\Many words will be said and written about the national anthem. Chiefs players linked arms in what they said in a tame statement was “a sign of solidarity.” Perhaps more notably, Marcus Peters stood on the far right end of the line, his right fist raised in the air, bringing to mind Tommie Smith and John Carlos at the 1968 Olympics.
I haven’t written much — anything, really — about any of this for a few reasons: nobody seems to be listening to anyone, we’re all screaming over each other, and I find it simply beyond debate that all Americans have the right to express their views. Non-violent social protest is part of what makes this country.
The statement from the players was vague, and non-controversial. They did not mention treatment of minorities by law enforcement. They are free to stand for whatever they want, and fans are free to voice their opinions back. We’re all adults. I hope enough of us are willing to have an honest and open conversation, on both sides.
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Peters will — already has, by now — become one of the symbols of this. He’s a grown man, passionate, smart, and gives the minimal amount of damns required to take part of this on. Nationally, this will be the story from this game, no question about it.
Locally, though, the football...
▪ That game was a hot mess. Both teams deserved to lose, or win, or I don’t even know. The Chargers dominated for 2 1/2 quarters, and then the Chiefs closed like a damn racehorse. Man, that was incredible. Sports is the best.
▪ That game was, basically, the 2015 season.
▪ You can come up with a scenario in which the Chiefs get last year’s problems figured out quicker, and they end up with homefield advantage in the playoffs, and maybe there’s a different outcome.
What if they got their 2016 problems figured out after 2 1/2 quarters?
▪ Very impressive: the Chiefs’ effort did not dip, even when down 24-3. You could see it in their reactions, and at times in their play. This is sort of a base level compliment — kind of like giving your neighbor an Atta Boy for not driving the car through the back of the garage — but not everyone does it. They improved as the game went along, which is a sign of belief, competitiveness, and at least good adjustments made by the coaches. I don’t know how many teams could pull that off, but many eliminate themselves by letting focus or effort wane when the spread is stretched. In the parlance of the game, guys start making business decisions. That’s less of an issue early in the season, but still. Standing ovation for that.
▪ On offense, it appeared to me the biggest difference was when the Chiefs started going forward, instead of side-to-side. This kept the Chargers’ pass rush back a bit, and made the linebackers and defensive backs think before attacking. The Chiefs have enough weapons at each skill position to make that a dangerous balance.
▪ The Chiefs sacked Phil Rivers 12 times in the last two games at Arrowhead. Dee Ford — DEE FORD!!! — had a huge sack in the fourth quarter, but that was the first of the game. The pass rush is going to be a problem.
▪ Easy to overlook, but just before Ford’s sack, Eric Berry may have saved around 20 yards by fighting off a blocker and running Danny Woodhead out of bounds. If Berry is driven away from the play, or just in one direction or the other, Woodhead had gobs of space in front of him and the end of regulation may have been very different.
▪ Weird day for quarterback Alex Smith. Early, I thought he held the ball too long. Smith’s strengths are mostly subtle, which is part of the reason he’s criticized so much, but one of the things he does well is make good decisions and make them quickly. For whatever reason, that wasn’t happening for the first 2 1/2 quarters. He looked a little tentative, and when he brought the ball down either wasn’t ready or didn’t have room to run. Even when he’s really good, he does it in the margins, and his margins were rotten. That changed, and drastically. My guess is they were going more north-south instead of east-west, but I’m quite certain that’s a giant oversimplification.
▪ The Chargers’ first touchdown came one play after Peters was called for pass interference in the end zone. He hated the call — he was screaming at the official even after the touchdown — and I understand the frustration. Keenan Allen essentially ran into him. But Peters appeared to wrap him up, too, and if you do that directly in front of a referee you’re going to be flagged.
▪ The defensive line has to be better. That’s a talented group, far too talented and deep to get pushed around like that. Derrick Johnson made some bad reads on a few plays, but he was also getting smothered with blockers that needed to be taken by linemen or Justin March. That’s how the Chiefs defense is supposed to work, when it works, which it didn’t.
▪ Defensively, the Chiefs did not take away anything from the Chargers for those first 2 1/2 quarters. They are built to disrupt timing, both by pressuring the quarterback and playing press coverage on the receivers. The Chiefs did neither, at times having the corners play way off the line of scrimmage, even at one point on a third and five or so in the red zone.