It’s hard to be a Kansas City Chiefs fan sometimes. So many years of greatness — and yet, so many years of bitter disappointment, too. Once in a while, it’s useful to take an opportunity to step back — to see what the team looks like from outside our little bubble.
Such an opportunity presented itself after the Chiefs had defeated the Los Angeles Chargers 31-21 on Sunday afternoon.
The point of view was that of Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers, who had just completed what could end up being his final game with the team — or perhaps even in the NFL.
“There’s nothing like competing at this level and living out a dream — even in a situation where you’re 5-10,” he told reporters. “I was asked earlier this week, ‘What’s the motivation?’ The motivation is that I’m 38 years old — and I get to play the Kansas City Chiefs at this place. Are you kidding me? That’s the motivation.”
Rivers said he spent a little extra time mingling with other players after the final gun.
“Well first of all, I was trying to see as many Chiefs players as possible — so that I could wish them the best moving forward,” he said. “Knowing that you’re one of 12 teams and there is more football left — and to find out that they get a bye now is awesome.
“I love to go at it with those guys — as everybody knows — but I also have a great respect for them and how hard they play. Afterwards, you just tell them, ‘Go get ‘em!’”
For Rivers — now at the end of his 16th NFL season — it means a lot to still be able to compete with a team like the Chiefs.
“That tells me that I still have some juice left,” he said. “I was talking to Steve Spagnuolo afterwards. He told me just how hard it is for them to prepare for this. It’s things like that that keep me going. I love preparing throughout the week.”
And Rivers believes the Chiefs have a chance to win it all.
“Heck yeah — they do,” he said. “They’re one of 12 teams in it, so that’s how I see it. There has been a five seed [that won], a six seed [that won] and they’re going to be a two seed. So yes — I think they have a chance. I think anytime you have the speed they have on offense, you have a chance — [and] the way their defense communicates and comes together.”
Rivers didn’t waste any time communicating with Chiefs defensive players on Sunday. After the Chargers’ first offensive play, he and Chiefs defensive tackle Chris Jones got into it.
“I really thought my leg was broken,” said Rivers, “but obviously it wasn’t. It was one of those that I thought was a little cheap — just because he didn’t need to finish me off when I was already caught underneath him.”
But Rivers said there were no hard feelings between them; the two talked during a break in the action — and after the game, too.
“It’s all good, it’s part of it,” he said. “It’s good for me sometimes to get going a little bit. But what a player he is now! Talk about one of the best defensive tackles in the league. If he’s not first, then he’s a really close second. He’s a heck of a player.”
But from Rivers’ perspective, Jones isn’t the only good player on the defense.
“You add a guy like Terrell Suggs — as I found out today — [who] still has some juice left. I think their corners are solid. We’ve already talked about Chris — and seen the way Frank Clark has played.”
Rivers also said he believes the team’s new defensive coordinator has made a big difference.
“I think Spagnuolo keeps everyone guessing and keeps you on your toes. That style of defense with those weapons? Wow. They may give up some plays — but they also might turn around and make a play next time because of their offense.”
Rivers also said that even though his team has lost five of the last six games they’ve played there, playing at Arrowhead has been a special experience for him.
“Many years ago, me and Charlie Whitehurst were going to Oklahoma Joe’s,” Rivers recalled. “The line was long. We were in there — there was nothing but Chiefs fans everywhere — and now we’ve been seen from being in such a busy place. We’ve been standing there for about three minutes — and we decided we’d go ahead and leave.”
But on the Arrowhead sideline the next day, Rivers heard a voice from the seats behind him.
“This guy hollers at me, ‘Hey Rivers, let me tell you how we do it at Oklahoma Joe’s. You stand in line and then you order — just like everybody else.’”
Rivers said that in the years since then, he feels like he’s gotten to know this Chiefs fan who shares his love for the famous barbecue.
“There’s always just been this back and forth with him,” he said. “He gives it to me — and then we’ll make a good play and I’ll say, ‘Okay, I’ll give it to you.’ We caught eye contact at some point today and he said, ‘Can I get those?’ So I thought, ‘Why not — if it’s the last time [I’m] in here?’”
And somewhere, there’s a Kansas City Chiefs season ticket holder who has a new prize possession: the gloves Philip Rivers was wearing on the day the Chiefs claimed the Miracle Bye.