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The Chiefs win over Panthers started before Eric Berry’s INT and Marcus Peters’ fumble

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I cannot believe what I just witnessed.

I’m still double checking the score on NFL.com every few minutes just to make sure I didn’t snap and hallucinate the most incredible win larceny I’ve ever witnessed in my time as a Chiefs fan. The Panthers had it in the bag. It was over. O-V-E-R.

Then, less than a minute and thirty seconds later, the Chiefs were suddenly within three.

If you visited the bathroom at an inopportune time you missed it. If you went to the kitchen and made yourself a sandwich you missed it (well, depending on the number of ingredients. A PB & J and you’re probably safe. Take the time to toast it? No way).

Marcus Peters taking the ball from Kelvin Benjamin (along with his dignity, his manhood and possibly his soul) with less than 30 seconds to go is perhaps the greatest individual defensive play I have ever seen.

You know all that stuff people talk about all wistfully when discussing football? Grit, heart, toughness, desire, wanting it more... all of that? If you were to look it up in a video dictionary, that’s the play you would see. Marcus Peters just WANTED it more and TOOK it. What an unbelievable play.

But that’s not the series that change the game.

Eric Berry’s interception return was fantastic. First of all, Cam Newton was kind enough to demonstrate to young quarterbacks everywhere why you never, ever, EVER throw the ball off your back foot while falling away from pass rushers (what a fantastic blitz dialed up by Bob Sutton, who coached a heckuva game). You’re just begging teams to take the ball away, and that’s exactly what Berry did.

Everything after that was all Eric Berry. Every time he gets a pick he seems to get at least 20 yards more than he’s got any right to get. I understand he’s way too valuable to the defense to return kickoffs and punts (and there’s that Tyreek Hill guy), but I’ve often wondered what percentage of returns Berry would score on. Sometimes it feels like at least half of them. What a play.

But that’s not the series that change the game.

No, the series that changed the game came at the end of the third quarter. Put yourself back to the end of the third quarter. There’s 2:24 left on the clock and the Panthers are looking at first and 10 in the Chiefs 20-yard line. They’ve marched down the field on a series of disheartening third down conversions, have eaten more than 10 minutes from the clock, basically sapped the life out of any hope of a comeback. A score here (field goal or touchdown) puts them up three scores and buries the Chiefs for good.

But that’s not what happened.

Instead, on 1st and 10 the Panthers call a quarterback keeper (at least, that’s what it appeared to be. It was blown up so quickly it’s tough to say for sure). And why not? It’s been successful most of the day.

On this play, though, the Chiefs have other plans. Ramik Wilson avoids his blocker and is able to generate instant pressure on Cam that forces him to continue towards the sideline rather than cutting upfield. In the meantime, Eric Berry recognizes what’s happening and tries to beat Cam to the edge. Unfortunately, he’s immediately engaged by a much larger human being (a pulling interior lineman). 99 percent of safeties are blown up in this situation (basically, everyone but Berry and Kam Chancellor. That’s it. That’s the list).

Berry, instead, takes the blocker on and is able to dip his shoulder JUST enough to leverage his way around the blocker. He sprints to the spot Cam is trying to get to and delivers one of his signature shots, knocking Cam out of bounds for a loss of one. A good start.

On 2nd and 11, the Panthers look to throw the ball, but their plans are derailed by NFL’s sack leader (well, tied, according to the NFL’s stats site. I refused to double check my numbers because I like those numbers) Dee “how am I ever gonna read all of these apology letters from MNchiefsfan” Ford.

There’s not a ton to say about this play analysis-wise. Ford chops the tackle’s hands down during the tackle’s attempted punch, timing it perfectly and executing the move very strongly. This throws the tackle off balance, and Ford’s athleticism does the rest. He’s on Cam before there’s even a realistic chance to get rid of the ball. Just a phenomenal play by Ford, who had another sack early in the game on an inside move (and a beauty) that was called back by defensive holding penalty.

So now it’s 3rd and 18 for the Panthers, but they’re still well within field goal range and the ability to go up by three scores. The only thing that’s going to stop that from happening is if someone somehow gets immediate pressure on Cam and drops him for a huge loss and ... and ... hey THAT’S CHRIS JONES’ MUSIC.

A few things to take away from this play.

First, Chris Jones just isn’t fair. He’s stronger than the vast majority of defensive linemen, with the brute strength to just shove guards and centers into a quarterback’s pocket. They have to respect that strength or they’ll get killed. HOWEVER, he’s also oddly quick for a man of his size, meaning if you try and cheat to counter his strength and get caught leaning, you’re gonna be made to look foolish.

Second, notice that gorgeous one-on-one matchup Jones has? Thank the man next to him, Dontari Poe. He was feasting on the Panthers interior offensive line all day, which resulted in looks like this where other defensive linemen got a chance to go after an individual offensive lineman. That stuff MATTERS, even though it’ll never show up in the stats sheet. Poe has had a quiet year, but the last 2-3 weeks he’s been fantastic.

Finally, for as upset as Cam was after the play, he makes a bad situation worse by running backward an extra 4-5 yards. Had he simply dropped to the ground the Panthers are still in field goal range. He took a bad situation (instant pressure) and made it worse by panicking.

THIS was the series that change the game for the Chiefs. This was the series when the defense said “all right, we’re taking over.” And take over they did. Make no mistake, the Chiefs offense was all sorts of out of step against the Panthers. Smith struggled with his accuracy and timing, and when that wasn’t happening receivers were dropping passes or the offensive line was killing promising starts to drives with false start penalties. The offense had to hop on the defense’s back and get dragged to a win. And that’s exactly what the defense did.

That’s the second ugly win in a row for the Chiefs, and they’ve got stuff to work out. But for the moment, take some time to celebrate the defense absolutely carrying the offense to a big win over a talented opponent on the road. They, much like Marcus Peters, just reached out and STOLE that win from the Panthers. And what a grand larceny it was to behold.