Sunday, October 17, 2010

Loss to Texans reminds Chiefs fans of familiar feeling

Let's not forget, now. This is what we signed on for.

We bitched and moaned for the better part of the past decade, while our beloved Kansas City Chiefs more often than not fielded a team not quite worth cheering for. We then cheered and applauded, seemingly from the draft in April all the way through September, as our Chiefs looked as if they'd finally turned the corner and were ready to be a force again.

Somewhere in the middle of all that, likely during the last three seasons in which the team mustered just ten total victories, we may have forgotten exactly how stressful it can be to be fans of a competitive pro-football team.

We were reminded with an absolute kick to the gut Sunday, after the Chiefs blew a 10-point lead in Houston in the game's final four minutes en route to a 35-31 heartbreaking defeat to the Texans.

Oh, it hurt.

Good or bad, this one felt like the old days. There were questionable coaching decisions, blown-calls all over the place, and a whole bunch of yards. In the end, we were left with blank stares and feelings of emptiness and disbelief as we tried to swallow a missed opportunity for the Chiefs (3-2) to take complete control of the AFC West - if you didn't hear, the Chargers, Broncos, and Raiders are all 2-4 after losses Sunday.

Yeah. It still hurts.

There were plenty of positives. Kansas City rushed for an absurd 228 yards against a Texans defense that was ranked fifth in the league against the run coming into the game. Quarterback Matt Cassel answered the critics with a very solid performance, and looked as accurate as he's ever been in a Chiefs uniform.

Most of that doesn't mean much, though, at least not now. In fact, it just helps feed the collective anger from the Kansas City faithful who are left to try and rationalize how such a successful offensive performance could so shamefully be wasted in a losing effort.

The nicely-balanced attack called by offensive coordinator Charlie Weis was nearly flawless, though his only mistake may have cost the team the game.

With just over two minutes left and the Chiefs clinging to a 31-28 advantage, Weis called a misdirection pass-play on third and two, where a first-down more or less meant a Kansas City victory. Cassel faked a pitch to Jamaal Charles (who, my money says, had the first down and then some) and threw incomplete to a well-covered Tony Moeaki.

Weis left Texans' quarterback Matt Schaub more than enough to time to lead his team to victory, especially considering the incomplete pass to Moeaki essentially gave Houston an extra time-out to work with.

The Texans wouldn't need it.

Aided by referee Ron Winter and his crew, Schaub connected on five of eight attempts on the ensuing drive, including three to his favorite target Andre Johnson, who caught the game-winning touchdown.

His catch before that, though, was what had Chiefs fans so upset.

On second and 10 from the Houston 45-yard line, Schaub connected with Johnson for a 31-yard gain, setting the Texans up for their go-ahead score. A flag was thrown, and Chiefs' cornerback Brandon Flowers, who was covering on the play, applauded the referees as he was convinced the call would be offensive pass-interference on Johnson.

Texans' receiver Andre Johnson reeling in the game-winning touchdown Sunday versus the Chiefs.

Instead, the call was defensive pass-interference on Flowers. Later, replays showed excellent coverage from Flowers - until an obvious push-off by Johnson gave him separation for his reception - and no defensive pass-interference to be found.

Five plays later, Houston was rocking and Kansas City was left stunned.

It's not completely fair to throw the blame for this one on Winter and his crew, who also missed an obvious intentional grounding on Schaub which would have likely stalled the Texans' final drive. The Chiefs defense suffered its first setback of the season, yielding 21 fourth quarter points Sunday. The unit consistently missed tackles and looked confused virtually the entire second half.

The Texans finished the game with four-consecutive drives resulting in touchdowns.

There was also some odd decision-making by head coach Todd Haley. He elected to pooch-kick instead of kicking deep twice in the third quarter, giving the Texans great field position each time - one of the pooch-kicks resulted in a Texans drive starting at the Chiefs' 46-yard line.

Both drives resulted in Houston touchdowns.

So this is where we are now as Chiefs fans - lost. In the past two weeks, it seems, we've discovered that this team is for real, and, oddly enough, that conclusion came after two losing efforts.

The team hasn't won in almost a month, yet it finds itself in first place by more than one-full game, and the schedule only gets easier from here. The Chiefs have consecutive home games against the Jaguars and Bills coming up, so it's likely they'll get well in a hurry.

So it may be tough to see, but now is not the time quit on this team. The Chiefs have just come off two tough road losses to two playoff-caliber (one of them Super Bowl-caliber) teams. This season is destined to be flurried with games a lot like the one we saw Sunday, and this team has too much heart and young-talent to not come out on the winning end of a few of them.

At the moment, though, optimism is not the word. It's more like frustration from a fanbase left to ponder how much better a 4-1 record would look in the standings.

The take-away from all this should be that the team is in first-place, seems to still be improving, and plays its next two games at Arrowhead.

What's more likely, though, is those obvious positives will be overshadowed by thoughts of what could (or should) have been in Houston, and that old, familiar sting we had almost forgotten about that comes along with it.

And boy does it sting.

1 comment:

  1. Yeah, man, this loss was a tough one. It reminded me of those late-80's / early 90's matchups w/ Denver, when Elway would rip my guts out on a frantic 2-minute march for the gamewinner. Puke!

    It was a very exciting game. We have to keep in perpective that this is a squad that is STILL growing; I anticipate that this will be a much-easier win next year when the kids have an opportunity to settle down. The Defense (and offense both) are obviously capable of playing w/ anyone.

    I was disappointed with the gambling on both the pooch kick and the 4th and 3 early into the game. I do not care that the 4th Down worked-- this type of decision will ultimately catch-up with our coach--- you DO NOT take points off of the board in the early goings of a game! That type of decision hurt this team in Indy one week prior.

    That call on Flowers was wretched. I heard the game on the radio, and I knew it was a questionable call, so when I got home and watched the replay, I about screamed aloud at the audacity of the penalty. Horrible call.

    Bowe looked good, but is still an idiot. Does the guy not know how to read his playbook and how to play in his spot? Continually, Bowe lined up in the wrong spot. Even for having a great game, the guy is not quite "there."

    Yes, give the ball to J Charles! He is averaging over 5 yards per carry; Let your playmaker win the game for you! Don't go away from what your team does best!

    All in all, yes, a sickening loss. The type of L that makes you reflect on a dozen things that could have altered the conclusion. Chiefs may well get another shot at Houston in the postseason, and don't think that they won't recollect how they played mano y mano w/ the Texans. The AFC West is up for grabs, 9 wins will likely win it! Win the next two at home, and put the emphasis on the divisional games! By the time KC plays Denver and Raiders, I think they will be hanging by a thread......

    Great column, Eli.

    War Chiefs!