Monday column, The Re-Up. In this column, I’ll write about some deeper thought I had about the last game and finish with some fun stuff to ponder at the article’s end. Check out last week’s column here.
History has a funny way of repeating itself sometimes.
As I watched the final seconds tick away in the Kansas City Chiefs-Los Angeles Chargers matchup NFL Network’s Good Morning Football called the “game of the year” on Thursday night, my memory instantly jogged back to September 17, 2015.
Thursday Night Football. Arrowhead Stadium. AFC West showdown. Eric Berry’s first regular-season home game since he defeated Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
If Berry’s emotional introduction didn’t capture the attention of Chiefs fans in attendance, two second-quarter touchdowns—first a Jamaal Charles run and then a Marcus Peters pick-six—to give the Chiefs a 14-0 lead certainly did.
The place was rocking.
But before the first half was over, another future Hall of Fame quarterback, Peyton Manning, would throw two touchdowns to tie the game at 14. After exchanging field goals in the third quarter, the Chiefs broke a 17-17 tie thanks to a Knile Davis (you remember him) 8-yard touchdown with just 2:27 to go in the game.
Then Manning happened again. A 19-yard touchdown to wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders to tie the game at 24 with 36 seconds left.
But at least the game would go to overtime, right? The Chiefs could still win.
Nope. Not on that night.
As the Chiefs possibly tried to run out the clock, Charles fumbled, and Bradley Roby picked up the loose ball and ran it 21 yards for the game-winning touchdown.
31-24. Game stolen. Any party regarding Kansas City finally snapping Denver’s then-six-game winning streak would have to wait.
Fast-forwarding, I will admit that Thursday night in 2018 wasn’t an exact replica of Thursday night in 2015.
The Broncos’ win happened early in the 2015 season in Week 2, meaning far less immediate implications when it came to the postseason—but the heart-wrenching feeling and the taste it left in the mouths of Chiefs fans, that was just the same.
There is an eeriness to the comparison, too, when you think about how two long-awaited Berry returns were spoiled in such gut-punching fashion.
Berry played 30 first-half snaps for the Chiefs Thursday night, as the team attempts to bring him back slowly after missing the whole season to this point due to a sore heel.
His impact in the first half was palpable—he led the team with six tackles while providing the unit with an energy we frankly haven’t seen in a while.
However, during one play, in particular, Berry was caught on camera furiously urging his teammates to get back into position, a moment I’m not sure was good thing or a bad thing.
And it’s is difficult to know how much Berry’s exit from the game had to do with the Chiefs’ unraveling, but it almost certainly didn’t help.
It never felt like Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers was truly comfortable in the first half while Berry was in the game, the Chiefs sacking him 4.0 times and intercepting him twice. In the second half, the pass rush was gone and the future Hall of Famer picked apart Steven Nelson, Orlando Scandrick and the rest of the Chiefs defense.
The mixup in coverage on the two-point conversion to Mike Williams can only properly be described as an embarrassment.
That being said, in this game, the defense does not deserve all the blame. While it was marginally better in the first half than in the second, it still held the Chargers to 29 points, and with what we already know about the 2018 version of the Chiefs, that needs to be enough.
The Chargers became the first team in NFL history to overcome a 14-point deficit in the final five minutes of regulation in part due to offensive passiveness.
In other words, if Patrick Mahomes has the ball in his hands with a seven-point lead and 3:43 left, that should be a win almost every single time. I understand it helps to have the Chargers use their timeouts, but when you have the quarterback and offensive firepower to slam the door on the division, you have to do it.
A first-and-10 Damien Williams loss of three yards simply cannot happen in that situation.
After the game, Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn was asked about going for two instead of taking the extra point after the Chargers’ game-winning touchdown.
“We did not come here to tie,” Lynn told the media. “I want to win the game and they wanted to win the game, so that is why we did it.”
Andy Reid tends to always welcome the blame after a tough loss. On Thursday, he put the game in the hands of his defense without Berry against a Hall of Famer quarterback when they have already proved earlier this season it couldn’t handle such a situation. See Week 6.
But, in the spirit of Bill Belichick in the above video, let’s not harp on Thursday night.
I bring up the comparison to Denver in 2015 because after that game, the Chiefs lost four straight games. Again, that was in Week 2, and we know what happened that season. The Chiefs turned 1-5 to 11-5 and they got their first playoff win in more than two decades.
The problem in 2018 is they don’t have that kind of time. There is no figuring it out.
To keep the season’s destiny in their hands, the Chiefs need to beat a good Seattle team in their building 10 days from Friday.
In the past, Reid has typically given the Chiefs three free days to enjoy their “mini-bye,” with the regrouping coming on Monday. The hope if you’re a Chiefs fan should be that the players use these three days to wipe their hands clean and burn the tape.
Reid also likes to talk about what is real.
Unfortunately, there aren’t any recent comparisons for that.
STAT OF THE GAME
GIF OF THE GAME
Me & the boys watching that coverage by the Chiefs pic.twitter.com/0usCL0ZkLP— Warren Sharp (@SharpFootball) December 14, 2018
TWEET(s) OF THE WEEK
On that play Travis Kelce just surpassed 1,200 receiving yards on the season, triggering a $375,000 incentive. The incentive doubles because the Chiefs have clinched a playoff spot. A $750,000 catch.— Field Yates (@FieldYates) December 14, 2018
I’ll say it again: Life is so much easier when you accept that there will be missed officiating calls, and bad calls, in every game of every sport at every level.— Kevin Seifert (@SeifertESPN) December 14, 2018
- 1. Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers on Patrick Mahomes’ first touchdown: “It was a heck of a play, just how he makes some unreal throws. He breaks every rule in the book throwing back across the middle. I guess when you have that kind of arm, you can do it. I can’t do it. If I would have thrown some of the ones he threw today, I would have thrown six interceptions. That is credit to him, not taking anything away from him. I am saying his arm is that talented. He has an ability to do it.”
- 2. Chiefs defensive lineman Derrick Nnadi on Eric Berry’s sentiment before the game: “Before the game, no it wasn’t anything different. Every week he comes in with some fire to amp the team up as he normally does. That’s being a great leader. With him back, we just had a giant spark around the whole team that you notice but you don’t really say anything about it.”
- 3. Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes on whether the Los Angeles Chargers defended him similarly to the Baltimore Ravens: “Not really at all. It’s two completely different defenses. Both of them are very talented. They played me the way that they’ve played everyone the whole entire season. Our job was to execute. We didn’t put enough points on the board to get the win. We didn’t do our job good enough I guess.”
- 4. Chargers wide receiver Travis Benjamin on the Chargers beating the Chiefs for the first time in nine tries: “Satisfying. We’ve talked about how we haven’t beaten them in a couple years. We wanted to go into this game and change that and we did.”
- 5. Chargers defensive end Joey Bosa on the two-point conversion: “I was nervous. I wasn’t that excited for the touchdown because I was so nervous for the two-point conversion. You obviously had seen what happened with Tennessee. I kind of got that same weird feeling. When it happened, everyone was saying, ‘Throw it! Throw it!’. I didn’t even see the wide-open receiver. The camera pans over and it was just very exciting. After such a great win in Pittsburgh and then to be able to come here and do this on a Thursday after a quick turnaround, it shows we’re the real deal.”
THE BIG THOUGHT
The Chiefs and Chargers were each down to their third running back on Thursday night, and here was the production:
- Damien Williams - 10 rushes for 49 yards and two touchdowns; six catches for 74 yards
- Justin Jackson - 16 rushes for 58 yards and a touchdown; three receptions for 27 yards
Strictly talking about their skills on the playing field, you would have much rather had Kareem Hunt and Melvin Gordon out there if you were the Chiefs and Chargers, respectively. Taking it a step further, you would have also rather had Spencer Ware and Austin Ekeler.
But on Thursday night, Williams and Jackson—the third men up—were serviceable. In Williams’ case, I’d go as far as to say I don’t know if Ware puts up much better numbers.
I look at the success of Philip Lindsay, an undrafted free agent in Denver, as well as what happened with James Conner, a third-round pick in Pittsburgh, and it makes me question why you would ever spend a first or second-rounder on a running back. Furthermore, it makes me question why you would ever tie up a large amount of cap space to sign one long term.
There was much more to the Hunt situation, and there is no doubt about that. But from solely a football standpoint, the Chiefs avoided having to make a very difficult decision at a position it’s no longer necessary to pay in today’s NFL.
POLL OF THE WEEK
Do you think the Chiefs win BOTH of their final two games (at Seahawks, vs. Raiders), securing the one seed in the AFC?
This poll is closed
If you can’t see the poll, click here. Discuss in the comments.