It's the easiest proposition to make about a football team in the NFL, and the hardest one to be proved accurate: that a particular team, thanks to a particular game, has discovered its true identity.
Heck, we've written that about this particular Kansas City Chiefs squad at least three times this season: after the Raiders home loss we thought this team would be young and incompetent, after the swoon of the Broncos victory we thought this team would be fun and dynamic, and after the dregs of the Titans trainwreck we wrote that this team would be boring and disasterous. That doesn't even include the preseason. It's just impossible in this league for single games to have the monumental message delivery that we writers constantly invent for them.
Having tasted my own proverbial foot shoved down my throat heel-deep a time or two this season, I nonetheless can't help saying it's for real this time. Having watched this game, the Chiefs looked about as comfortable in their own skin today as they have all season.
We've mislabeled this team by simplifying them as a team on the verge of competing in a couple years. That rang true at one point while LJ was running hard at River Falls, Croyle was leading drives in preseason, and the defense looked somewhat competent. All Herm talked about was the future. The team was thinking about the future. We were thinking about the future.
But with Croyle out, LJ suspended and getting his act together, and our defense giving up historically awful performances against the run, the future has begun to look farther and farther away. It's become near-impossible to watch these games and feel good about the future of this team. I can only imagine what it's like to be playing the games.
It took second-year nobody Tyler Thigpen and all-time great Tony Gonzalez to reframe our perspectives onto the present rather than the future. Gonzalez's proud leadership on the field and in the locker room, combined with a downright sprightly performance by Thigpen, truly led a team to understand the excitement of being a spoiler. On the other side of the ball, the defense followed suit. Tamba Hali got his groove back on the left side and rookie Brandon Flowers made a name for himself.
Thrilled, more than anything, with the prospect of upending a good team that dared look past them. With Flowers' pick-six in the fourth quarter, you could feel it.
The Chiefs aren't racking up wins by the handful this year. They aren't world-beaters. But they can make their names as the league's traveling hornet's nest. They are young. They are unafraid. And they've really got nothing to lose.
The future will be here soon enough. So will the endless great discussions across the Chiefs blogosphere about who factors into this team's longterm plans. But this game promises us, for the rest of a season now worth watching, that all the newfound enthusiasm that comes with youth needs to be appreciated for what it is, and not wasted by simply focusing on the future.
Youth is to be appreciated while we get to enjoy it. It's a classic lesson of life. You spoil the fun by simply waiting for this team to grow up.