I believe in barometer games. Throughout any season, the real value of a team will be measured in those particular contests in which 53 men –and a coaching staff– will be asked to come through no matter what. Not so much because of the rival they’d be facing but because of the unique circumstances that surround such instances. When they arise, you better be up for the task.
That’s why Sunday hurt so much.
Last week, the Chiefs melted down in San Diego. After a brutal 10-minute stretch in which they imparted a clinic in self-destruction, I tried hard to find the silver-lining. With the two game-winning streak coming to an end in such discouraging fashion, I was left to think that in some way the spanking at the hands of the Chargers would only help in the long run. The focus would be regained, the sloppiness would be limited and the hunger for victory would be renewed. Most importantly, there would be no reason to panic; after all, a bump on the road would be left behind just as soon as we concentrated on the end of the road. Unfortunately, no one expected what happened yesterday.
I can live with Jamaal Charles fumbling one more time (barely); I can understand that the jitters got to Matt Cassel (forcefully); I’m aware that Todd Haley still hasn’t developed a knack to pull the successful gimmicks (mercifully), and I completely realize that this team is in a rebuilding mode (realistically). But the thing that I cannot get is how on earth the Chiefs could possibly lay such an enormous egg on Derrick Thomas’ day?
Behind his contagious smile and the need to create havoc on the football field, the thing that moved Derrick Thomas was pride. This was his last hurrah, his posthumous swan song and his closing tribute all rolled into one. Without a doubt, the Chiefs were required to put together a performance worthy of everything he ever gave to Kansas City.
The end result was unacceptable. No matter the talent level, the fact remains that in these kinds of games, you have to deliver a winning effort, even if you come up short in the scoreboard. It’s better than an electrocardiogram because these moments tell the true pulse of a team.
This weekend, the spirit of Derrick Thomas was present at Arrowhead thanks to Tamba Hali, and that was the highlight of an otherwise dreadful presentation. He was magnificent in competition. His heroics didn’t rub off on his teammates. I’ll refuse to say that he lost, but football is a team game and he is only part of a collective losing effort.
On the worst possible day the Chiefs dropped the chalupa, and then some. I really dole out credit to the Broncos. Their performance honored the late Barrel Man and for that they should be proud. At least one Hall of Famer was pleased on this day.
Needless to say, this is gut-check time. I have no interest in reliving the mistakes over and over again, but in watching what will be in store today, tomorrow, and the rest of the year at One Arrowhead Drive. I have to trust the premise that it isn’t necessarily how you start but how you finish. And that’s where the definitive judgments will be passed on. Not an instant earlier. The Chiefs are about to enter the last quarter of their season and it’s in everybody’s best interests that they finish out the campaign on a strong note. The first quarter ended with a 0-4 mark, the second quarter at 1-3 tally and the third wrapped up with a 2-2 count. So far, an improvement in numbers is there. However, emotionally we’re no better than when we started. That’s the real issue.
For the Chiefs to get rid of the yo-yo personality I would recommend them to keep their heads cool, their feet grounded and remind themselves of the things that have led them to surpass the victory total from last year. The only thing left is to keep working. The players need to keep working, the coaches need to keep working, the front office vehemently needs to keep working and us, the fans, can only keep working until next Sunday. And then, we’ll be back at it with one goal in mind: looking for redemption.
Hopefully, in the future, when I think about this game I’ll just remember it as the lowest point of the 2009 football season, and for the sake of our football sanity β¦ it better be.