INDIANAPOLIS — Everybody around them was standing up, the noise getting louder, the blue rim of lighted signs around Lucas Oil Stadium flashing “12th Man’’ and “Get Loud’’ and “Maximum Horsepower.”
By JO-ANN BARNAS
Special to The Star
But Chiefs fans Joe Siedlak and his fiancé, Ashley Heringhaus, were cemented in their seats, not moving, not saying a word. They couldn’t.
Up by 28 points early in the third quarter, lose by 1 at the end — season over for the Chiefs. Season over, thanks to an incredible comeback led by the other quarterback, the Colts’ Andrew Luck, who helped hand the Chiefs a 45-44 loss in their AFC wild-card playoff game Saturday night.
“Shock — just shock,” said Siedlak, who’s from Columbus, Ohio. “We were three scores up on these guys.”
Siedlak had gotten what he wanted on the Chiefs’ final offensive play when quarterback Alex Smith attempted to hit wide receiver Dwayne Bowe on 4th and 11 from the Colts’ 43 with just under two minutes to go in the game. But the pass wasn’t completed.
Ten minutes earlier, Siedlak — sitting in section 546, second row — was shaking his head on the number of injuries the Chiefs suffered during the game.
“We lose four starters, two running backs, a wide receiver, our corner,” he said. “It’s hard to recover from that.”
He looked to his right, next to two empty seats.
“Hard to believe,” Siedlak said. “They’re Colts fans and they left early in the third quarter, thinking the game was over. They really missed something big.”
From his seat on the third level in the north end zone, it didn’t look good. But then again, it didn’t look that bad, either.
Chiefs fan Aaron Kunze was talking about the first-quarter injury to Jamaal Charles that knocked their star running back out of the game.
“He got hit sideways, and I thought he just got the wind knocked out of him,” Kunze said of Charles, who was being evaluated for a concussion.
But Kunze, a former Marine, wasn’t worried.
“When one guy goes down, another steps up,” he said. “And Knile Davis is a very good running back.”
Indeed. Davis stepped in – and in a big way. He scored on a 4-yard run late in the second quarter and then added another touchdown — this time catching a 10-yard pass from quarterback Alex Smith — early in the third quarter that put the Chiefs up 38-10.
Alas, their lead wouldn’t last
Asked how he’s enjoying himself, Kunze stood up and looked up at the retractable room at Lucas Oil. The roof was closed.
“The weather is perfect,” he said.
Kevin Verner Jr., and Stuart Allen seemed to be the lone Chiefs fans in their section — they were the only ones dressed in red — but the pair didn’t care.
“We’re surrounded by a sea of blue, but it’s all good,” said Verner, 28, pointing to a trio of Colts fans wearing Luck jerseys. “They’re trash talking and I’m trash talking.”
Verner laughed. He was exhausted — but tired in a good way, of course.
He and Allen had been up all night, paying $100 apiece for round-trip seats on a bus loaded with Chiefs fans. The bus left at 1:30 a.m. from a Wal-Mart parking lot in Independence.
“It took 9½ hours,” Verner said. “We stopped a couple of times. But this is beautiful. There’s a lot of red in this sea of blue.”
Dustin Kindall knew he was amongst friends the moment he walked through the door. The sight — red-clad football fans huddled near the center of the bar — affirmed it. But mostly it was the sound, that familiar throaty cavalry call that rose above the din of blues music and welcomed his arrival.
“Do you got tickets?’’ asked a man checking identification at the front door of the Slippery Noodle Inn.
“Wouldn’t have driven eight hours without tickets, bro,” Dustin Kindall said with a smile before joining the huddle.
Kindall was part of two car loads of Kansas City, Mo., firefighters who made the trip to Lucas Oil.
“This is the best,” said Kindall, 33. “I’ve never been to an away Chiefs game. I bought my ticket for $65. It was just $85 for a hotel room – four rooms, 10 guys.”
For the firefighters, their weekend got off to a rousing start Friday night when they met up with other Chiefs fans at a downtown bar and watched Missouri beat Oklahoma State, 41-31, in the Cotton Bowl.
“It was great,” he said. “We had practically the whole bar doing the tomahawk chop.”
It felt strange, but not lonely.
Ben Phares was the only Chiefs fan among his pre-game tailgate group. That he has lived in Indianapolis all of his life, well, that only made the 34-year-old accountant the recipient of “a lot of grief’’ from his Colts friends.
“Priest Holmes was my guy,” Phares said of the former running back who starred for the Chiefs from 2001-2007. “I started watching the Chiefs when I was a kid, and I just liked him.”
Phares is such a Chiefs fan that he traveled two weeks ago to Arrowhead Stadium for the Colts game. The Chiefs lost 23-7.
Shortly after noon Saturday – more than four hours before the game – the tailgate group kept warm around a portable heater. Phares would rather not talk about the laugh everyone shared when he ventured too close to the flames and his pants caught on fire.
He showed the singed hole in his pant leg.
“No big deal,” Phares said with a shrug.
Yep. Just part of the game.
Dressed in a red chef’s hat and an autograph-filled apron, Robert Andrade’s outfit was so unusual that he was asked to pose for cell phone photographs by other Chiefs fans near Lucas Oil.
Andrade, 30, who works as a nurse’s aide at an Alzheimer’s unit in Emporia, Kan., drove overnight Saturday to Indianapolis for the playoff game. He arrived at 6 a.m.
Heading into the game, Andrade had already decided that no matter what happened that night, he views the season as a success for the Chiefs.
“Coach (Andy) Reid at training camp made it clear that he was going to lead an amazing turnaround,” Andrade said. “He meant business. He got rid of midlevel talent and got guys who know how to play to win.”