From the Armchair: Kansas City Chiefs, Week 17
In the end, San Diego won a game that meant nothing to the Chiefs, but only after two incorrect calls and a missed field goal prevented a Chiefs victory. I don't want to harp too much on the calls, but ultimately they are a big deal. These calls mean the Chargers are in the playoffs and the Pittsburgh Steelers aren't. They mean money and jobs for players and coaches, and at some point someone, beginning with Bill Leavy's crew, needs to be held accountable.
So what happened? First, at the end of regulation, Ryan Succop missed what would have been a game-winning 41-yard field goal wide right. Succop should have made the kick, rendering this all moot (more on this later), but he didn't. However, the San Diego Chargers were lined up in an illegal formation with seven players on the line of scrimmage to their right of the center. That is not allowed, and the NFL admitted the error today. Read the full release here and see video of it here.
That was only the beginning of the controversy. In overtime, the Chargers ran a fake punt. Eric Weddle got the necessary two yards for a first down, but fumbled, with the Chiefs returning the fumble for a touchdown. After the play, Leavy ruled Weddle's forward progress had been stopped -- a non-reviewable call. The trouble is, it wasn't stopped. It should have been game over, Kansas City victory at that moment.
It didn't cost the Chiefs anything in terms of seeding, but it is too bad that all of this controversy has taken away from the way the Chiefs backups played their tails off. They played hungry, determined and like they wanted to earn more playing time.
In no particular order, the most impressive backups were running back Knile Davis, quarterback Chase Daniel and cornerback Ron Parker.
And the best part of their play is that they allowed starters like Alex Smith and Jamaal Charles to rest. It will be interesting to see if and how guys like Davis and Parker are worked into the game plan for the Chiefs playoff game in Indianapolis next week.
Now back to Ryan Succop for a moment. By far the scariest moment on Sunday was Succop's missed kick. As I have covered in this column before, the Chiefs haven't won a playoff game in 20 years. If there is one position that has continually let them down in the playoffs, it is the kicker. Chiefs fans everywhere said "not again" when Succop missed wide right.
Let's review some history:
In the 1971-72 playoffs, Hall-of-Fame kicker Jan Stenerud missed three field goals in Kansas City's loss to Miami 27-24 in double overtime (the longest game ever played).
In the 1990-91 playoffs, the Chiefs lost to the Dolphins 17-16 in a game they dominated with kicker Nick Lowery missing from 52 yards out at the final buzzer.
In the 1995-96 playoffs, top-seeded Kansas City lost 10-7 to the Indianapolis Colts when kicker Lin Elliot missed three field goals. This was arguably the best Chiefs team.
In the 1997-98 playoffs, again the top-seed Chiefs lost their first game. This time to the Denver Broncos 14-10. And you bet, kicker Pete Stoyanovich missed a field goal in that game.
In the 2003-04 playoffs, the Chiefs lost at home to the Colts, 38-31. The usually-reliable Morten Andersen missed a field goal in that game too.
So please pardon my nightmares. If the Chiefs lose next week in Indy, please don't make it on a kick.