Reflecting on the 10 Defining Moments of the Kansas City Chiefs' 2013 Season
At this point last year, this wouldn't have been a slideshow. It would've been a slide. Two at most.
The 2012 Kansas City Chiefs were a special kind of awful.
With the exception of cardiac kids Jamaal Charles and Justin Houston—and for the record, ballooned elbow or not, I would never call Houston "kid" if I was within arm's reach of him. Two-to-one odds that man's first shave came in a high chair—headlining an overtime upset at New Orleans, every "defining" moment would've just been a cringeworthy turnover by a head-hanging quarterback.
Opportunity knocks but once. The second time around, judging by the hordes of multi-millionaire owners lining up at his doorstep, Andy Reid is the one who knocks.
Because they reside in the same division as (arguably) the greatest regular-season quarterback of all-time, the 2013 Chiefs didn't have a "worst to first" ending—more like layoffs to playoffs, which, in itself, is no feat to scoff at.
The following moments, amongst scads of others, kept ticket holders thoroughly glued to Kansas City's road-to-redemption narrative.
10. Hits and Horseplay
Now, this isn't one particular moment, but it's something that seems to have had a residual effect among the Chiefs and fans alike. So, instead of peppering you with anecdotes throughout the memory-lane montage, consider this a one-stop slide for them.
Red and White Noise
Alex Smith Silences Philly Trolls
Following Week 3's win, Smith joined Rich Eisen and Co. on the set of Thursday Night Football. Due to the Chiefs' 10-point victory, the crowd was predominantly made up of Chiefs supporters chanting and tomahawk chopping. But despite the loss, a small constituency of Eagles fans (predictably) began echoing "Colin Kaepernick!" as Smith joined the postgame roundtable.
A still-adrenalized Smith, unaware that they were on-air with the camera swooping behind set, casually acknowledged the Kaepernick chants by raising his hands and flashing "3-0" at the Philly faithful. And just like that, a band of drunken megaphones were muted. Golden.
Like Making Andy from a Baby
Last October, diehards flayed the front office while "Fire Pioli" banners flew laps around Arrowhead. This October, newborns were rocking ginger 'staches and headsets.
War(paint) and Peace
You can't spell "esoteric" without Eric.
Turf war? Son of a Seabiscuit? Sly Little Pony? Horseshoes and Hand Betrayed? Whatever the title, someone needs to make a full-fledged documentary of Eric Berry's equinophobia.
Last season, NFL Films released (viral) video of the safety warily sizing up Warpaint, cordial horse and beloved mascot, with unwavering "fool me once" suspicion. A year later, the crew delved further into the backstory and uncovered the deep-seated roots of the star's (very real) fear of horses.
A wide-eyed Berry recounts:
We ended up at a petting zoo. You know all the cartoons and the TV shows you see when you're young, like, horses and ponies are always really, really cool and happy. They always got, like, a rainbow or some stars flying behind it. You know what I'm saying, like, 'Oh, it's a pony! Its a pony!'
So, I'm at the petting zoo, and for some reason, the pony came and bit me. When it happened, I turned around and looked at it. Aside from the fact that the horse didn't look anything like the cartoon or what I saw on TV, it was like, 'Dang, horse...I trusted you!'
Phobias are serious business, and if you have any doubts about Berry's fearfulness, observe his blood pressure spike when Warpaint's ears spring up while the Pro Bowler's petting her. That being said, this video will never be unanchored from my bookmarks, and I may or may not be scouring Google for a "Dang, horse! I trusted you!" T-shirt right now.
The original version of this video, which shows a line of players chanting "Andy!" before Reid rounds the corner like a buoyant bull, was already making rounds throughout Kansas City. Then, @LSUFreek sprinkled some GIF magic, added a brick wall and confirmed our growing suspicion: Reid's a Randy Savage fan.
What It Defined: A revived fanbase and a night-and-day difference (compared to 2012) in the franchise's culture and allure.
9. Week 12 (vs. SD): Andy Reid Boxes out Philip Rivers
If you bleed red and gold and, for whatever (irrational) reason, were on the fence about Andy Reid, this won you over.
Despite their most admirable efforts, most Kansas Citians find it impossible to hate Peyton Manning. He's arguably the best quarterback to lace a pair of cleats. He's humble on and off the field. He headlined one of the best SNL episodes since Y2K's ball dropped. The perfect Southern gentleman.
Philip Rivers is Walker Bobby (NSFW).
He's despised by despised quarterbacks. He talks trash to stars who could grind him into a powder. He has a twang that makes Garth Brooks' sound prepubescent. He's nothing if not all jacked up on Mountain Dew.
In Kansas City's first go-around with San Diego, Rivers lobbed a pass to a crossing Ladarius Green, who was gang-tackled well short of the first-down marker. In usual fashion, he stomped toward the sideline official and threw a tantrum, undoubtedly trying to prompt a flag on the Chiefs.
So, out of the blue, Reid took it upon himself to show Rivers what he was gon' do with all that junk. All that junk inside his...camper(?).
Kansas City's heavyset head honcho boxed No. 17 with form that would make Dennis Rodman blush (pre-bridal gown). The beloved walrus' way of saying (NSFW), "Stay classy, San Diego, and thanks for stopping by. But go home, Rivers, you're drunk."
Bystanders laughed, Arrowhead cheered and Rivers did the only thing he could: laugh and walk away. Far, far away.
Nobody puts Baby in the corner.
What It Defined: Andy Reid's seldom-seen competitive side (which has had a trickle-down effect), and how his demeanor has endeared him to the locals.
8. Week 3 (at PHI): Eric Berry's Pick-Six
Heading into Week 3, nobody knew how to gauge the Chiefs' success.
Sure, they trounced Jacksonville in the opener, but bragging about that is like posting "First!" in comment sections. (I don't know how that became a trend nor who started it, but I hope cold shower water upon them.) The next week, Kansas City squeaked out a one-point win over Dallas.
But a prime-time victory in Andy Reid's bittersweet homecoming? On four days' rest? That would lay any last doubts to rest.
The Chiefs opened Thursday Night Football with a promising drive that culminated in an early three-point edge. Philadelphia's offense then took the field and, on its third play from scrimmage, dug a hole that the Eagles couldn't escape.
Michael Vick aligned in the gun with trips to his right, snatched the snap and telegraphed an attempt to Brent Celek. Derrick Johnson jumped the stick route, resulting in a tipped pigskin landing in Eric Berry's hands.
The perennial Pro Bowler then darted the opposite direction, adding an extra digit to Kansas City's cushion while flexing for the Philadelphia faithful.
As 60 minutes dwindled off the clock, the Chiefs went from underdogs to undertakers.
What It Defined: Kansas City's resolve and reemergence as a legitimate AFC contender.
7. Week 9 (at BUF): Sean Smith's 100-Yard Interception Return
Sometimes, it's better to be lucky than good: Exhibit A.
A lot of Americans presume that Arrowhead is in Kansas. In Week 9, that would've been fitting because the Chiefs looked every bit as flat.
Dead in the water, actually. In the opening drive of the third quarter, a few buzz-worthy runs by C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson (including a 61-yard highlight by the former) positioned Buffalo at Kansas City's 1-yard line.
On 1st-and-goal, Akeem Jordan bolted through the line and speared Jackson for no gain. The next snap ended with Jackson being steamrolled by Dontari Poe.
Then, on 3rd-and-inevitable, Sean Smith was left coughing up dust. He mimicked Stevie Johnson's outside juke, only for the wideout to exploit his momentum by swiping Smith off-balance. Johnson sprinted inside and, due to an all-out blitz, subsequently roamed as the lone soul in the back of the end zone.
But this is the NFL. Crazytown. Surefire touchdowns too prosaic.
Instead, Jeff Tuel glued his intentions to a covered receiver, which ends with a spiral straight into Smith's mitts. Johnson predictably throws his hands in the air in "This ain't what I signed up for" fashion, and Kansas City's corner strolls down the sideline beside a convoy of Pro Bowlers.
One-hundred yards later, Smith's high-stepping into the end zone for his first career touchdown, and Kansas City knots the game on a 14-point-swing.
What It Defined: An opportunistic defense that spearheaded Kansas City's 9-0 start.
6. Week 7 (vs. HOU): Alex Smith's Botched Read-Option Touchdown
Andy Reid has been known to think outside the box, but this concept is too far out in left field. Reid Option 2.0, this is not.
Staring at a three-point deficit just before halftime, the pistol (seemingly) backfired on Kansas City.
Alex Smith, five yards shy of Houston's goal line, showed the ball on a read-option. Only, there was no option. Jamaal Charles sped behind him as a puzzled Smith, peering into the backfield with a brief "wait, what?" glance, realized there's about three yards between him and a ruined day.
A quick-witted Charles made amends, though, rerouting to block a presumably drooling outside linebacker. Smith then tucked the ball, chucked the deuces and weaved his way into the end zone.
Give him credit: If that's me, I'm drumming the panic button and booting a cross-field grounder like Philip Rivers, or I'm running behind Anthony Sherman—not to score, but to avoid going to a postgame presser looking like the hunchbacked Spartan.
What It Defined: The drastic offseason overhaul, and how change can be both good (mobile quarterback creating on the fly) and bad (new playbook leading to mental miscues).
5. Week 13 (vs. DEN): Knile Davis' 108-Yard Kickoff Return (Franchise Record)
Per The Kansas City Star, Dave Toub not only coached up a first-time Pro Bowler in Dexter McCluster, but his kick returners also collectively etched a new NFL record for kickoff return average (29.9).
In fact, both of the Chiefs' primary returners, Quintin Demps and Knile Davis, eclipsed the 30-yard mark, but a mishandled attempt (three yards) by McCluster ultimately dragged it down a tier.
As for the featured franchise record setter? Davis did what Davis does. He made a couple of subtle cuts, exploded through the heart of the coverage and scraped a defender off his leg like an unwilling preschooler.
At that point, it was already a done deal. You have better odds of gaining ground on a treadmill than on Davis in the open field.
What It Defined: The confidence and discipline that Dave Toub has instilled in the special teams.
4. Week 6 (vs. OAK): 3rd-and-48
OK, let's frame into context. While there's no official definition for "3rd-and-long," the consensus seems to lean toward at least six yards (give or take). In Week 6, the Oakland Raiders multiplied that dilemma eight times over, turning a manageable molehill into the Everest of uphill climbs.
USA Today's Chris Chase writes:
A holding call on first down nullified the play and set up the Raiders with a 1st and 20. On the next play, Terrelle Pryor was sacked for a 12-yard loss. A delay of game on second down pushed the Raiders back to 2nd and 37. Pryor was then sacked again, leading to the 3rd and 48. It was a magical sight of incompetence, like seeing a three-legged unicorn with half a horn or finding a homeless leprechaun at the end of the rainbow.
The most embarrassing part? The ensuing punt settled two yards shy of the first-down marker.
What It Defined: The potential of Bob Sutton's aggressive, blitz-centric philosophy.
3. Week 12 (vs. SD): Tamba Hali and Justin Houston Are Helped off the Field
When Tamba Hali and Justin Houston wandered the field in Week 12, the San Diego Chargers posted three points. After the two were rendered sideline spectators, San Diego poured on 38.
Houston's absence, in particular, has handicapped a once-swarming pass rush. Prior to Week 12, the Chiefs defense averaged 3.6 sacks per game. Since Week 13 (excluding the virtually starter-less regular-season finale)? Half of that (1.8).
No. 50's the most well-rounded defender on Kansas City's roster—on a depth chart that lists Derrick Johnson and Eric Berry, that's something to write home about.
If the edge-rushing tandem would've dodged the injury report, it's safe to assume that San Diego wouldn't have sniffed the 40-point plateau, and as a consequence, the current AFC playoff picture would need a rewrite.
What It Defined: The defense's dependence on the pass rush.
2. Week 15 (at OAK): Jamaal Charles' 71-Yard Touchdown Reception
In watching Jamaal Charles, two things become blatantly obvious: He's an electrifying game-changer and a fleet-footed nightmare in space. The most surefire way to feed him room that he can work with? Screens.
It's safe to say that Andy Reid, unlike coaches of Chiefs past, thoroughly understands that, which is why Charles' 2013 reception total (70) matches that of his previous two (full) seasons combined.
But while the screen game laid the groundwork and readied the bait, it didn't account for the ankle-breaking 71-yard scamper. And in order to truly appreciate the play, you need to slide several factors under the microscope.
For starters, at that juncture in the game, Oakland was in the midst of blazing a comeback trail and staring at a meager four-point deficit. Dialing up play action wasn't exactly the safest of propositions. However, because of the down and distance, the Raiders placed an extra body in the box with a single-high safety, Charles Woodson.
Reid sent his halfback on a wheel route. Due to the situation and the plethora of first-half screens (as well as a subtle head fake by Charles), the weak-side linebacker assumed that No. 25 was releasing to the flat. Consequently, he committed to a poor angle and got dusted in the process.
The play call also deployed Junior Hemingway, who motioned to the play side (same side as Charles), on a go route, which presented a pick-your-poison scenario for Woodson. Ultimately, the veteran's top priority is to bottle up the deepest receiver, so he clung to Hemingway and abandoned Charles.
Seventy-one yards later, the All-Pro broke the plane and returned to his second home.
What It Defined: Reid's adept play-calling, and Charles' newfound niche as a game-breaking pass-catcher.
1. Week 4 (vs. NYG): Dexter McCluster's 89-Yard Punt Return
If Dexter McCluster has elbow room when handling a punt, two guarantees will become realities: Your breath will be taken hostage, and someone's son is about to get embarrassed.
Late in the third quarter of Week 4, the newly named Pro Bowler cradled Steve Weatherford's punt and, for 73,000-plus pairs of eardrums, turned Arrowhead into a brightly colored torture chamber.
The gunner didn't stand a chance—dead man walking. McCluster goes Tasmanian Devil—the cartoon character, not those soul-reaving hellhounds categorized as animals—on the second man and hits him with the spin-cycle treatment.
He then eludes another would-be tackler—who's promptly decleated by Dezman Moses—and slices through a set of flanking Giants. Six yards later, McCluster puts another pursuer on skates with a V-cut in the opposite direction and caps off a heart-pounding highlight with a juke that can only be described as disrespectful.
In six seconds, the man turned eight professional athletes into amateur ghost hunters, leaving a trail of divots and grass-stained egos in his 89-yard path.
No player in the league reps a more fitting number; when McCluster clasps a punt, 22 ankles go on suicide watch.
What It Defined: Andy Reid's yearning to reshuffle the roster and expand opportunities.
Statistics provided by Pro Football Focus (subscription required).
Follow Brett on Twitter: Follow @BrettGering