Murphy’s Law is (at its essence) the following: anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. It’s a pessimistic way of viewing the universe, to be sure, but an argument can be made that if enough time goes on, you’re BOUND to hit a situation where you end up with a worst case scenario and everything that can go wrong does in short order. It’s just a matter of time before it happens, really. Even in sports, it’s not of question of WILL you have a game like that. It’s a question of WHEN.
On October 2, 2016, in front of the entire country, the Chiefs had just such a moment. And unfortunately, it happened against the team they’re about to play tonight.
Now that that Chiefs are about to play the Steelers, a lot of people are talking about that Week 4 loss, a 43-14 beatdown that wasn’t even as close as THAT score indicates. The basic premise is that the Chiefs are in trouble because of the final score of that game, which is tough to argue with. I’ve also heard people say that that game proves the Chiefs absolutely won’t be able to even slow down the Pittsburgh offense, which is naturally a troubling thought.
So, because I heart you guys, I decided to subject myself to something horrible and take another look at that game, trying to figure out what happened to result in such a lopsided score and whether it’s likely to happen again. On the plus side, I didn’t even need to review the entire game. Because what I found (I had somehow blocked this out) is that the Chiefs had managed to beat themselves before halftime, and never recovered.
First Steelers Score
It’s easy to forget, after enough time has gone by, that the Chiefs actually forced the Steelers to punt on their first possession (the Chiefs punted on theirs as well), getting the ball back at their own 24-yard-line. At this point, both teams had obtained a few first downs and then punted, and with a 0-0 score it looked to have the makings of a good game.
Then Spencer Ware fumbled on a three yard carry the very first play of that drive.
Now, it would perhaps be different if it was some kind of great play by the defender. But it really wasn’t. It was a very basic arm tackle attempt that hit the ball and it just... left Ware’s body. Ugh. And as is a football’s wont, the ball bounced unpredictably upon hitting the ground... right into the middle of a bunch of Steelers, who fell on the ball and now had possession at the Chiefs’ 32-yard-line.
A couple of plays later, this happened (shield your eyes and hide the women and children)
What you see there is a total and utter breakdown in coverage. Either Berry failed completely to notice a WR across the middle of the field (if the call was cover 2) or D.J. White failed completely to fulfill his duties and get deep, getting sucked up by a shallow route (if the call was cover 3).
Either way, that’s not the Steelers drawing up some magnificent play. That’s the Chiefs shooting themselves in the foot. And just like that, it was 8-0 (because of course they went for two).
Second Steelers Score
Being down 7-0 is hardly a killer to a team, particularly a tough team like the Chiefs, who have shown time and again they can overcome adversity. The Chiefs got the ball back and gained a first down, looking like they might start a positive drive.
Then one tipped pass later, the Steelers suddenly had the ball on the Chiefs’ 4-yard-line. A single play after that, the Steelers were in the end zone.
If it seems like I transitioned fast there, well, that’s for a reason. Because it was THAT fast that the game suddenly flipped on its head. No time to take a breath. No time to suck it up and prepare. Such an unbelievable, unusual error by a generally careful offense that happened in the blink of an eye. The Steelers couldn’t help but score on their next possession against a defense that (in my opinion) looked rattled.
And just like that, it was 15-0.
Third Steelers Score
By now every Chiefs fan had a knot in their stomach (admit it, you did). Something just felt a bit off. That said, the Chiefs were about to get the ball back and had at least moved the ball a little before catastrophic turnovers. There was hope for a turnaround.
Until, that is, Knile Davis decided to take a kick out of the end zone despite the fact that he was moving horizontally when he caught it, then REVERSED FIELD AND RAN BACKWARDS in an attempt to just outrun an entire coverage team (not that the blocking was good, mind you)... and was predictably tackled at the two yard line.
Have you ever bent a metal hangar? Or any other piece of relatively thin metal? Notice that the first time you bend it, there’s some resistance offered. The metal wants to bend back to its original shape. The more you bend it back and forth, though, the easier it gets. Davis’s horrifically bad return was the moment when the hangar starts staying exactly where you bend it to, offering very little resistance any more.
The Chiefs couldn’t muster much offense, but DID manage to dig themselves out of a hole to the 22-yard line (this was the last bit of resistance). Of course, on 4th down a false start penalty forced the Chiefs back an extra 5 yards, and then...well, there’s no other way to say this, even Dustin Colquitt failed to show, punting the ball 23 yards (TWENTY-THREE YARDS) to the Kansas City 40-yard line. 23 yards. I absolutely promise you that many of you can punt a football quite high in the air farther than 23 yards.
That shanked punt? That was the moment the hangar starts feeling a bit loose as you bend it back and fourth.
Two plays later, the hangar snapped. The Chiefs left Antonio Brown one-on-one with Steven Nelson and safety help over the top completely failed to come to his aid on a simple deep post route (there were literally two receivers running routes, and three Chiefs converged on the guy who ISN’T Antonio Brown). Funnily enough (in a “it makes you want to slam your head into a wall” kind of way), the pass was underthrown enough that Nelson had a fair shot at defending it. He just misplayed the ball, and Brown came down with it.
Again, this wasn’t some gorgeous route combination by the Steelers or an incredible throw/catch by Big Ben and AB. This was a terrible blown coverage and a poorly played deep ball following a shanked punt preceded by a kickoff return for 2 positive yards. Reread that last sentence. Doesn’t it just make you want to punt a baby seal?
But the scoreboard doesn’t care how the points are scored, only that they are scored. And now it was 22-0 before the first quarter could end, and the Chiefs were completely broken.
Why am I writing about this????
I’m not trying to drag you through bad memories. I write all of this to make a point. That point is this: On October 2nd, the Chiefs did absolutely everything they could to hand the Steelers the game early and never recovered. There was no magic by the Steelers in that debacle of a 1st quarter. It wasn’t Ben or Brown or Bell making crazy plays. The Chiefs handed the game to them on a platter in a series of incredibly uncharacteristic mental errors, and completely shut it down the rest of the way.
Murphy’s Law, man. Eventually, you’re going to have a situation where everything goes wrong at once. And that’s exactly what happened. Which is why October 2nd holds very little value in figuring out what’s going to happen Sunday. Maybe the Steelers win (it wouldn’t surprise me). Maybe the Chiefs win (it wouldn’t surprise me). But don’t try to tell me the Steelers somehow have the Chiefs’ number by pointing to that game. Because the only team that had the Chiefs’ number that day was wearing red and gold.
I’ll see you guys Sunday. I type these words from a hotel in Des Moines on my way to the game. I can’t wait to scream my head off at Arrowhead and watch the division champs try to advance. This should be fun.