As many of you know, I was one of the unfortunate souls who had never seen a Chiefs game at Arrowhead Stadium. It was one of my life's great shortcomings (that and not being really tall... that's always bugged me). This changed on Sunday, as Mrs. MNchiefsfan and I made the trip down to KC and watched the Chiefs outplay the Ravens (screw that stupid scoreboard).
The only way I could figure to write about this epic experience (and one that even the wife enjoyed) is a running diary, starting with the drive down Saturday and ending with Sunday's loss.
Saturday Morning: Brainerd- Babysitters arrive bright and early and we're ready to hit the road. My wife decides, after some cajoling on my part, that it IS a good idea for her to wear a jersey to the game. Is it just me, or is there nothing better than the site of the woman of your dreams rocking Chiefs colors?
Saturday Afternoon: Iowa highway- After making phenomenal time, we (or to be more accurate, my wife) get pulled over by a state trooper, who informs my wife that their plane clocked her going 85 in a 70. My only thought was, "they have planes now?" The irony of an invention meant to speed up travel slowing us down is not lost on me. Nor is the $114 ticket. Oh well, time to get moving.
Saturday Evening: Kansas City highway and city streets- Pulling into KC, I see Chiefs billboards everywhere. Chiefs-decorated cars. Chiefs bumper stickers. People in Chiefs jerseys and other apparel. My thoughts to the Mrs: "We need to move here. I think I fit in better."
Saturday Evening: Oklahoma Joe's- Taking the advice from 90 percent of AP members, my wife and I go to Okie Joe's. My buddy Isaac (who is hosting us) has never been despite living in KC for half a decade. Apparently, he hates awesome food. I take my first bite of a Z-man, awaiting the inevitable letdown that recommended food always gives...
Except it doesn't come. Best sandwich I've ever eaten, and it's not even kind of close. Isaac and I spend 20 minutes trying to break down exactly WHAT makes the Z-man awesome. We decide, in the end, that it's the onion that puts it over the top. The sauce, meat, and cheese are great together for sure. But it's the onion that pushes it from "very good" to "holy crap I'm going to order two more now." Adds extra flavor and a slight crunch that's just phenomenal.
Thank you to everyone who recommended that order. Just great stuff.
Sunday Morning: Arrowhead Parking Lot- I'm home. This is where I belong. Tailgaters having a great time. The smell of BBQ in the air. We walk around a little, take in the sites, and meander over to the Lamar Hunt statue. It's sinking in for me that I'm finally at Arrowhead. Goosebumps.
Sunday Morning: Concessions- Mrs. MNchiefsfan is thirsty, so we stop to snag her a drink. The guy asks if I want a souvenir cup for an extra buck, and I say sure. And what do I get handed? A cup with the design of one Mr. Chris Sembower. Holy crap, I love Arrowhead Pride... Way to represent Chris!
Sunday Morning: First Glimpse- I cannot describe my excitement at this point. Those of you who've been, try to remember the first time you saw the Chiefs' players warming up on the field live. Try to remember the buzz in the air as people filed into their seats full of hope. I cannot IMAGINE what it was like years ago... you know, when the team didn't stink.
Sunday Morning: At our seats- I'm going to embarrass JComp here. The dude just came through in the clutch like a freaking boss. Tickets on the upper deck, 3rd row, 50 yard line on the Chiefs side. Holy crap. I never, ever, thought my view would be this ridiculously good. JComp is a man among boys, and no one will ever be able to convince me otherwise.
First Half: Watching the Chiefs live for the first time in my life-
1) There's not much left to cover with Cassel, since I broke up with the guy last week. But I'll say one thing: everyone who told me he looks worse in person was right.
Two things specifically stand out in person that you can't really see in TV: his tendency to make receivers stop and wait for the ball (or slow down/reach behind them), and the absolutely wide open people he flat-out misses. Again, I wish the best for the guy. He works hard and gives a crap. But he's even worse in person.
2) Jamaal Charles is even more impressive in person. The guy is a freak of nature. On the same subject, our backup RB's aren't slouches either. However, after watching Cyrus Gray and Shaun Draughn both carry the ball more than a few times, I'm sticking with my "MOAR CYRUS GRAY" schtick. Dude's got better burst and agility, and seems to have very good vision. I'd bet anything his role increases again this next week, and that by the end of the year we're talking about the JC/Gray combo as our future.
3) Our offensive line is making the Ravens' vaunted DL look foolish for the most part. Yeah, there's clearly no confidence in Cassel with the playcalling, but I have never seen a team just run the ball down the Ravens' throat so effectively. It's not like it was JUST Charles, either. They just can't stop our rushing attack.
4) The DL is continuing the OL's theme. Tyson Jackson, Dontari Poe, and Allen Bailey (with assists from Justin Houston and Tamba Hali on the line at times) are absolutely dominating the Ravens. This is just awesome to watch. Other than one long run Ray Rice has done jack and squat. I've been really impressed with how our trench guys have handled this game, just two years removed from the Ravens physically dominating our lines. It's worlds different from 2010. So that's something I guess.
5) I have no idea what RAC/Daboll were thinking on that "drive" to close out the first half. Either try to move the ball, or try to run out the clock. Pick one. Good Lord...
6) Quick side note... when watching in person, players fall down a LOT. Seriously, every play grown men are flipping and flopping all over the field. Some nice side comedy in a serious game.
Second Half: Still enjoying the amazing view-
1) Turnovers, man. Turnovers. Just watched Lilja and Cassel blow a major opportunity. Come ON. With the way this game's going, a touchdown now could be the difference. You cannot miss chances like that and expect to beat teams like Baltimore.
2) ... and of COURSE the Ravens capitalize. Crap.
3) The Ravens D has stiffened up against the run. Of course, they're not even PRETENDING to respect the pass anymore. 8-9 guys in the box every single play. Not even JC can run on that. Cassel needs to do SOMETHING. Anything. Daboll clearly trusts the guy about as far as he can throw him and his entire OL. Not good.
4) Brandon Flowers is a stud. What a pick! Also, another awesome trait of being at the game live... you can see a pick like that coming. The second before Joe Flacco released the ball, I looked to where he was throwing and saw Flowers turning with the WR. Before it the ball was on its way I knew Flowers had a shot at it. Watching the game live >>>> watching it on my laptop.
5) Another turnover in Ravens territory. Man, these are just killing us. We should be up 14 by now.
6) Finally, a couple of shots downfield!!!! One a big gainer to Jon Baldwin, the other SHOULD have been a pass interference call for another big gain. Mental note to the refs: if a WR is physically incapable of raising one of his hands due to the defender holding it down, that should get called. Just maybe. Also, an interesting note on Baldwin... those who are calling for him to be our number 1 receiver just might want to hold their horses.
I was in that group, blaming his lack of opportunity on Cassel. Then I saw him live. That guy cannot get off the jam, and really struggles to get separation. Every play he's got a defender right on him. Now, he's so good at winning jump balls and using his body to screen off defenders that this doesn't HAVE to be a crippling problem. But I can understand why he's not getting targeted much. He's GOT to learn to beat the jam, or he's never going to be more than a #2 WR.
7) Cassel's hurt. What a weird moment in Arrowhead. People were cheering (there was a 1st down by JC), then I swear it sounded like the cheering continued when people saw Cassel was down. Even my wife noticed and said, "Really? That's pretty dumb."
After about 5 seconds, Cassel remains on the ground and the cheering dies down. A couple of guys in our section start yelling for Quinn and are told to shut the F*%$ up. Cassel gets to his feet and walks off to applause that's louder than the cheers I heard when he was down. The loudest applause comes when Quinn is announced entering the game, though. Not sure how I feel about that sequence of events, but I have to say I'm glad to see Quinn get a shot.
8) Quinn's first pass is a 20 yard strike to Bowe on 3rd and 7. This is not going to help the "pull Cassel" folk, including me. That's the best throw I've seen by a Chiefs QB all day. Of course, this is still Brady Quinn, so I'm not going to expect much more than "meh."
9) Holy crap. The Kansas City screwjob. I'm standing, jumping, and shouting to the heavens in celebration of what was likely to be a game winning touchdown by Bowe when JComp taps me on the shoulder and silently points to the flag on the play. It takes another 10 seconds for Arrowhead as a whole to see it. The boos on the replay is maybe the loudest noise I've heard all day besides the cheers for Bowe's TD-that-was-called-off-but-shouldn't-have-been-because-that's-a-garbage-call (my new shorthand name for the play).
10) Wow, this really IS the Kansas City screwjob. That was a fumble. Our defense pulled it off. The game was over. Except... nope. Is it too late to call for the replacement refs back (I'm kidding, no need to form a mob)? Then of COURSE Flacco manages to get the first down by a foot. Followed by their RB getting another first down by 6 inches. Game over. Goodbye Arrowhead. I take a long look at the field as we file out and at the stadium itself as we walk to the car. Who knows when I'll be back?
Leaving the stadium: Listening to 810-
Holy crap, Eric Winston is going off. Look, I get the dude's upset, but did he really have to say that 70,000 people were cheering for Cassel's injury? Because that's just not even close to true. I get the sentiment, and agree with it, but the guy should've waited until he was calmer and made sure to be clear RIGHT OFF THE BAT that he's only talking about those specific fans and that specific behavior.
Lumping in everyone in the stadium right off the bat overshadowed the rest of his message. Phrasing matters, Eric.
What REALLY ticks me off is that this will probably overshadow the real stories of the game, like the fact that we rushed for over 200 yards against the Ravens. Or that our OL and DL dominated the large majority of the game. Or that Quinn didn't look perfectly helpless out there in his few snaps. Or that we were the better team out there, and the Ravens should be thanking their lucky stars they got a W. Blech.
The next day: reflecting-
After really chewing on the game for a while, and watching the replay via NFL Rewind, I have to say... I don't think we're out of it yet. Seriously. The Chargers are 3-2 and look mortal. Denver's 2-3 and Manning can't throw a deep ball. The Raiders look worse than we have, despite our turnover woes. 9-7 COULD win this division. Watching our line dominate the Ravens, I believe.
Regarding Quinn... I don't trust my own judgment, because I want SO BADLY for him to be this completely unexpected lift at quarterback for us. So I've decided to go to the most neutral source in the world, my wife. I asked her what she saw about Quinn that looked different from Cassel. Take in mind, this is a totally neutral person who doesn't know much about football. Her answers?
1) "He looked like he scanned the field more. I could see his head looking from one side of the field to the other, and he took his time. That was different to me."
2) "His throwing just looked more confident."
3) "It seemed like it took him a while to throw the ball, but he didn't get hit. Matt Cassel is always getting hit even when he throws the ball fast."
4) "Bowe was really surprised by that first throw by Quinn. He was like, 'whoa, that hit me right in the hands while I was running!' That's what it looked like to me anyways. I know Cassel does that sometimes, but Bowe just seemed surprised to me."
I can't say I disagree with her about any of that. I'd add in he looks physically faster and more athletic, with a stronger arm. We'll see how he does next week.
About our running backs... MOAR CYRUS GRAY! Yes, I know he dropped that pitch. But notice that his role was a little bigger in this game than it was last game, where it was a little bigger than the game before? That's because talent trumps almost everything else. And Cyrus Gray is more talented than Shaun Draughn. I know I've already said it, but it bears repeating. MOAR CYRUS GRAY! I think with him and JC we could run the ball for 200 yards a game. Seriously.
I'm not ready to give up on the season yet. Maybe Arrowhead injected a little more homerism magic in me, but I've got another week of optimism left. Thanks JComp. And thanks Arrowhead. This was perhaps the best experience I've ever had as a fan.
Still would've been nice to see a W, though. But for me, it'll always be the day I got to watch the Chiefs outplay the Ravens live at Arrowhead Stadium.