Copyright © 2011 by Ralph Couey
The Chiefs won. On Monday Night Football. A field goal tipped the game in OT causing what might have been the largest mass-orgasm in Arrowhead history. I suppose I should just let it go at that. Some things, no matter how joyful they may seem, should not be examined too closely. Such was this game.
The San Diego media this morning is full of the typical wailing, gnashing of teeth, and garment rending that appears in every newspaper (including the Star) when the Home Team throws up a real skunker on national television. Even though the Chargers are a divisional rival, I still empathize. That fumble between center and quarterback will live forever in lurid full-color HD memory for all Bolts faithful, not the least of whom would be the two players involved. It’s the kind of disastrous occurrence one looks back on from the 20/20 hindsight of February with a certainty that that’s where the season soured. The Chargers have the 7-0 Packers next week and nobody sees a good outcome in that contest.
Before I say anything else, let me opine that the officiating was about the worst I can ever remember. It’s not all that unusual when one official blows a call. But this whole crew seemed to have partaken of way too much allergy medication before kickoff. Let’s be honest. Antonio Gates did not commit offensive pass interference. And Dexter McCluster’s fumble was clearly caused by the ground. The crew from ESPN, some of whom have played a game or two, were baffled by the quality of the calls.
Before the Chiefs nation gets too rhapsodic, there are some sobering things to consider. The Chiefs are on a four-game winning streak, yes. But two of those wins came against arguably the worst teams in the league, and the last two against pretty good teams that just played badly. After a productive first quarter, the Chiefs offense went into a coma, not awakening until the game was almost lost. If Rivers & Co. had been at the top of their game, it would be the Chiefs faithful who would be emoting disaster this morning.
Still, a W is a W is a W, and first place is still first place no matter how you got there, or how many other people are crowded onto that podium. It’s an accomplishment for a team that lost three key players to injury.
We’re all salivating over the possibilities of the next two weeks. Miami has not played well, and Denver doesn’t have a quarterback controversy; they have a quarterback disaster. For all his glorious accomplishments in college, Tim Tebow is not ready to take the reins of a team that is dissolving around him like a rain-soaked paper bag. New England looked entirely too human against the Steelers, but Tom Brady is still Tom Brady. And the Pittsburghers have found their stride and swagger. The Bears can be unpredictable, the Jets can be dominant, and the week before Christmas, the seemingly invincible Packers come to Arrowhead. Yes, the Chiefs could be 6-3; but against a string of quality teams, that could just as easily become 6-7. Yes, they could win a weakened division. But even if this bunch gets into the playoffs playing like they did last night, they could not just be beaten; they could be humiliated and destroyed.
4-3 notwithstanding, the Chiefs have serious issues. Communication between sideline and quarterback has to get better. Passes that fall into players hands and don’t require Olympian contortions, whether offense or defense, have to be caught. Stupid penalties have to be eliminated. The offense has to be more consistent.
And ball security. You know what happens to me when a Chief breaks a long run? I don’t cheer. Instead, I chant the mantra, “Don’t fumble; Don’t fumble; PLEEEEESE Don’t fumble.”
I’ve been a Chiefs fan a long, long time. My first heroes were Sherrill Headrick, Chris Burford, and Curtis McClinton, so I have a 48-year emotional investment in this team. It’s been a long time since the ultimate dividend was paid in the Super Bowl, and I’m just as anxious as you to see them return to that February prom. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Todd Haley, even after last year’s glorious regular season warned us that the Chiefs weren’t quite there yet.
Perhaps we should listen.