Chiefs game hardly worth waking up for
When the wake-up call rang at 5 a.m. in Texas — jolting me out of a fitful 1 hour and 57 minutes of sleep — there was only one thought echoing through my mind.
“Go back to sleep. No way it’s worth waking up at this hour for this Chiefs game.”
No way. We all knew what would happen Sunday when the Chiefs and Chargers played, didn’t we? The Chiefs’ offense would stumble around, the Chiefs’ defense would give up a couple of big plays, the game would be as exciting as watching Rice Krispies go soggy. The Chiefs are hard enough to watch on a full night’s rest. There was no way in the world it could be worth getting up on two hours sleep, rushing to the airport, taking two flights back to Kansas City, all to watch the going-nowhere Chiefs lose to San Diego in the latest episode of “Wow the AFC West Is Bad.”
“Go back to sleep,” the soothing voice in my head said.
Smart voice. I went back to sleep. Conked right out. I slept soundly for 10 minutes. And then I woke up again. A different voice sounded in my head.
“Get up,” it said. “What are you doing? You might miss something good.”
This is what keeps us going, isn’t it? That second voice. There is nothing appealing about the Chiefs right now. Nothing. The Chiefs lost their fifth game in a row Sunday, their fourth in a row at Arrowhead. They did not score in the fourth quarter for the fourth straight game. They guaranteed themselves a non-winning record for the sixth time in 10 seasons. Their franchise running back is injured and won’t tell us how badly. The quarterback situation is in shambles. The cornerbacks are old enough to get into movies for half price. The kick returners are like New York taxi drivers — they can’t break the 20.
But even beyond the obvious struggles, the real problem here is that these Chiefs play the most lifeless, aggravating, conservative, dreary kind of football imaginable. The Chiefs coaches decided some time ago — with good reason, I admit — that the only chance they have of keeping games close is to turn football games into quagmires. Hey, Herm Edwards has to do what he has to do to compete. But who wants to watch a quagmire?
“Go back to sleep,” the voice of reason said. I closed my eyes.
“Get up,” that annoying other voice said. “Something cool might happen.”
Yep, that’s the thing about sports, the two words that keep people coming back: Who knows? You might see something great, something unique, something hilarious. So yeah, I got up. Returned the rental car to someone who looked like she may have worked there. Beeped as I went through airport security. Talked bowl possibilities with groggy Missouri fans on the flights. Landed in Kansas City. Raced across town to get to Arrowhead Stadium. The traffic, not surprisingly, was light.
“What the heck are you doing here?” I was asked while entering the place.
I had no answer. The first quarter went exactly as you might imagine. The Chiefs “new” kicker John Carney — new, yeah, hard to call a guy a new kicker when he’s been around since the American Football League days — made a field goal. San Diego’s Nate Kaeding made a field goal, too. Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers threw an interception. Kansas City’s Damon Huard followed with an interception of his own.
It was every bit as unwatchable as my “Go back to sleep” voice had suggested. It was so bad that the loudest cheer of the first 20 minutes or so happened after Kaeding missed a field goal. The cheer wasn’t that loud. There had to be 15,000 empty seats. By the second half, the empty seats had doubled. Then tripled.
The Chiefs went on a little drive in the second quarter. Quarterback du jour Damon Huard threw the ball high over the middle to Tony Gonzalez for 11 yards and threw it even higher to Gonzalez for 31. The Chiefs moved the ball to the San Diego 2, third down, and that’s when defensive end and Chiefs sack leader Jared Allen entered the game as an eligible receiver.
“Is that Jared Allen?” I asked, because I’m pretty sure I had nodded off.
It was him. The ball was snapped. Allen blocked for a second, and then he ran as fast as he could toward the back left corner of the end zone. Huard threw it to him, but he threw it too far. Allen kept racing after it, and he somehow caught it, and he got his knee inbounds. Touchdown.
“I guess we thought it was time to have a little fun around here,” Allen said afterward.
And, for a moment, it really was fun. Allen celebrated. He had apparently been telling teammates all week how he planned to celebrate his touchdown (“Some of those ideas would have definitely gotten him fined,” teammate Tony Gonzalez said). He went to spike the ball over the goalpost. He hugged everybody. He had the biggest smile. Everyone on the field did. Pretty much everyone in the stands did, too.
“Jared’s a great guy,” offensive lineman Brian Waters says, and that’s true. Allen’s a man who has quit drinking and still tries to make up for the mistakes he has made. He’s a late-round draft pick who has made himself one of the best pass rushers in the NFL. He’s been the team’s best player despite the misery that’s surrounding him. He’s what the Chiefs should be about as they rebuild. And it was fun to watch him score a touchdown.
The fun didn’t last long, of course. The Chiefs defense immediately allowed San Diego to score the tying touchdown, and they went in the tank in the second half. The Chiefs offense wasn’t heard from again. “It’s embarrassing,” Gonzalez said. “All of it.”
So was it worth waking up? I don’t know. Maybe. I got to see Jared Allen’s touchdown catch and see him act like a little boy at recess after he scored. That really was pretty cool. Also, a little later in the game, Chiefs punter Dustin Colquitt bashed an 81-yard wind-aided punt. That’s the longest punt in Chiefs history. Yeah, I probably could have slept in and felt OK missing that. __________________