It's been that poor player. It's been a tale told by an idiot.
It's had its moments of significance, and fun, and excitement ... along with its moments of depression, sadness, and frustration. It's had its moments we love them unconditionally ... and moments we hated them rationally and justifiably.
And maybe I'm a dunce, buying into the hype. Maybe I'm once again, as I have every year for fifteen years and counting, believing in a bit player of a team that isn't worth the investment of time, energy, and emotion.
Or maybe this time, it's ...
Let me open with the defensive stats from Sunday. Folks? Hang on, I can't say "folks" twice without letting the Vice President chime in. Sir, do you have anything to say?
(vice president biden voice) Folks! These stats are going to stun you! A three letter word -- stun!
Thank you sir.
This, Chiefs fans? This is what your defense, did for you Sunday:
* Giants offensive plays ran in the red zone: zero.
The Giants not only ran zero plays in the most important part of the field Sunday ... they didn't visit twenty five percent of the available real estate at the First Church of Arrowhead. The deepest penetration (hee hee) the Giants managed was the Chiefs 26 yard line, and that was when they missed the field goal right before the half (a field goal, for what it's worth, that I thought was good).
* 1-14 on third down.
Holy. God. That's utterly incredible. Here, for the record, are the third downs the Giants faced, and the outcome of each:
(1) 3rd and 14, NYG 4. Manning completion for 11 yards, Giants punt.
(2) 3rd and 15, NYG 43. Manning completion for 8 yards, Giants punt.
(3) 3rd and 1, NYG 21. Manning completion for 16 yards, first down.
(4) 3rd and 11, NYG 36. Manning sack / fumble / turnover.
(5) 3rd and 6, NYG 35. Manning sacked. Giants punt.
(6) 3rd and 2, NYG 35. Manning incompletion. Giants punt.
(7) 3rd and 11, NYG 25. Manning incompletion. Giants punt.
(8) 3rd and 1, NYG 45. Wilson stuffed for no gain. Giants punt.
(9) 3rd and 19, NYG 11. Manning interception / turnover.
(10) 3rd and 9, NYG 27. Manning incompletion. Giants punt.
(11) 3rd and 17, NYG 14. Manning completion for 16 yards, 2 feet, and 7 inches. Giants punt.
(12) 3rd and 10, NYG 45. Manning incompletion. Giants go for it on 4th down.
(13) 3rd and 5, NYG 37. Manning sack / fumble / turnover.
(14) 3rd and 16, KC 49. Manning incompletion. Giants go for it on 4th down.
The only drive the Giants converted a third down on, they lost the ball three plays later. (john davidson voice) That's incredible!
* Eli Manning's line: 18/37 (48.6%), 217 yards, 1 TD / 1 INT, three sacks, two fumbles (both lost), 64.8 QBR.
It's one thing to shut down Blaine Gabbert. It's quite another to shut down a two-time Super Bowl winning quarterback who has only suffered one losing season in his career, and that was his rookie year (5-11 in 2004).
I mean, do you realize how incredible it is, to hold a quarterback UNDER a 50% completion rate for a game? Just for sh*ts and giggles, here (according to NFL.com, where all these stats are pulled from) are the quarterbacks who failed to complete at least 50% of their attempts in Week Four:
Ryan Fitzpatrick, Titans (3/8).
EJ Manuel, Bills (10/22).
Sam Bradford, Rams (19/41).
Eli Manning, Giants (18/37).
Look at the list. Fitzpatrick was a mid-game replacement for the injured Jake Locker. Manuel is a rookie. Bradford is struggling so far this year.
Those three guys completing less than 50%? Probably doesn't surprise you. Although, if just one incompletion had been converted, everyone on that list save for Mr. Bradshaw, would be at or over 50%.
Or to put this into perspective, how hard it is to hold a dude under 50% in this league?
Blaine Gabbert completed 17 of his 32 attempts yesterday, for a 53.1% completion percentage.
* The Giants only had one play that gained more than 16 yards, 2 feet, and 7 inches Sunday.
And that was the touchdown bomb to Victor Cruz to open the second quarter.
Their longest pass (other than the bomb to Cruz) was the play that set up Dexter McCluster’s incredible return.
Their long run was 15 yards, early in the fourth quarter.
By comparison, the Chiefs longest run was 24 yards, and they had five receivers -- five! -- who all posted AT LEAST one catch for more than 17 yards.
If you remove the one play to Victor Cruz?
The Chiefs defense took the Giants offense to the bedroom and gave it the business. This is as thorough of an ass whipping, as you will ever see in the NFL.
And possibly the finest performance by a defense you will see this year, against a team not named the "Jacksonville Jaguars".
I woke up at 4:26am Sunday morning. I didn't set an alarm, and hadn't planned on getting up until 5:15am or so, when the banging on the guest room door would commence. I was wide awake at 4:26am.
Those of you who know me best, know that I do not believe in coincidence.
Or, to quote my buddy Pickell: “put it this way” – if I can’t sleep in the most comfortable bed known to man (the guest room at Russ and Mona’s)? You know I’m ready.
And if I’m ready?
How ready was everyone else?
* The Bus left at 6:30ish. I spent the ride out trying to figure out how all my beads got tangled into one gigantic ball, and how to untangle them. It took me fifteen minutes, they were so clogged together. But I finally managed, just as we turned onto Stadium Drive. (Pause). What? (Pause). Well of course I wear beads to every game! You never know when a hot girl walking by, decides to earn a few of them!
* The Chiefs graciously and generously gave everyone who had the early-in pass last week, a freebie this week. So we figured we'd try it out.
We turned into the early-access gate, drove up to the booth, handed the dude the pass and the early-in printout ... and away we went. No surcharge for being a bus. That's a good thing! And the first sign it might be our day.
* There was a bit of confusion as we descended the hill. Both from coming in backwards ... but also because the fine folks at the Sports Complex moved the port-a-potties on us. Oh, and one of the trees was taken out; that didn't help matters.
We finally figured out where our spot is, parked the bus, and it was time to get our tailgate on.
(The port-a-potties are now about fifteen feet further down. I thought I'd hate that. After all, the sole reason we tailgate where we do, and have for all these years, is because we're right next to the port-a-potties, and once the grassy knoll fills up, they can be obscured from view. But I gotta admit, it was nice not having a boatload of folks walk right through the tailgate, on their way to get their whiz on.)
This was the scene a little before 7am at Arrowhead:
Love the fog. That's damned cool.
(Photo: me, via my iPhone).
After unloading the speakers, this conversation occurred:
(anthony) You sure you know what you're doing?
(stevo) Yeah, I'm sure. I learned my lesson last week.
(anthony) OK. Just making sure "Special Stevo" doesn't need any help.
(stevo) (glares in anger)
(everyone who heard) (laughing in humor)
The first song to pull up on the "didn't even take me five seconds to get this baby up and running" Mixology playlist on Sunday morning?
"Right Here, Right Now" by Van Halen. For those who are too young or too new to the scene to remember, this is the song that used to welcome us to Arrowhead each week during the glory days of the 1990s.
Again -- I do not believe in coincidence.
* Roger and his crew rolled in shortly after the gates opened at 7am. Ron and his Springfield guys got there about 8am. (blackstreet voice) Play on, playa.
* About 8:30, Roger's wife Diane walks over with Russ, to seek me out. She wanted to know how I managed to get the Mixology list to play off my iPhone onto the speakers, even though it wasn't plugged into a radio. So, I explained the FM transmitter deal plugged into the iPhone, how it sends a signal to the station you want it to broadcast over, and it "takes over" that station for a small radius, to play what you want it to play.
Now, keep in mind -- or background, for those of you unfamiliar with our tailgating groups and area -- Roger and Diane's bus, has a working entertainment center, up to and including a DirecTV feed for those times when we're the late game, so that we can watch the early ones … or those times we’re stuck waiting for traffic to clear from the early game, to catch the late game action. She's not technologically illiterate, like me. And as best I could tell, all parties involved in the conversation, were sober. Or at least not over the legal limit in all (president obama voice) 56 states and the District yet.
It took me almost twenty minutes of explanation, to get her to see how a transmitter works, and how the playlist gets onto the speakers. Twenty minutes! And even then, I still don't think it took.
I know, I know -- it's the little things that fascinate me.
* 8:37am. Castro's crew arrives, with the bus' horns fixed. One of our two parking nazis (the newbie) had parked his car in Castro's crew's spot, and they were not happy. Sadly, Mr. Parking Nazi got into his car, and moved it, so that the hideous "116 Decibel" bus could pull in.
Needless to say, the new parking nazi is getting no coffee or benchwarmers, when the weather turns cold. Phil? He’s still cool. But this newbie? No warm beverages for you, sir!
* Speaking of weather, how perfect was Sunday? A lil’ bit Nipsy Russell on the ride out and for the first 25, 30 minutes, but after that, you could not have asked for a nicer day.
* The tailgating spread: Anthony grilled brats. Roger and his guys had burgers. Ron and his group had chicken. The sides were homemade potato salad, a green bean casserole, a corn chili salsa Mona made that went fast, a bunch of desserts, and some French bread concoction with an egg that one of Ron’s folks tried to make, but was struggling with. It looked good though.
Oh, and somebody made a pizza. Now that’s sweet.
I guess I should acknowledge the elephant in the room: tailgating isn’t as much fun, without getting my ass handed to me 15-2 at washers by The Champ.
Of course, it’s also not as much fun without me tagging some mistletoe on my hat and hanging out by “The Crush”, so there’s that too. December 1st girl. You know you can't wait.
Gregg and Gordon swung by for a few happy minutes. Oh – and lunch is Wednesday, for those of you anxiously awaiting Stevo’s Site Numero Dos’s first official Restaurant Review.
And yes – I know my bowling league starts on Wednesday. I am gambling big time that Don Chilitos either (a) is already out of my system come 4pm, or (b) hasn’t made its’ way to the finish line yet. I took a look today at the menu for this place. I nearly puked just reading the description. A chip trough? A special melted cheezy spread? Really? With my “lactose intolerant” issues? The Chilito’s Style Spread? (scott parks voice) Oh God.
And to boot – I’m gambling that I’ll be able to snap a few pics with the iPhone. I don’t want those fine folks to think I’m with the health department … although maybe some free publicity on the blog might do them some good. Hmmm. I’ll take that one under advisement.
* For those of you who are familiar with our tailgate, this will be redundant, but I know people who read this regularly who have never tailgated with me before at a Chiefs game, so I’m giving them a visual here. At 10:15am, or almost two hours before kickoff, Lot G was filled past our tailgating spot. We tailgate on the grassy knoll due north of the G30 sign, maybe 20 feet from where Lot G stops going straight back, and the exit lane begins to form.
Lot G was filled two hours before kickoff.
The last ten years? Lot G doesn't back up to our area, until after we've broken down and headed in to the stadium.
Lot G was filled two hours before kickoff.
I’d say the Kingdom was ready Sunday.
* Mona had to arrive late, as she was on call all weekend (and thankfully found a friend to cover from 10-4 Sunday).
For a third time in six hours on Sunday morning, I found myself saying the following six words. “I do not believe in coincidence.”
Because the first two songs to pop up on the playlist when she got there? “Penny Lover” and “In The Air Tonight”.
If “Word Up” had been next, I might have dropped dead of a coronary.
We tore down beginning at 11am, because security to get in has gotten utterly and completely out of hand. Mr. Goodell? Yo, Mr. Commish Dude?
As I said to a round of applause at the intrusive wanding being done to me entering your League’s facility Sunday: “How hard is this to understand? You can have freedom, or you can have security. You cannot have both!”
I’d like to believe the American people are beginning to side with me (freedom) over the 9/11 overreaction crowd (security).
Because at some point, enough is enough … and that point was Sunday, when the security gal wanded both an (approximately) four year old girl, and a three year old boy, who was terrified of what was happening to him.
(Pause). What? (Pause). Well of COURSE the fact I can’t sneak my flask past security anymore is a factor in my opinion! How dare you think otherwise!
Funnest non-football related moment of the day? If you know me, you know I love “The Price Is Right”, and you know my favorite game on that fine game show is Plinko.
Ladies and gentlemen, from the good folks in G27, I give you … Drinko!
I am SO needing one of those for our tailgate …
(Photo: me, via my iPhone).
* The Anthem was solid. Patti DiParto-Livergood always is. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Kansas City Chiefs Organization? Employ a three person rotation for the Anthem – Ms. DiParto-Livergood, the Rev. Hal Weeks, and the amazing Ida McBeth, and let David Cook have it for the one game that doesn’t fit the rotation. Is there ANYONE reading this, who has regularly attended games at that stadium over the last twenty years, who has a problem with that suggestion? No? Good. Make it happen.
* I did not notice a flyover. That’s not to say there wasn’t one. I just didn’t notice one. And I was sober. I only had (hang on … doing the math …) five mimosas and one Coors Light, during tailgating. Six drinks in four hours – no matter how strong I make them? Isn’t gonna put a dent in me.
* I love, and I mean love, the return of the individual introductions during pregame for the Chiefs. Me personally, I tend to be a pretty boring, button-down, non-creative, non-innovative person. But I totally dig people who are creative, who are inspired to entertain for the masses. I think it’s totally cool to watch the players and their individual entrances. From the stoic (pretty much the whole offensive line), to the “recognize the crowd and fire them up” (Jamaal Charles), to the “look at me!” (Dwayne Bowe, Donnie Avery), it’s neat to see.
* Although the fire still scares the crap out of me, when it starts going off.
(Note: from this point on, for the game recap, I am cheating to ensure I get down, distance, and situation right, by pulling from the NFL.com Game Recap.)
* Chiefs win the toss, choose to receive. At least we were guaranteed to win something Sunday.
* The Giants defense Sunday – I thought, anyway – was phenomenal for about 48, 49 minutes. The first 48, 49 minutes. And even when the floodgates opened when they collapsed on the 1st and 25 to seal the game, they still fought. They played (from my view anyways) almost all man, with a variety of cover one / cover two shells in the secondary. And I loved how they kept a linebacker on Charles or McCluster at all times out of the backfield. They did everything I would have done, to take away the Chiefs weapons on offense, and again – it was 10-7 Chiefs when Weatherford launched the punt 43 minutes in, and I’d argue it should have been 10-10, because that field goal before the half by the Giants looked good to me.
My point here is not to praise the Giants; it’s to really praise Alex Smith. Seriously, other than the 1st and 25 that opened the floodgates, was there ever a play on Sunday that Alex Smith didn’t have to throw into coverage … or check down to a back where the linebacker was ready to tackle him once he turned upfield?
I know a lot of fans are upset that the Chiefs are playing such a “conservative” passing game. Yes, the Chiefs haven’t taken a lot of shots down the field. Yes, this is more a precision-controlled, “dink and dunk” type passing attack that treats the short pass like a run from scrimmage. (I love this offense, by the way … in case you can’t tell.)
Uuh, Chiefs fans? You know who ran this exact offense to perfection?
Who was Gannon’s highly successful (first) coach in oakland?
Who coached with Gruden for years on the Packers staff under Mike Holmgren?
“Fat” Andy Reid.
Has it ever dawned on fans whining about the lack of a deep passing game …
… that “Fat” Andy Reid is giving you, what you wished to God you had, ten years ago, as Rich Gannon was leading the raiders, to a place the Chiefs have never been in my lifetime?
Chiefs first drive stalls out after a first down, and after a beautiful 56 yard punt by Dusty C with a holding call tacked on, the Giants are pinned inside their ten. Here – you want the underrated reason the Chiefs won yesterday? Here are Dusty C’s punting stats, in chronological order from yesterday:
* 56 yards to the Giants 16. Penalty takes it to the Giants 8.
* 30 yards to the Giants 31. The punt was tipped; Dusty C was hurt.
* 35 yards to the Giants 12.
* 48 yards to the Giants 9.
* 54 yards to the Giants 10.
5 punts. If you exclude the one that was tipped (via very poor blocking)? Your average is 48 yards, pinning the Giants at their 12 yard line.
Or to put this another way – Dusty C’s three most CLUTCH punts?
Came after he hurt his knee on the tipped punt.
My favorite moment of the first half, non-play related, came on the holding call that took the Chiefs from the 4 … to the 2, on a Giants punt.
When Steve looked at me, and goes “do you even get upset over that (if you were his coach)?”
I gotta say … I wouldn’t.
Taking it from midfield to the 2? I’d fire you.
From the 4 to the 2, and if you got away with it, maybe something good happens?
Take the chance.
And on the heels of taking that chance, the Chiefs mounted their most spectacular, phenomenal, amazing drive of the season, an 11 play, 98 yard, five and a half minute clinic on how to move the football literally across the entire field.
Alex Smith ran for two first downs – one for 11 yards, one for 9 … when he needed 10 and 8, respectively.
Alex Smith threw four straight completions, three of which moved the chains, for 12, 31, 3, and 9.
And on 3rd and goal, when the primary option (McCluster) was blocked out of the play, he calmly surveyed the situation, and found “Mountain Man” Sean McGrath wide, wide, wide open in the center of the end zone, for the first points of the game.
Is Alex Smith the most talented quarterback in the division? No. At best, he’s third.
Is he the most talented quarterback in the conference? No.
Is he the most talented quarterback in the League. In the words of Chad Ochocinco, “child? Please!”
But – but – is he the perfect quarterback for this time and place? Is he the perfect quarterback for this team in the here and now?
I’d argue that’s not just a “yes”, but a “hell (blanking) yes”!
Give the Giants credit. They responded immediately. And by immediately, I mean “two plays later, they were in the end zone themselves”. As I texted a few people after Manning’s bomb to Victor Cruz to tie the game at seven: “I hate that play, but damn that was beautiful.” If you were there on Sunday, you know what I mean. Every person in that stadium, as soon as Eli Manning launched the ball, knew exactly what was going to happen. That was about as perfect a deep ball as you will ever see thrown. I hated the outcome, but man, that was a thing of beauty.
The first Giants turnover. In the words of Mike Patrick and the late, great Harry Caray: “holy cow!” I love Bob Sutton, our defensive coordinator. Hell, I almost have to – he held the same gig for the Jets over the last few seasons. The dude knows exactly when to dial up the blitz, and he sent the house on 3rd and 11. Eli Manning had no chance.
What I loved about that blitz is that it is the perfect time to gamble with the corner sprinting in. It’s 3rd and 11, so you’re likely playing a cover two / cover three, some kind of shell, where you’re willing to bend but not break. (Scroll back up a couple chapters to where I laid out the Giants third down issues yesterday. The Chiefs constantly bent. They only broke once … and that was on 3rd and 1.)
This is what has me thinking this season might be different than the previous fifteen. You can double Justin Houston with the tackle and tight end (which the Giants did on this play). You can double Dontari Poe with the center and a guard (again, they did that). You can dedicate the other guard to whichever center backer blitzes, DJ or Akeem Jordan (in this case, it was Jordan).
Which leaves you with one tackle (the blind side for most games) and possibly a running back, to handle Tamba Hali if you so choose. (The Giants, for reasons about to be obvious, chose not to).
But you still have to find a way to handle Tyson Jackson, Allen Bailey, and any blitzing corner or safety … and you’ve got nobody left to cover them. If the play develops as you’d expect on third and long (shotgun or minimum five step drop, with a second or so to survey the field), the quarterback is dead on arrival. There aren’t enough protectors to hold off the attacking defense, and there isn’t enough time, to allow the play to develop enough to get you the yardage you need, to keep the drive alive.
Hali. Sack. Fumble. Dunta Robinson recovery.
Eli Manning barely had time to think. Let alone know what hit him. Constantly, on Sunday.
Mr. Fitzpatrick? You’re next.
* Well, it had to happen eventually – the Chiefs couldn’t go turnover free all season. But what a horrific spot for the first one to happen, at the Giants 32, fresh off the turnover. Not sure who’s to blame in this one, but a bad center / quarterback exchange on the snap, usually falls on the QB.
* Another good sign: the defense immediately forced a three and out, after that deflating turnover. Not just forced it – same third down mentality. This time, Allen Bailey for the eight yard sack. Folks? This defense is scary, scary good. And by “scary, scary good”?
I mean 1997 good.
* Chiefs kick a fifty one yarder, good! 10-7. Key play on the drive, was the first one, a twenty yard completion to Sean “Mountain Man” McGrath.
* Giants last possession before the half, ends with a missed field goal. Again – I thought it was good. I’m glad I was wrong.
Halftime. Alumni Weekend. I irrationally love Alumni Weekend. Possibly because I love this team in a way no human being should love an inanimate object. But I love seeing the distinguished guests, the long-time bearers of the shield, return to one last round of applause, even if they don’t deserve it.
Sadly, no Jeff Criswell this year, although I had the towel ready to chuck as an honorary flag if he had. But we did get one moment of levity: Ricky “Ten Dollar Bill” Siglar! As I texted The Voice of Reason: “I could use a Ricky Siglar Special right about now”. (For those of you unfamiliar with Mr. Siglar, he’s a former Chiefs offensive lineman who was busted before our game in New Orleans in 1994 for soliciting … with a ten dollar offer. Wow. Even a horrific hookup from the Eclipse costs you more than that via the bar tab.)
Love that Christian Okoye always gets the second loudest response each year (behind Len Dawson). Love that Buck Buchanan’s widow still walks every year down the line for him. As someone that is ridiculously competitive, I love that Jayice Pearson and Bill Maas were there, to shove it in 810 WHB’s face.
Mostly though, I just miss the ones that aren’t there, and never will be. Joe Delaney. Buck Buchanan. Mack Lee Hill. Stone Johnson. Tony DiParto. Our Ol’ Pardner, Mr. William Grigsby. Derrick Thomas. And God bless it, Jovan Belcher.
(Pause). What? (Pause). Well hell yes, I booed the hell out of Jack Steadman! What the hell is that wretched failure of a front office executive doing walking the line of distinguished guests? There’s nothing distinguished about that man! He damned near single handedly killed football in this community! The only way his inclusion could have possibly been more insulting, is if Jim Schaaf and Todd Blackledge (his two biggest failures) had walked the line as well!
Once halftime was over?
Cue up the longest seventy three minutes of your life.
* Giants go three and out. Punt.
* Chiefs get one first down, but Alex Smith throws his first pick of the season.
* Giants go three and out after the pick. Punt.
* Chiefs go three and out. Punt.
* Giants get picked on a “if it’s intercepted, it’s no worse than a punt” bomb.
* Chiefs get picked on a kicked ball.
* Giants go three and out. Punt.
* Chiefs go three and out. Punt.
No, really – we’re all professional here. Right? This has to end eventually, right? Someone has to look competent and qualified at their job, right?
Giants face a 3rd and 17, a little over two minutes remaining in “The Never Ending Story” -- I mean, quarter.
The Chiefs send the house. That’s the underrated part about the play that may lead to one epic, amazing season. Eli Manning was hammered by two defenders as he let it fly. (One was Tamba Hali. I don’t remember the other, but I’d wager Allen Bailey, who played on epic game on Sunday.) He was absolutely hammered from both sides as he let that ball go.
Which might explain why Victor Cruz fell as he caught the ball.
Five inches or so shy, of the seventeen yards he needed.
There is no one – and I mean no one – who blasts head coaches for clock management and challenge failures, more than me. If only because, if I’m pushing a .20 as I reach my seat, and I can figure out what to do as the game unfolds, what the hell is Sober McSoberson on the sideline’s excuse, to NOT know what to do?
"Fat" Andy Reid is not known for his clock management or his replay challenge skills. Few in the business are worse at those two things, than "Fat" Andy. And by "few", I mean "no one currently employed as a head coach in the National Football League". This in and of itself, is not a big deal ... provided you recognize your flaw, and delegate the responsibility. Dick Vermiel, for example, was atrocious with clock management. And he knew it. Which is why Mike White stood on that sideline next to him for 81 straight games that count, to handle that aspect of the game for him. It's something "Fat" Andy didn't do in Philadelphia.
But it is something he's chosen to do, in Kansas City.
Because after the officials signaled first down after measuring for the spot, "Fat" Andy chucked the red flag onto the field. To be honest, I had no idea if this was a good challenge or not. I couldn't see the video board behind me, and given the sun glare, it was hard to make out the screen across the field. That, and rarely if ever is a spot overturned on a challenge. It takes a lot to get a referee to overturn a subjective judgment call, like a spot.
And when Terry McAulay hustled out from under the hood (he was in there maybe twenty seconds), I figured we'd lost the challenge. He didn't confer with his fellow officials (which you'd expect if the spot was changing). Instead, he calmly waited for (I'm assuming) the CBS broadcast to come out of commercial, and when we were looking live, he announced that Victor Cruz was short, and it was 4th down. Mr. McAulay was so generous in his ruling, he didn't even charge the Eagles with a timeout.
"You know, when you get old, in life, things get taken from you. I mean that's, that's a part of life. But you only learn that when you start losing stuff.
You find out life is this game of inches. So is football. Because in either game -- life or football -- the margin for error is so small. I mean, one half step too late or too early, and you don't quite make it. One half second too fast, too slow, and you don't quite catch it. The inches we need are everywhere around us. They're in every break of the game -- every minute, every second.
On this team? We fight for that inch. On this team? We tear ourselves and everyone else around us to pieces for that inch. We claw with our fingernails for that inch. Because we know when we add up all those inches? That's gonna make the f*cking difference between winning and losing! Between living and dying!
I'll tell you this -- in any fight? It's the guy who's willing to die who's gonna win that inch."
Mr. McAulay's ruling meant that now, the decision fell to Tom Coughlin. Down 10-7, late in the third quarter. 4th and inches at your own 31. Punt, or go.
To fight for that inch, those six inches in front of your face that make life what it is ...
... Or cede the initiative to your opponent.
Mr. Coughlin made his decision. From the Giants sideline, out trotted Steve Weatherford and the special teams unit.
And from the far sideline, out came Dexter McCluster and the special teams unit.
Something had to give.
And that brings us back to the start of this recap (hang on, I'm checking this ...) good Lord, fifteen pages ago! And I haven't even reached the fourth quarter yet! (max goldman voice) Holy moly ...
Give the Giants this: it was a gorgeous punt.
It pushed Dex back about six, seven yards to field it, at his own ten yard line.
If there's one thing I like about where I sit nowadays (the upper deck, because it's cheaper, and I can actually afford those prices), it's that your perspective is entirely different than when you're watching the play unfold at the players level, like in the lower bowl where I sat for years.
As soon as Dex started retreating, the Steve next to me pounds me in the shoulder and shouts "look at the seam! Look at the seam! It's there! It's f*cking there!" And he wasn't kidding -- Dexter McCluster had a gigantic gaping hole to run through. It was like Moses had parted the Red Sea all over again. If he could just get past the first wave, there was daylight.
I think a lot of other people in that stadium saw the seam too, because if you watch the replay, you'll notice the crowd noise rises audibly as Dex prepares to field the punt. Now granted, the crowd noise almost always rises when a punt return is about to go down. But this was different. The crowd knew. We saw the seam.
Dexter McCluster saw the seam too.
Because he took off right for it.
The first dude almost got him. That's what's so incredible. The first Giants special teamer could have tackled Dex. Think back to all the great punt returns this franchise has had over the last 15, 20 years -- almost never is the returner touched. Both Dex and Javier Arenas were untouched in the Monday Nighter against San Diego four years ago. Tamarick Vanover wasn't touched on his magical night against those same Chargers in 1995. Even Dante Hall's miraculous 1 on 11 return against denver in 2003, he was never really touched.
The Giants special teams was there.
Dexter wanted that inch more.
As soon as he emerged from the parted Giants unit, reached midfield, and completely fooled the last line of defense (who dove left -- whoops) to spring for the touchdown, Arrowhead went nuts. I'm not kidding, that place erupted. We have waited so damned long for something, anything, to cheer about with this franchise, we've waited so damned long to be relevant again, to matter again, to be a certified contender again. And Dexter McCluster's return opened the floodgates. Ten, eleven, twelve, hell fifteen f*cking years of frustration, broken dreams, crushed hopes?
This time, it's different.
And you know how to tell that this time, this isn't a mirage like 2010, a miracle from God above like 2006, a "poor player who struts and frets his hour on the stage, and then is heard from no more", like 2003?
The ensuing first down.
And every Giants down afterwards.
Because Eli Manning never again stood under center.
According to the NFL.com Game Center, the Giants ran 19 more offensive plays, after Dexter McCluster's return. One of those was a Steve Weatherford punt to end the third quarter. The other 18, Eli Manning was in the shotgun for every single snap.
Because the Giants couldn't protect him.
This defense is too good to stop.
That fourth quarter, ladies and gentlemen, is what people like myself, like "The Voice of Reason", like Jasson, refer to when we mention "like old times". This is how Marty Schottenheimer's teams were built. We may not be better than you, but you will feel pain unimaginable when you enter our house. We may not win pretty, but we will win. And if you make the mistake of spotting us points, we're coming after you, to knock you to the mat, to knock you out.
And you're not getting up.
Which is exactly what Bob Sutton did. Up 17-7, he started coming. I haven't seen a Chiefs defense attack -- physically attack -- an opposing offense like we saw in that fourth quarter?
Since the glory year of Gunther Cunningham in 1997.
And with each incompletion, with each batted ball, with each turnover, with each hit, with each play, it kept getting louder. Each play noisier than the one before it. There was no stopping it. That punt return busted the dam wide open, and the water came roaring out.
In the glory days, for you readers who either don't remember them, or weren't here for them, the other hallmark was that once the defense was able to be turned loose, the offense put the game away.
The Chiefs had two possessions in the fourth quarter on Sunday.
One was a lengthy eighty yard possession to open the quarter.
The other was a two play effort to effectively end the game.
Both ended in touchdowns.
The first, saw the Chiefs take over at their own 20 yard line after a touchback to end the third quarter. The second, saw the Chiefs take over at the Giants 35 after an Eli Manning sack / fumble / recovery. One took over nine minutes off the clock; one barely took ninety seconds.
For the third straight week, the Chiefs defense has handed their offense the ball, in the fourth quarter, with a chance to salt the game away. They bled the seven minutes off the clock against Dallas, to hold on for the win. They drove the length of the field over the span of twelve minutes in Philly, to put the game out of reach. And Sunday, they drove nine minutes to open the fourth quarter, capitalizing on an idiotic Giants special teams penalty, to put the game comfortably in the W column of the standings.
The key play on the first drive (other than the inept Giants special teams crew), was after a horrific penalty on Donald Stephenson, who was flagged for clipping on the first play after the Chiefs took the three off the board, and accepted the penalty against the Giants. Think about what a gamble taking the three off the board was. (Pause). OK, fine, it wasn't a gamble -- it was the absolute right decision. But still, think about what Mr. Stephenson's penalty meant for the Chiefs.
Ryan Succup's attempt (that was good) was from 53 yards. The Giants penalty meant, if the Chiefs gained no more yards, his next attempt would be from 48.
Mr. Stephenson's penalty made that attempt now a 63 yarder. Succup's got a leg ... but there was no wind in that stadium Sunday. He was pushing it from 53. He wasn't making it from 63.
Be honest -- the Chiefs for most of the last 10, 15 years in that spot? We know exactly what's coming next. (crowd chant voice) In-Ter-Cep-Tion! (clap clap, clap clap clap!) Because the Chiefs had to throw. They had to. And the Giants knew it. They had to. It's 1st and 25, for God's sake, and you really need to come away with points.
Again -- the Chiefs pretty much had to throw. The Giants knew it.
And they couldn't defend the pass, as Alex Smith hit a wide -- and I mean WIDE -- open Kevin Brock (who I had never heard of before Sunday) right up the middle. 26 yards. First down.
And for all intents and purposes, ballgame.
Alex later capped the drive off by hitting Jamaal Charles for the touchdown in the front of the end zone. team tito version 1.0 would like to take this moment to thank Mr. Smith for his generosity in giving us six points we probably didn't deserve, and we appreciate his efforts on our behalf for week four of this fantasy football season.
The crowd hit a fevered pitch when the Giants faced 3rd and long at their own 37, a little over four minutes to play.
The outcome of the game was known -- the Chiefs led 24-7, and the Giants weren't getting the ball three more times. But still, you play to the whistle. You keep grinding. You keep fighting for that damned inch like it's the only thing in the world that matters.
We've waited a damned, damned long time, for a moment like this.
Our wait was over.
When Eli the Great came crashing down, losing the ball, and Eric Berry smothered that thing, Arrowhead erupted in a way I haven't heard in years. This was no longer about hoping we were good enough to stand with the elites of the NFL. Sure, the Giants are down, but they've won 2 of the last 5 Super Bowls, haven't had a losing season in ten years, and in the NFC East, they still, even at 0-4, pretty much control their own destiny. Nobody believes this is an 0-4 team. They're too talented.
But nobody believed the Chiefs were a 4-0 team. At least not until that fourth quarter on Sunday. Made possible by (a) a coach willing to take a risk and challenge a spot, (b) a player willing to take a risk and challenge an entire unit, and (c) a quarterback willing to take a risk, and throw into the heart of the defense, when the defense knew what was coming.
So after thirty some odd minutes of yelling ourselves hoarse, pounding seatbacks until our hands were redder than the Chiefs jerseys, celebrating the return of our team -- not the imposters of last year -- to Arrowhead ... "Fat" Andy and Alex Smith gave us the cherry on top, a gorgeous 3rd down pass to Dwayne Bowe. Touchdown. 31-7.
As I made my way towards the exits after the extra point, that's when it hit me.
The reason this start, this season, this team, the reason all of this feels so blanking different?
Is because this time ...
The pounding of the columns on the walk out after a win. The war chant, the tomahawk chop, the pounding of those columns, hundreds upon hundreds of Chiefs fans, emerging from our nightmare of the last decade, pounding those suckers so hard, you wonder how they stay standing.
Once I reached the ground level, I ran into Chris and her sister in law (who used to sit in front of me; they still sit there). We had a great postgame hug, and she looked at me and said "you know Greg (her husband) had something to do with this today!"
Sunday was the three year anniversary of the brain aneurysm / stroke, that took Greg's life, one year later.
I began to walk towards Lot G. Chiefs fans celebrating everywhere. No one expected this. No one.
While waiting for the courtesy cart to move out of the way and clear the walkway, I reached into my pocket, pulled out my phone, and shut down the KCFX broadcast, and switched to the audio list.
Something about a party, some dancing, and a ceiling ...
The joke during tailgating had been that I'd brought four champagne bottles, one to celebrate each victory. So I could only use three of them to make the mimosas for everyone before the game. Because the fourth was for the win.
I got back to The Bus, and before I even said a word, I hopped on, opened the cooler, and there it was. A beautiful corked cheap-ass Cook's Brut extra dry.
Who says victory can't taste damned good?
Not much to report after that. Made it back to the Bus Barn with no casualties, although there was a wounded soldier tragically lost in the postgame celebration. On second thought, it was a Bud Light. It's not a tragic loss.
So let me bring this to a close, on page 21 in Word. (God above, even by my standards, this is long.)
I purposefully did not chat with “The Voice of Reason” about this game, like we usually do on Monday, or on the season to date, like tends to happen every day, until 4pm Tuesday, when I let him know this recap was almost done. I asked him if he had any prepared remarks he wished to insert.
And he did not.
I purposefully did not bring this game, or season, up with him, because I wanted to finish my reaction, before learning his. After all – he is “The Voice of Reason”. If anyone is qualified to know whether or not I’m losing it, in thinking that this season isn’t fool’s gold, it’s the real deal, it would be Mr. Reason, who was the only person I knew in the 1990s that was a bigger fan of this franchise in my age group, than me.
So I asked him this afternoon, what he thought.
His response? “It feels like 1995 all over again. Not 1997 (because no Neil Smith). This team is legit. I’m just going to sit back and enjoy how this plays out.”
As always, we disagree.
I wouldn’t compare these guys to 1995. At least not yet. That season is too damned special to me, to compare any Chiefs team to it after only a month.
But 1997 was what I kept coming back to, in typing this. The last truly great championship contender the Chiefs fielded. Just like this year’s squad, they weren’t the best team in the conference. Just like this year’s squad, they weren’t the best team in the division – denver was.
But yet, when the regular season ended, the Chiefs stood atop the AFC – conference and division. It didn’t amount to much come my 21st birthday, but in many regards, that’s why I keep coming back to 1997.
denver is a better team than us. You will get no argument from me.
But the best team, doesn’t always win, doesn’t always come out on top.
Perhaps January 2014, holds the day of revenge we've been waiting for.
I close with this.
I’ve mentioned many times before, my favorite sports team of all time (and quite frankly, favorite sports story as well), is the 1980 US Olympic hockey team. We’re all familiar with the story. If you aren’t, then read up on it; you’ll regret it if you don’t.
There’s a great moment at the start of the 3rd period of the epic showdown with the Soviet Union. Both teams have taken the ice. It’s 3-2 USSR … yet the crowd at Lake Placid is going nuts. “USA! USA!” chants rock the Ice Center. If noise could crack a ceiling? Then the IBEW Local 122 needed to be called the next morning to that place.
Coach Herb Brooks calls his guys over, has them huddle in front of the bench. He looks at them when they all arrive, and says the following:
“Listen to them boys. Just listen!”
And as the crowd keeps getting louder, more fired up, more ready for the last twenty minute battle to come, Coach Brooks continues:
“That’s what you’ve done boys! That’s what you’ve done!”
It didn’t matter that Team USA was losing. It didn’t matter they were huge underdogs, had just lost to the Soviets 10-3 thirteen days earlier, and hadn’t beaten the Soviets anywhere since 1956.
Team USA had been given its opportunity. It gave its fans a reason to believe. And they paid it back.
Sunday, for the first time in a very, very, very long time, the Chiefs gave us a reason to believe. They gave us a reason to think that things are about to get better, that the glory days have returned, this time for real.
That’s what that fourth quarter was about. Fifteen damned years of waiting. Fifteen damned years of false hopes and empty promises.
That's why it got louder with each ensuing snap. That's why we love this sport, and we love this team.
"Listen to them boys. Just listen!"
Sunday, that fourth quarter?
"That's what you've done!"
Take a bow, Chiefs fans. We earned Sunday.
And take a bow, Chiefs organization. You earned Sunday.
It's been a long, long time, since that last statement could be truthfully said ...