Sunday night provided a tough flashback and a then a humbling lesson.
I had the opportunity to cover the American Football Conference championship game and for that, I felt blessed. I have spent time covering this team in various roles over the past decade and seen a wide range of coaches — some good, some awful and the teams had similar patterns.
This team felt different and there were more than a few times I wondered if there was something magical here. It all came crashing down. The fourth quarter was crazy and the emotions I had were going up and down and had twists like a roller coaster. The bad thing about being part of the media, there is no cheering in the press box. The emotions were kept in check, even though as a lifelong fan of this organization, it was hard to do.
When Gehrig Dieter picked up what looked to be a fumble by Julian Edelman and ran it back for a touchdown, I told the guy sitting next to me they were going to win it. I was wrong.
When Damien Williams scored with about 2 minutes to play, I thought it was too much time for Tom Brady. My gut instinct was right, but I can say I underestimate a comeback at that point.
Patrick Mahomes proved me wrong and he got the team in field goal position for Harrison Butker, who tied the game at 31.
I have been thinking this one thing over and over since the loss. There was 11 seconds left on the clock when Butker went out to try the attempt. The play prior, Mahomes threw an incomplete pass and threw the ball out of bounds.
But with 11 seconds left and you are down three points, why not go for the win? The Chiefs lost so I guess it didn’t really matter, but knowing what we know now, if we are going to lose I much rather had a loss with Mahomes on the field with 11 seconds left.
Instead, we had Mahomes on the sidelines and his magical season came to an end because the defense couldn’t get a single stop on third down when the game mattered the most.
When Rex Burkhead crossed the goal line and ended the game, the heartbreak Chiefs fans have felt for decades got another painful emotional scar. Add it to the losses like to the Bills in AFC Championship game, or any playoff game vs. the Colts before this year, or the Steelers field goal kicking clinic or even the Marcus Mariota throwing a touchdown pass to himself — something even the uber talented Mahomes has yet to do.
The initial moment after the loss was a stunned feeling. I can’t think many didn’t see this train wreck coming. The fans, the true fans, know our defense has issues and the hatred for Bob Sutton rivaled that of Greg Robinson of years prior. It is deserved though. Why didn’t we blitz more or heck, even at all. Brady is at least 70 years old in football years, but instead of trying to make him scramble out of the pocket, the Chiefs let him find a wide open receiver, whether it be Gronk, Edelman or Chris Hogan EVERY SINGLE TIME. Well, not really, but pretty dang close.
Dee Ford and Justin Houston had big plays against the Colts and had as many sacks as I did against Brady. Chris Jones almost got a sack, but instead he hit an offensive lineman and got called for roughing the quarterback. Ford, who is a free agent after the Super Bowl, had perhaps the biggest gaffe in his career when he lined up offsides and negated a Super Bowl-clinching interception by Charvarius Ward.
The pain I felt drew some parallels to one I felt a little more than four years right across the street.
I recall standing at the top step of the press box just staring out onto the field as the Giants celebrated winning the World Series in Game 7 in 2014. Everyone was moving around to get down to the field or locker room for quotes. I just stood and watched. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t accept the season being over. I couldn’t come to grip with the best season in my lifetime — I was four when the Royals won their first World Series so it doesn’t count in my book — was over just like that.
That is exactly how the loss for the Chiefs felt. All this success, all the records, all the highlights, all the joy and then splat. Done. Over.
Some fans threw whatever they had onto the field, others verbally voiced their displeasure and the rest just trudged out of Arrowhead Stadium with their heads down. Dejected. Heartbroken. Mad. Angry.
I remember the Lin Elliott loss to the Colts vividly. I remember the postgame show and listening to Bill Grigsby. I don’t remember what he said word for word, but it was something to the effect it was a tough loss but don’t do anything stupid. I’m pretty sure he said don’t go kick the dog or something along those lines, but I was 13 and that was a long time ago.
But the point was, it was a tough loss but it is just a game.
I thought back to that moment, trying to cope, with the loss.
Then as I started trudging my way back to my car that was almost a mile away — I didn’t realize how good I had it years ago when the media had ‘gold’ parking, but I digress — I got a lesson in coping.
It was freezing and I reached into my pocket and got my phone out. I pulled up the weather app to see what the wind chill was. The answer was negative two.
As I continued the walk to my car in what was almost an abandoned parking at that time, around midnight, something caught my eye. I saw a man. He was about 40 or so. I saw him bending down by a light pole.
As he raised up he had a garbage bag in one hand and in the other was an aluminum can. As I watched for a brief moment he had on a jacket that was very aged. I assumed he was homeless or if he wasn’t, he was in a spot that many of us wouldn’t want to be in.
Picking up empty beer cans to go recycle them for a few bucks in weather no one should be out in for an extended period.
It is pretty easy to find a way to cope with a loss, in just a game, when you witness someone else’s pain.