If you didn't watch the game, you at least heard the collective moaning.
The Kansas City Chiefs were supposed to play inspired last night. Instead, they laid an egg. On a night where all of America was watching the Chiefs' home opener, where Eric Berry triumphantly returned from lymphoma, where DJ could break the all-time tackles record, where the rival Denver Broncos were involved... the Chiefs beat themselves on all levels.
Andy Reid admitted he simply made bad play calls. Jamaal Charles took blame for the fumbles. The offensive line was, at times, offensive, and Alex Smith finished with a stat line that looks eerily similar to the Matt Cassel/Tyler Palko glory days.
The worst stats of all? Five turnovers. Nine penalties. Not a single third down conversion in 60 minutes of football.
What is typically Red Friday is now Gray Friday as fans finish the work week under a cloud of frustration. And it will continue to hang over the Chiefs through the weekend and even into next week. There's no way around it. Andy Reid gets some extra time to get ready for the Green Bay Packers in Week 3, but that also means extra time to ask questions about and answer for the miserable performance in Week 2.
But here is what is interesting: the silver lining of it all. Did I drink Kool-Aid with my sorrow juice (what my grandfather called whiskey) last night? You betcha. But even if I didn't, I'd still be thrilled with the long-term prospects of this team. Here's why:
On a night when the Chiefs continued to beat themselves again and again (and again) -- when you believed they had to convert at least one of these third downs and then didn't, when you thought they just couldn't possibly endure another miscue on any level and yet somehow... -- the Denver Broncos needed a game-ending miracle to seal the win.
Here's what is amazing to me about these Kansas City Chiefs: there's absolutely every reason to believe they will improve.
- Impact players on defensive like Dontari Poe and Eric Berry are still working their way into "impact" form. Despite the ovation, Berry's name was rarely mentioned last night (despite playing 71 of 73 snaps) and the same could be said of Poe (only 49 snaps). That's not likely to stay true as the season wears on and both players return to game shape/full strength.
- Sean Smith will soon suit up for the Chiefs and, hopefully, bring his Pro Bowl form from last season with him. Smith will be playing as a free agent-to-be which means he should be on his best on-field behavior. That's good news for a team that needs Jamell Fleming to play as little as possible from here on out.
- The NFL's sixth youngest roster is going to continue to develop with more reps and experience. Some players are already contributing at a high level (Mitch Morse, Marcus Peters), but imagine how much more comfortable they're going to be for the stretch run (see below).
- The Chiefs play their remaining five AFC West games in the second half of the season. That's right: five of the last eight games come against the Broncos, San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders. That means the Chiefs will control the destiny of the division when they should be rounding into shape. Four of the final six also come at Arrowhead.
Am I overly optimistic? Perhaps. I responded like everyone else throughout the game. I yelled. I paced. I burned my Ty Law jersey (the expendable one). But the Chiefs still held the lead with two minutes to go against the Denver Broncos despite playing this poorly. That has to count for something, unless logic and reason aren't applicable here.
Before the season I saw this as a playoff team and Super Bowl contender and, mistakes aside, I still believe the same. Doesn't this have to be the worst performance of the season from the Chiefs? Can you imagine these players and coaches combining for another 60 minutes of football this messy?