Notes From A Crumbling NFL Empire: Part XIII

Cincinnati Bengals 34, Kansas City Chiefs 31

Photo courtesy of The Kansas City Star

The equation was simple: If the Chiefs won their two remaining games against the Bengals and Broncos, they would finish the season 13-4 and assure themselves the number one seed in the AFC, giving them a first round bye in the playoffs. A loss against either would open the door for the Titans, who won their matchup against the Chiefs earlier in the season, to assume the top spot.

And that’s exactly what fucking happened on Sunday. The Chiefs took a weird loss on the road against the Bengals, and the Titans handled their business, thumping the Miami Dolphins by a score of 34-3. As a result both teams head into Week 18 at 11-5, with Tennessee possessing the almighty tiebreaker. They also have a game against the Texans, an almost surefire victory for a team motivated to capture the one seed.

For about 30 minutes I was genuinely pissed off about the Chiefs losing for the first time since… unironically… they fell to the Titans way back in Week 7. Among the reasons are that (1) this was an entirely winnable game; three times Kansas City led by two touchdowns, 14-0, 21-7, and 28-14. (2) As I already mentioned it knocked them from the one seed down to the two, where they no longer control their destiny. (3) I literally wrote in my last blog that Joe Burrow “is the best quarterback in the AFC not named Patrick Mahomes[.]”

Almost like I knew it was coming, I wrote:

For that reason, I picture the Chiefs winning on Sunday by a fairly comfortable margin. Maybe it’s 38-17, or perhaps it’s within one score. I don’t know for sure, but I feel confident that Kansas City is going to win.

With that being said, if there is a guy who can do it, I think it’s Joe Burrow. And the crazy thing is I won’t even be mad about it, because I like him a lot.

Well, I lied. I am mad about it. I had to be at work because of the holiday weekend, and there is really nothing like having to deal craps while my favorite team is on TV allowing a game to get away from them at the end. I had to go through with calling out “six easy, easy six,” and “seven out, line away,” when inside I was feeling like the child I am when things aren’t going my way. (And I also had coworkers giving me shit about the loss, which I’ve never really appreciated.)

Also, Cincinnati. I swear to fucking god I can never spell that goddamn city correctly on here. I always want to put two “n’s” and two “t’s,” and whenever I think I have it figured out the stupid fucking spell check puts a red underline and I have to change it instead of getting on with the process of writing this stupid fucking blog that I don’t even want to write because the Chiefs lost a football game.

Misery loves company, so I saw what Twitter had to say about Sunday’s contest. Objectively speaking, most people felt like the referees played a large role in costing Kansas City the game. Chiefs head coach Andy Reid said in the postgame press conference that there were “A lot of penalties. I’d like to comment on each one, but I don’t want to be fined.” So there is plenty of frustration to go around.

Personally, I never like to blame the refs. I just think it goes against the business that football is supposed to be about. Namely, doing your job. Not putting yourself in a position where the refs are put in a position to impact the game. Like I already mentioned, the Chiefs led this game by 14 points at multiple junctures. At halftime they were ahead 28-17. The Bengals literally had a 3rd and 27 with like three minutes left in the game and Kansas City called a zero blitz instead of playing a soft zone coverage and allowing CINCINNATI (FUCK, I MISSPELLED IT AGAIN) to kick a field goal.

You throw all these items into a stew and realize that the Chiefs absolutely had their opportunities. If on 3rd and 27 the Bengals picked up 15 or 20 yards and ended up kicking a field goal, fine. That would have left Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs more than two minutes and all of their timeouts to go win the game. (Or, at minimum, tie the game and go into overtime.) It’s not complicated. The Chiefs have the best quarterback in the world and they were playing defense like their only chance of winning was getting a third down stop to keep the Bengals out of field goal range.

But this is what I was talking about in my last blog when I wrote of the Bengals that “It’s probably going to take a perfect game for them to win.” They needed to hit on a massive parlay to put themselves in position to kick a game-winning field goal with no time left on the clock. They needed Patrick Mahomes to have just three possessions in the second half, which netted only three points. A lot of things had to go right for them to win, and a lot of things had to go wrong for the Chiefs to lose.

That’s why it’s important, even after a loss, to recognize that Kansas City’s margin for error remains extremely wide. And it remains slim for most of their opponents. This loss stings for reasons I’ve already written, but let’s not forget that these are still the Chiefs. Nothing has come easy for them this season, and that will unfortunately be the case as they head into the playoffs as the likely number two seed.

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