It’s better to be lucky than good — and right now, the Chiefs are both
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — It’s just like Grandma used to say: Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity. Or, in the case of Anthony Fasano, when you whiff on a cut block near the goal line.
"I was looking out to see if the pass was completed," the Kansas City Chiefs’ tight end said of one of the strangest touchdowns you’ll see in an NFL game, the comic — and karmic — highlight of a 24-10 win over the New York Jets, "and it just popped into my hands."
You’ve probably seen the tape, but we’ll try to do it justice. With 3:30 left in the first quarter, with the Chiefs up 7-0 and at the Jets’ 2, quarterback Alex Smith turned to his right and fired what was supposed to be a slant to wideout Dwayne Bowe. Only Jets lineman Calvin Pace — who, along with teammate Muhammad Wilkerson, wound up pretty much unblocked on the play, in part because of Fasano’s whiff — shot high into the air to deflect the line-drive strike, pretty much the perfect defensive reaction at the perfect time.
But because these are the Jets, even perfection finds a way to go dreadfully, horribly wrong. Instead of the wounded duck landing in the arms of a New York defender, it took a funny carom, the way a hockey puck does off a pipe, knuckleballing back in front of Smith and into the waiting arms of Fasano, who was, at the time, sitting on his backside at the 2. As a Jets defender tumbled in front of him, No. 80 performed a one-handed pushup into the end zone, his bizarre stretch putting the hosts up, 13-0.
"I didn’t know if I crossed the plane or not," said Fasano, who would grab two more conventional passes to help the Chiefs (5-3) snatch a third straight win. "I felt like I got up off a knee and I wasn’t touched yet, so it happened to work out."
Ever scored one of those before?
"Never, nope, and I’ll probably never get one again. But it was good."
Ever SEEN one of those before?
"I don’t think I have. It’s strange: You don’t draw it up like that, but I’m glad I was able to help."
Everybody pulls on the rope, everybody pitches in. Smith completed passes to nine different receivers Sunday; nine different Chiefs defenders recorded at least four tackles; four different defenders racked up at least one tackle for a loss; three different defenders notched at least one sack. That last number included two more by outside linebacker Justin Houston, who continues to take his contract impasse — that’s six straight games with at least one takedown for No. 50, extending a personal record for consistency — out on the rest of the NFL.
Rookie return ace/slot back De’Anthony Thomas averaged 28.8 yards anytime he got his hands on the football; rookie kicker Cairo Santos extended his personal makes streak to nine straight; and an offensive line that had struggled with pocket protection limited a Jets defense that came in with the fourth-most sacks in the NFL (24.0, tied with the Chiefs) to just one drop of Smith.
"Their defensive line, I think, if not the best, is one of the best in the National Football League," coach Andy Reid said. "They’ve got explosive players. Our offensive line and the pass game did a pretty good job. I think with the two-gap stuff they were doing up front, worried about (our) run game, it took just a bit off of the play-action pass rush. So that was a good thing."
So is this: On the heels of World Series bliss, the locals can scoreboard watch on Sundays again. After an 0-2 start, the Andy Gang has won five of six, and is 4-2 against AFC competition — those wacky intra-conference tiebreakers could mean something in late December — with road victories at San Diego (5-4) and at Miami (5-3) under their belt. Chiefs fans are thinking bigger, of course: Of the remaining eight games on the docket, four are against division foes. Bonus: Three of those four are at home, with tricky visits to the Rocky Mountains and Southern California already done and dusted.
"(That 0-2 start was) just the first part of the season," said tailback Jamaal Charles, who chipped in a workmanlike 88 total yards on 22 touches. "It’s not about how fast you start. It’s how you finish."
The last five tests on the docket: home to Denver (Nov. 30), at Arizona (Dec. 7), vs. Oakland (Dec. 14), at Pittsburgh (Dec. 21), vs. the Chargers (Dec. 28), and none a bridge too far. Why let the Royals have all the postseason fun?
"You can switch (our) entire line and you’ll still get the same result," outside linebacker Tamba Hali said proudly. "And that’s our mentality. That’s (the) ‘Andy’ mentality. And we like it and we keep feeding into it and we believe in what (Reid’s) doing."
And isn’t it funny: Teams that believe keep making their own breaks, however bizarre.
"I’m a believer in (that) the harder you work, the more lucky you’ll get, and it (was) kind of one of those plays," Fasano said. "We’ve just been grinding and we were down on the goal line and needed a touchdown and we just got lucky."
And, as the saying goes, sometimes it’s better to be that than, say, good. Although, at present, the Chiefs are doing a damn fair job of both.