Sports outlook

Sunday, January 18, 2004

The Kansas City Chiefs lost to the Indianapolis Colts at Arrowhead Stadium for one reason and it wasn't because the officials erred on the offensive pass interference penalty that cost Tony Gonzalez a touchdown, although that helped.

It wasn't because Johnnie Morton couldn't catch a cold, although that helped.

It wasn't because the defense found absolutely no way to stop the Indianapolis scoring machine, although that helped.

It wasn't because Morten Anderson missed (for him) a virtual chip shot field goal, although that helped.

It wasn't because Priest Holmes fumbled the ball after that long run, although that helped.

And it wasn't because the Chiefs, after scoring the touchdown that got them within seven points late in the game, elected to kick off instead of attempting the onside kick, although that helped.

In fact, a lot of factors helped add up to the one reason that Kansas City's season ended when it did. Indianapolis was better.

After the game I got up and looked in the bathroom mirror. There were no tear stains on my cheeks to wipe off. Why cry when you know the outcome before the game even starts? Remember when I wrote about enjoying the regular season because that would be the end of it? Sure, the Chiefs had a great season. Any time you can look back at 13-4, you must say it was successful. But it's time right now for Kansas City and Carl Peterson to roll up their sleeves and get down to work. They must continue to improve their defense or continue to be an also-ran just as they have been since 1994 when they last won a playoff game.

In the post-game wake, or press conference, it was mentioned that the Chiefs have the offense sewn up for next year with no free agencies looming. Defensively, four contracts have expired. So, what? Why bother to keep people who can't stop anybody worth a hoot? Pass or run. It doesn't matter.

If you look at the balance of power in the American Football Conference, it is easy to see that the Chiefs are among the best, but not the best. The best two teams are clearly Indianapolis and New England. The most difficult time I have with Indianapolis is not calling the Colts Baltimore. It would have been easier for me to stomach another loss to the Colts, just like 1997, had they been the Baltimore Colts. But be it Baltimore or Indianapolis, the Colts have been both good and bad. The problem is when they are good, they happen to be better than the Chiefs.

That's what was so tough with this loss. You looked at Kansas City's personnel and the Indianapolis personnel and you had to know, deep down and as much as you hated it, the Colts were better. They had a better quarterback and better receivers. Defense? Kansas City had none.

But all things considered, the loss, and I'm certain that all to come in my lifetime, will pale in comparison to the two I'll neither forget nor come to terms with. The first of the two came on Dec. 22, 1968, with the West Division title at stake. This, in fact, was the tie-breaker. Oakland won by a humiliating 41-6 score after taking a 21-0 lead n the first quarter.

The second, and most heart breaking of all came on Dec. 25, 1971 and ended the Chiefs' tenure at Municipal Stadium. Miami won the double overtime game 27-24 and sent the Chiefs into a downward spiral. Their next playoff appearance wasn't until 1986.

Let's hope it's not that long this time.

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