The wonderful thing about writing a two-part article is that I get to be lazy and skip the introduction part. Although technically, me even saying that is an introduction. As is me linking to Part 1 (which can be found here). Dangit, I’ve made work where no work needed to be made...
Anyways, let’s get back to it. I’m talking about my favorite moments of the season. They might not be your favorite moments, but this is all subjective and I’m totally right. Glad we got that out of the way.
Moment Number 5: Bloated Tebow Pass
This moment gets special consideration because it happens to be the favorite of one Mrs. MNchiefsfan. And really, who can blame her? It was the moment the Chiefs broke the Matrix.
Let’s remember some context here. Going into the game against Denver, the Chiefs were 10-4 and were still not a sure thing to make the playoffs. They had blown a chance to seize the division from the Raiders by losing to Tennessee at home and were reeling without Derrick Johnson stalking running backs. More than a few people thought the Chiefs were about to stumble their way right out of the playoffs and leave us all with a bad taste in our mouth.
Also remember, the Broncos were still considered a dangerous team at this point, despite having been embarrassed by the Patriots. They had pushed the Chiefs to the limit earlier in the season at Denver, and boasted a terrifying defense. People were expecting another close game.
Instead, of course, the Chiefs raced out to an early lead and never really looked back. They looked completely superior to the Broncos in every facet of the game, rolling over them with big plays and solid-across-the-board performances from... well, pretty much everyone.
But as one-sided as the game was, it needed an exclamation point. You know, a “this is our division now” moment. You see, Denver has been the big brother for way too long in the Chiefs/Broncos rivalry. Let’s face it, prior to 2015 the Chiefs had lost approximately 75 games in a row to the Broncos (all numbers approximate), and despite the “Breaking Manning” game, Broncos fans clung to the idea that the only reason the Chiefs could ever beat the Broncos was due to a horrible, horrible meltdown by their QB.
Sweeping the Broncos (and making it 3 games in a row decided in the Chiefs’ favor) would go a long way towards ending that kind of talk. However, this pretty much silenced it for good (well, until next season at least).
DONTARI POE THREW A TOUCHDOWN PASS pic.twitter.com/1VAJzJIL0V— SB Nation GIF (@SBNationGIF) December 26, 2016
Now THAT is an exclamation point. I laughed out loud when it happened, as did most fans I spoke with.
You know how you know you’ve become the big brother in a rivalry? When after the game, people are questioning whether a play was rubbing it in a bit too much. When people say stuff like that, it’s essentially saying, “look you were clearly better, do you need to show them up?”
The answer, in this case, is yes. Yes they did. The Broncos, the AFC West, and everyone else needed to see that the Chiefs aren’t the underdog anymore. They are the best team in the AFC West. It was a perfect way to (almost) complete the sweep of the AFC West (let’s be real, the Chargers game the next week was a formality).
Almost everything about that play was perfect, including the meaning behind it.
Moment Number 4: The Doink Heard ‘round Kansas City
It’s fitting that back-to-back moments feature the Broncos.
I could say a whole lot about the comeback against the Broncos. It started with the Chiefs down 8 with three minutes to play. Almost no one (and yes, I include myself in that) thought there was a prayer that the Chiefs could drive the length of the field, score, AND convert a 2-point conversion after an anemic night on offense.
Of course, that’s precisely what they did, with a series of clutch plays that I don’t even have time to recap here (two 3rd down conversions and a RIDICULOUS 4th and 10 conversion featuring Alex Smith and Tyreek Hill, that unreal conversion to Demetrius Harris). But the thing is, even with a tie game, overtime wasn’t looking kind for a Chiefs team that was allowing Trevor Siemian to do all kinds of evil things.
A pair of field goals from each team (which required some Houston/Hali heroics) and a missed Bronco field goal (which required some DJ and Chris Jones heroics) later, the Chiefs were in a position to go for the game winner.
You remember what that field goal looked like, SOMEHOW slamming into the upright at a thousand miles an hour and borderline miraculously bouncing JUST inside the opposite upright. It looked like it was going to miss throughout the kick, and even after the kick there were Bronco players celebrating for a split second (I chortle evilly every time I remember that). It led to one of the greatest photographs I’ve ever seen.
Nothing encapsulates that moment (or that game, really) better than this picture. Dustin Colquitt, American hero, brought to grief for a moment at the idea of his American hero-ness not being enough to will the ball through the uprights. Cairo Santos, the smallest human being I’ve ever seen on an NFL field (at least, you know, in pads and an NFL jersey), raising his hands and knowing he’s about to get destroyed by a bunch of celebrating giants and may not live another 3 minutes.
(side note... when you’re a kicker, it’s really a no-win situation for a game winner. Either you miss and you’re about to be locked in a conveniently-named “locker” room [is that where they get the title?] with a bunch of angry men WAY bigger and WAY stronger than you. OR you make it and you get mobbed by the same guys, whose way of celebrating is generally to tackle, jump on, slam into, or smack the head of everyone around them. Watch Travis Kelce celebrate a good Alex Smith pass with him sometime. I swear he’s going to give him a concussion. Maybe he misses playing quarterback?)
It’s rare that a picture accurately reflects a pair of emotions so well, but this one crushes exactly how I felt during that game (and that kick). From despair to joy in a split second.
Moment Number 3: Eric Berry Pick-2
This moment largely speaks for itself, but I’ll give it a shot. The Chiefs, on the road against the now-in-the-Super-Bowl Atlanta Falcons and the best offense in the league, had just given up a touchdown that put them down one with under 5 minutes to go in the game. The Falcons were going for two and seemed unlikely to be stopped.
Then, well, Eric Berry went full Eric Berry, picking off Matt Ryan (oh, by the way, for the second time that game, having ALREADY put six on the board earlier with an interception return for a touchdown) and housing it for two points.
In the blink of an eye, the game went from “Falcons are winning and might go up three” to “Falcons are losing.” You could feel, even on television, the air get sucked right out of the stadium. Even though the Falcons had just scored a touchdown, THEY were the team deflated and losing. It’s one of the fastest and most total momentum shifts I’ve ever seen in a football game. The Chiefs got the ball and never gave it back, running out the clock for a huge win.
This moment was great for a variety of reasons, football and otherwise. The football part was simple: it was a rare play, an exciting play, and a play that swung a wildly important game in the Chiefs’ favor. As for the rest... well, anyone watching that game knew (or should have known) Eric Berry’s story. That the last time he’d returned to the Atlanta area during a football season, it was because he was going to undergo treatment (it was almost exactly two years prior to this game, by the way). That he had more family in the stands than I think I even talk to from my family. That he told his mom he’d “be back” after bringing her ONE touchdown-graced football. That he shed tears before and after the game from the emotion of it all.
Berry dragging the Chiefs to a win almost exactly two years from the worst time of his life was a perfect way to see that THAT chapter was closed. He (along with his family) had won. Oh, and it meant the Chiefs won a football game too. What a privilege to watch.
Moment Number 2: Marcus Peters, Kansas City Thief
I don’t even know what to say.
You know what, I’m going the opposite direction of what I normally do and saying very little here. I’ll just stick with what I told my kids after the game ended... You could watch football your entire life and not see something like that.
And really, there’s not much more to say. What an incredible, incredible play.
Moment Number 1: Eric Berry and Arrowhead
I’ve spoken about this before, and I don’t think there’s any way to communicate exactly why this moment hits number one to anyone who wasn’t at Arrowhead Stadium a little early on January 15th. But I’ll try.
Eric Berry, at some point during the year, began to stay on the field after warmups when other players went back to the locker rooms to prepare. He would kneel in the end zone and just stare into space, quite likely contemplating thoughts so intense they would kill you or me.
This particular time, something happened after he had been there for a few minutes. Again, please forgive me for my lack of ability to write well enough to convey the picture, but here goes...
As Berry, a man who was directly responsible for multiple wins in 2016, a man whose hits are audibly louder than other players when you watch games live, and (most importantly) a man who provided inspiration to millions by facing an ugly disease head-on and destroying it with conviction and faith and determination and family... as that man knelt in the end zone, someone began to cheer.
I don’t know who it was, but it started in the end zone seating nearest to where Berry knelt. Now, cheering isn’t completely uncommon before a game begins. It happens. Fans see a player and give an appreciative yell, maybe the player interacts with the crowd for a moment and it lasts for a few seconds. That’s all very great and a lot of fun.
This wasn’t that though. Whoever started cheering didn’t stop. Instead, the sounds spread. It was slow at first, but gained momentum as more and more people looked around, looked to the field, and joined in. In my section, words weren’t exchanged. No one said to each other, “hey, they’re cheering Berry.” People saw what was happening and joined the noise. Even my kids (10 and 8 years old) joined in without asking me why. My kids absolutely adore Eric Berry. He’s a hero to them, like Superman. Of all the players on the Chiefs, he’s the one whose name comes up most consistently. And they, even children, knew that this was their chance to convey that.
The sound swelled up and filled the stadium, louder than any pregame cheer I’d ever heard. Fans heading to their seats joined in. If Eric moved one iota, I didn’t see it. He knelt there, continuing to gaze into nothing. Maybe thinking about how far he’d come in two years. Maybe thinking about how far he’d come in six years. Maybe thinking about whether he’d ever be on that field again as a Chief. I know I was thinking about all of those things.
As the noise continued to grow, fans began to chant (almost simultaneously, a rarity in such moments).
“Berry, Berry, Berry...”
The chant, like the cheer that preceded it, moved throughout Arrowhead like a forest fire in woods that hadn’t been touched by rain in a year. I didn’t know it at the time, but something like a smile came to Berry’s face even as he remained motionless on the field.
We respect you. We care about you. You’re a part of us. Thank you. No matter what, thank you.
And just when the chanting and cheering seemed to have reached its apex, the player who is more than a player to this writer and so many others rose to his feet and ran off the field to a roar from the crowd. He didn’t wave. He didn’t nod. He didn’t look around. At least not while I watched him. But he didn’t have to. In a way, it would have made the moment a lesser one if he had. Because what made that moment special was that no one needed to explain that it was, or why.
I doubt I will ever experience a football moment like that again. Because really, in that moment, it had nothing to do with football.