In the news business, a wise veteran once told me, one instance is happenstance, twice is a coincidence and three times adds up to a trend story.
By VAHE GREGORIAN
The Kansas City Star
And so the Chiefs sit on the cusp of a new trending trajectory after spending Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium losing their second game in a row, 41-38 to San Diego.
This game hurt more than Denver, linebacker Derrick Johnson said. This game youve got to win.
The defeat is triggering reactionary alarms after the Chiefs launched the season 9-0 for just the second time in franchise history.
Even if Sundays exasperating loss was marked by injuries to two of its best defenders that leaves them questionable next week, those who have been cynical about the Chiefs and their meteoric rise from a 2-14 nightmare can now puff themselves up.
Those who were absurdly almost assuming Super Bowl may have retreated some.
And just about anyone has to wonder now what?
Is this a blip, just another moment in time as general manager John Dorsey cautioned the 9-0 start was? Or is it a regression in a new direction?
The answer, really, is neither. Or both.
Because it hasnt been determined yet.
In this profession, you have to overcome the storm, receiver Dexter McCluster said, adding, Youve got to forget fast. And its a quick turnaround. So youve just got to go in, go back to the drawing boards, watch the film and come out and try to get that win next time.
Thats trite but true, especially since it reflects the reality of a team that all season has had scant margin for error but almost always has labored for a way to win.
It might have won Sunday, too, if cornerback Sean Smith had been able to extend himself a few inches more to swat away what became the game-winning touchdown with 24 seconds left.
Or if quarterback Alex Smith hadnt smudged his otherwise strong day (26 of 38 for 294 yards and three touchdowns) with an interception, just his fifth of the season, that set up a San Diego touchdown in the third quarter.
You look up there at the scoreboard in the end, Alex Smith said, and it could have been the difference.
Just as any number of other little moments that the Chiefs had been forging their way most of the season might have been.
One takeaway of their own, for instance. One more than the measly one sack they generated. Or a sack or two fewer than they allowed on the first two series of the game.
Not that they didnt benefit from some breaks, too, such as three pass interference calls on one drive by San Diego.
But the point is, this is who the Chiefs are and will be: One way or another, they almost always will be in close games that could go either way.
Were not 2-9; were 9-2, Johnson said, later adding, Its definitely not a panic mode. But we need to stop this ball from rolling downhill.
Especially with what lies ahead: Denver visits Arrowhead next Sunday. Then the Chiefs travel to Washington and Oakland before playing host to Indianapolis and finishing the regular season at San Diego.
Without the dynamics that got them this far, largely the sacks and turnover margin that have been flipped on them in the two defeats, how many of those games should the Chiefs be expected to win at this stage?
Well, all we know is its fewer if they lose to Denver and tumble into a three-game losing streak.
We cannot hang our heads, because weve got a team that just beat us last week coming in here this week, and theyll be ready to go, Johnson said. Well get this one out quick.
The good news on Sunday was that the much-maligned offense, playing with a tattered line, produced five touchdowns for the first time this season and demonstrated that it can, in fact, keep pace in a scoring derby. It even provided the Chiefs with a clutch late touchdown to give them a 38-34 lead with 1 minute, 22 seconds left.
Trouble is, without injured star linebackers Tamba Hali (ankle) and Justin Houston (elbow), the Chiefs would be all the more likely to be required to score like that next week against Denver and the menacing Peyton Manning, too.
And thats not exactly in the Chiefs wheelhouse.
So theyre left with this: Reaching into their reservoir of character, staying true to what they are and working to scrub things up.
After any loss, youve got two choices, Alex Smith said. You look at it (and) you are critical of yourself, and you get better from it, and you get ready for the next game. Or you can sit and sulk and not move past it
You know, 9 and 2, theres a lot of season left and a lot can happen. We have to get back to, Lets just go 1-0 this week. We cant be looking at anything beyond that. Lets have a good day tomorrow.
And fend off any trend stories.