Snow and sad-sack Washington were just the cures a sick Chiefs defense needed
They didn’t just want this. They needed this. The snow. The Redskins. The sheer domination. All of it.
See, in a span of three weeks, Peyton Manning and his cybernetic arm curb-stomped just about everything the Kansas City Chiefs had built up over the previous two months, almost everything their fans had begun to hold dear.
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Their chance at hosting a playoff game. Their pride. Their momentum. Their mojo. Their identity. All wiped clean, one by one, as if written on a dry-erase board.
Over its previous three games heading into Week 14, the Chiefs had surrendered an average of 34.3 points, 484.3 yards and 24.3 first downs. The Andy Gang had lost its way, its sense of self. At 9-3, was this a good team with a few flaws, or a flawed team that had feasted on a kind schedule? With three straight losses on the trot, was the genie finally out the bottle?
Yes. Maybe. Nope.
“It’s tough to lose three games in the National Football League, three consecutive games. It seems like a year, those are dog years as you would say, each week that you have a loss in the NFL,” coach Andy Reid told reporters after his men routed Washington on Sunday, 45-10. “For the guys to come back and rebound after that, I was proud of that.”
Right result, too. Another 100-yard day from Jamaal Charles, a punt-return TD from Dexter McCluster, a kickoff-return score from Quintin Demps, a 40-yard Derrick Johnson interception return and six sacks, two by Tamba Hali. There we were, with just 16 shopping days until Christmas, and the Chiefs turned up in full Columbus Day splendor, channeling the ghosts of September and October glories.
Take out the Broncos; insert a Washington team that’s ready to vamoose to South Beach and call it a year; mix in some snow and freezing rain; and, voila, the Chiefs looked like, well — the Chiefs again. This was the Weeks-One-Through-Six version of the Andy Gang, the one that seemed to be playing with house money and reckless abandon, not the Waiting-For-The-Other-Damn-Shoe-To-Drop version of the previous three outings.
The ‘Skins whiffed on 12 of 15 third-down opportunities, collected just 257 total yards and 13 first downs and punted eight times. The Chiefs’ beleaguered defense needed that most of all.
Although, given the weather and a ‘Skins season going nowhere fast, it’s fair for Kansas City fans to ask, straight-faced: So was it them, or was it us?
A little bit of both, probably.
On the plus side, even without its best pass rusher, Justin Houston, coordinator Bob Sutton’s defense was back in rottweiler mode, slicing and dicing a suspect Washington line and flummoxing a cold Robert Griffin III. This was always going to be a more favorable matchup than Denver and San Diego, even without factoring in Mother Nature.
And hey, let’s be frank: The weather helped.
The snow and ice turned an already-choppy field into a giant skating rink, neutralizing RGIII’s natural improvisational skills both in and out of the pocket. Once the Chiefs had raced to a 17-0 lead after a quarter, as the home fans booed and the sleet fell, it was time to release the hounds.
The Andy Gang may not be — and probably won’t be — a division champion. But this isn’t a mediocre, 9-and-7-ish, in-the-playoffs-by-the-skin-of-its-teeth kind of football team, either. The sky above Arrowhead Stadium is not falling, even if it has spent a lot of time lately stumbling down the hall like a drunken cartoon character.
Granted, the Redskins of present are an absolute mess, a Dead Team Walking, with a dead coach marching at the front of the parade route. On a lousy, snowy Sunday, the franchise quarterback, RGIII, and his boss, Mike Shanahan, had to take a break from going at each other’s throats to play a little football.
To the Chiefs’ credit, though, they did what good teams are supposed to do when poor and/or disinterested teams take the field wishing they were inside watching “Dexter” reruns and drinking cocoa. You administer the truncheon treatment, let ’em bleed, then get your starters outta there, one by one.
And maybe something should be said for familiarity, too. Reid is now a perfect 4-0 against his old dance partners this season, outscoring the Philly-Dallas-New York-Washington quartet by an average margin of 30-12.
So, hey, your Chiefs are the mathematical champions of the NFC East, which is neat. Unfortunately, they play in the AFC West, where the ledger stands at 0-2 versus Denver and 1-1 versus Oakland and San Diego, with two road divisional tilts out west left on the docket.
California, here they come. And since they can’t bring the snow with them, could they at least bring the Redskins along for the ride?
You can follow Sean Keeler on Twitter (@seankeeler) or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.