30-to-27: A Defensive Battle Won by Special Teams
The Sunday Night game featuring the Denver Broncos at home versus the Kansas City Chiefs fully lived up to the expectations of getting flexed on the schedule. Two AFC West rivals, both at 7-3, facing off for what might be the edge needed to make the playoffs or win the division.
I haven’t seen a game this good since Game 5 of the 2007-2008 Stanley Cup Finals between the Detroit Red Wings and the Pittsburgh Penguins. (The Red Wings are my hockey team so I watch a lot of their games.) After having read many of the game recaps written in a serious way, I thought it might be fun to write one up in a more fun (if you are a KC fan or anti-Bronco fan that is) way. I also wanted to include a lot of fun pictures so we can all enjoy the memories some more. So, here it goes.
At some point during the game every phase, except Denver Special Teams, showed up and delivered a big play during the game. Watching the first quarter plus it seemed it was going to be an abysmally low scoring game with some of the toughest defense being played in a long time. As the announcers commented, you could basically get your Pro Bowl defense from the players on the field.
Then, with about 6 minutes left in the first half, “The 12 Seconds” happened. Justin Houston, who was obviously a huge fan of Trevor Siemian, felt an urgent need to give him a hug in the endzone and didn’t want a pigskin covered ovoid between them. Unfortunately this resulted in a Safety and KC going up 2-0. At that point, I thought I might be witnessing the final score.
First this –
Then this –
And Finally This –
However, I was incorrect. Denver punted their free kick away to newcomer Tyreek Hill. Hill, as a rookie just learning the NFL rules, thought he was supposed to take the ball back where it was last marked down. But these 11 guys kept trying to grab him. He made it by them all and put the ball back. This provided 7 more points on the board, 9-0 KC. For the second time in 12 seconds, I thought I was looking at the final score. But Denver was able to move into field goal range with a little under 2 minutes left and put up 3 points, 9-3 KC.
After halftime the teams came out and it looked like there would be more of the shutdown defense. A 3-and-out by KC was followed by a long slow drive by Denver. When the ref, who apparently failed geometry and his eye test, spotted the ball, the Broncos picked up a first down inside the 10 that they were then able to convert into a TD shortly thereafter, 9-10 Denver.
Alex Smith then decided he too could lead a 12 play drive of his own. It would have ended a little sooner if the Broncos didn’t attempt to cheat on the Chiefs field goal attempt. From all of us in Chiefs’ Kingdom, “Thanks for being the Broncos.” I think the best part of this drive was the Hill score. From start to finish it was a thing of beauty. Two plays previously, Andy Reid called a “cute” play where Smith lines up as QB, then goes in motion wide and Spencer “I used to play QB” Ware steps up into wildcat formation. Direct snap, read option to Hill, pulls the ball and goes straight ahead. On the TD play, we see the same setup with Smith motion out to the left and Ware stepping into wildcat. Same read option to Hill, this time he hands it off.
As you can see from the first picture this looked like the wrong time to handoff. You have Von Miller coming in free and taking the RB. But, Hill being a rookie, must not know about Miller’s defensive prowess because he slips the tackle and makes the break for the end zone.
The fun wasn’t over on this play though. Chief Fan Favorite, Albert “The Hulk” Wilson gets in on the action and takes another Chief Fan Favorite, Aqib Talib, out of the play, letting Hill walk in untouched, 16-10 KC.
On one play we get to see the wildcat, Miller miss an “easy for him” tackle, Wilson throw a killer block, Talib practice receiving a WWF body block, Wilson do the Crane and the Hulk, oh yeah, and score a touchdown.
Here Comes DAT Truck
Another Denver punt, then KC offense has a 3 and out where they lose 3 yards on the series. This is where the coverage team shows up. Beautiful punt by Dustin Colquitt from the end zone is muffed by Jordy “Can’t We All Just Get Along” Norwood. From reviewing the play, it appears he got a bit concerned by the freight train named DAT coming his way and took his eye off the ball. Although this didn’t net us any points, it was yet another statement by part of the Chiefs team that they were here to play.
After another KC 3 and out, Denver burns the defense with a couple of quick hitting long passes for a TD, 16-17 Denver. On this series, I was mostly surprised by Gary Kubiak trying to start something by bumping into a referee. He must have thought they weren’t getting enough calls their way.
The next KC series goes 66% longer, resulting in a 5 play and out punt. Although, the punt did leave Denver on their own 4 yard line, facing a defense that had been in their backfield more than some of their RBs. This Denver drive worked a 6 play drive for a touchdown with 5 plays that moved them out to the 24 followed by a 76 yard pass that looked like either busted coverage or Phillip Gaines got lost. Either way, 16-24 Denver with a full 3 minutes left in regulation.
As I am sure every Chief fan that has watched at least one game in the last few years knows, we are a quick strike, high scoring, dynamic offense, that can literally put points on the board at will. So, eight points in 3 minutes, no problem, what will we do with the other 2:48 (referencing “The 12 Seconds” from earlier).
Well, in reality, we went the other way. 13 plays, 75 yards, and 2:48 later we have not only produced a touchdown, but the necessary 2 point conversion. Long story short – sack, Conley, Kelce, Conley, Denver Holding, Denver Offsides, Hill, incomplete, Kelce, Conley, Denver Illegal Contact, incomplete, incomplete, incomplete, Hill, Hill TD, Demetrius “Pillow Hands” Harris 2PT, 24-24 all tied up. All of a sudden Alex realizes that the guy in Red/White/Gold with the number 17 on his jersey also plays for the Chiefs.
I am not sure if I enjoyed Denver finally getting some calls against them that moved us down the field or seeing Hill get his TD because he was bobbling and not down by contact at the 6 inch line or Harris catching that 2PT. I guess I don’t really need to choose, I enjoyed them all.
After 60 minutes of play, 48 points scored, sacks galore, offense/defense/ST all scoring, we sit tied. As if the adrenaline wasn’t flowing heavy enough from the game already, we now go into a semi-sudden death period. Broncos win the toss and elect to receive. They mount an 11 play, 49 yard, 6:09 minute drive that barely earns 3 via field goal, 24-27 Denver, but KC is still alive.
For some reason, perhaps they were blacking out from oxygen deprivation at Mile High, but the Broncos decided to kick it right down the middle to DAT. I realize that if it goes out of bounds it costs some yardage, but at least they could have aimed for the end zone corner. I can only guess the return team decided in their huddle that they owned that field, because DAT brought it out from 6 yards deep. He didn’t stop until he was pushed out of bounds at the 35.
When Alex and the offense come back onto the field they are sitting 65 yards from victory or maybe 30 yards from a tie game – again. They go 10 plays, 46 yards, 4:32 but stall out at the Denver 19. Only option is to kick the field goal and tie it up again, 27-27 tied.
Denver then basically replicates the prior KC series, minus the kickoff return and 15 yards of offense. So, there they sit at the KC 44 yard line, 4th and 10. This is no man’s land in a regular situation, even more so in OT. A punt will probably not net many yards with the risk of a touch back, 10 yards on 4th down is a long way and could result in KC ball on the 34+ yard line, but a winning field goal is 62 yards away. Based on how this game was going, Kubiak must have figured the defense could handle the risk of missing the field goal, and the upside of making it was a win. Wide left, 27-27 all tied up, KC ball at the Denver 48. (As an aside, I am not sure why I didn’t know this, but a missed field goal results in a turnover at the spot of the kick not the original LOS. You learn something new everyday. So, apparently going for it on 4th would have been better.)
At this point the Chiefs must have been on some kind of incredibly crazy high. I would bet they knew it was their destiny to win that night in Denver. But, there was one last bit of drama to the story. To get this drive started the Denver defense wasn’t happy having all that room behind them to defend, so Demarcus Ware jumped offsides and provided a free 5 yards to the KC offense. After that it was a quick Hill, spike, Kelce, Timeout. On comes Cairo Santos to attempt a field goal from the 16 yard line, nice simple chip shot, barely longer than a PAT. Apparently in Brazil the PAT must count for 4 points if you bank it off an upright, cause that’s what he did. Luckily the announcers quickly called that it went through, because I couldn’t tell when I watched it live. My heart stopped, thinking it was ending in a tie, after all that happened. I need to recharge my AED.
While it really was a defensive battle, despite 57 points being scored. The KC defense did give up 464 yards of offense and 3 touchdowns, but a lot of that happened on a few big plays against our backups. The Denver defense only gave up 273 yards of offense, but they also committed 7 penalties for 35 yards at very costly points for them. There were 15 punts during the game, 8 straight to start it. It took 4 field goal attempts to decide the game in overtime, 1 of which missed, due to the KC defensive stand at the edge of FG range.
On the offensive side of the ball, the teams were nearly dead even statistically speaking, except the yardage/safety, on plays run, first downs, total drives, sacks/sack yards lost, and even time of possession.
In the end, the offenses and defenses basically played near even, but KC special teams made the difference. Between a kickoff return for a TD, recovering a fumble on punt coverage, every kickoff generating a touchback, 41 yard kickoff return in OT to set up our game tying field goal, and 2 clutch OT field goals (banking one off the left upright for dramatic effect – word is Cairo forget to tell Colquitt he called bank shot). This unit was the difference maker. Heck, they played so well even the Broncos were cheering when we won the game. Check out the picture below.
And there’s The Rub!
Writer’s Note: I am not sure how many of you saw this graphic during the game, but I wanted to share it.
I was wondering if they put that on the big board as some kind of attempt to intimidate the offense by seeing a “big” number. They must not realize that decibel meter in Arrowhead had the same reading at the same time (yes, while the Chiefs were away playing the Broncos and the stadium was empty).
When it is game time at Arrowhead it looks more like the one above. Well over 30% louder than what Mile High fans can generate. They probably didn’t realize they were embarrassing themselves displaying a little number like theirs to the team that holds the WORLD RECORD for loudest stadium. As a matter of fact, Dec 25 might be a nice night to set a new record.