It was a meaningless kick. Not to the people of Pittsburgh, mind you, or to Steelers faithful around the globe. But for the Kansas City Chiefs, Sunday’s Week 17 date at San Diego was Preseason Week 4. Let the special-teamers and second-stringers have their day in the sun — literally — and if you win, well, groovy.
With four seconds left in regulation at the Chargers’ 23-yard-line, Succop, the Chiefs’ placekicker, could have dropped a dagger straight into the hearts of La Jolla and sent an 8-8 Steelers bunch to the postseason in the process. But a potential 41-yard game-winner sailed wide right, and the game continued.
The Chargers won in overtime, 27-24. Fine, woo, whatever.
That wasn’t what stuck.
No, the thing that sticks this week — Colts Week, Part II, as the Chiefs (11-5) will head to Indianapolis (11-5) this upcoming weekend to begin their playoff journey — is Succop, with the fate of two NFL cities (neither of which were Kansas City, of course), resting on his powerful leg, right there at the end.
It was 1,557 miles away from home, that miss. And yet, for thousands of Chiefs fans, it was far too close to home. Too close to deja vu.
You see, there’s something about the Chiefs and kickers and the postseason, and it’s something absolutely awful, the stuff of nightmares and horror flicks.
According to the database at Pro-Football-Reference.com, since December 1994, Kansas City kickers are 3-for-9 on field goal attempts in the playoffs. (Wait. That’s a misprint, right? Dear Lord, surely, that has to be a misprint.)
It’s become a community staple, like great college basketball and burnt ends and Boulevard Wheat and the shuttlecocks at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. If it’s January and it involves a long-snapper and a pair of uprights, Kansas City has learned to shield its collective eyes and expect the worst:
+ Lawrence Tynes. Whiffed from 23 yards out in ’06-’07 against the Colts. Indy moves on, 23-8.
+ Morten Andersen. Good from 22 yards, missed from 31 in ’03-’04 against the Colts. Indy moves on again, 38-31.
+ Pete Stoyanovich. Another 1-for-2, with a miss from 44 yards out in ’97-’98 versus Denver. The Broncos move on, 14-10.
+ Lin Elliott. Just the first name drives the blood pressure of your average Chiefs supporter up 19 points. Three field-goal attempts at Arrowhead Stadium against the Colts in ’95-’96. Three misses. Indy moves on, 10-7.
Now only one of these is Succop’s fault — he’s a perfect on extra-point attempts in his postseason career, having gone 1-for-1 versus Baltimore in ’10-’11 — but it is his problem.
Especially this week. Especially after that miss at Qualcomm Stadium.
Especially after a nice effort by the end of the Chiefs’ bench went for naught, particularly on the defensive end (three sacks) before the subs started to run out of gas. Props to Chiefs coach Andy Reid for putting his starters in T-shirts and sweats, and props to Chargers coach Mike McCoy, who turned an epic choke job against the Andy Gang’s backups into a win thanks to a fake punt on fourth down in overtime, a snap to safety Eric Weddle, a surge, a spot, and a prayer.
The Chiefs were already riding shotgun on the Lamar Hunt Trophy Party Bus. The Chargers were playing for a seat. And, save for the final 10 minutes of regulation, though, the hosts — the ones with everything to lose — played as if they knew it. San Diego spent the first three-plus quarters alternating between tight and confused, as rookie Chiefs tailback Knile Davis racked up 84 total yards and two scores in the first half. Meanwhile, Chase Daniel made out like the second coming of Fran Tarkenton (59 rushing yards, 200 passing yards). Who knew?
Sunday was an unusual setting (warm, bright) with an unusual primary goal: Get out of there without any of your primary starters injured. And the Chiefs couldn’t even quite pull that off without a hitch, as cornerback Sean Smith sprained a knee late in the contest.
And so Monday’s fingers are crossed for the health of No. 27, and double-crossed for the psyche of No. 6. If you’re curious, over two career NFL tilts at Lucas Oil Stadium, Succop is 3-for-4. Indoors, heâs 12-of-14.
On turf, he’s 20-for-23. In January, lifetime, he’s 4-for-5, or 80 percent. Not bad.
Although, you know who else used to tote an 80 percent clip? Our man Lin, back during the 1995 regular season (24-for-30).