Every game is a snowflake, no two the same, and that’s part of what’s so fun about sports. This could be said about any team, in any season, even the most consistent.
But more and more, week by week, the Chiefs are stacking a collection of snowflakes that appear mutated, the kind of thing archeologists should someday study. These snowflakes look like frisbees.
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The Chiefs’ 29-28 win over the Falcons here on Sunday was not their most exciting, or most improbable, or even wildest of this increasingly promising season. But that’s more about three wins already when the probability models gave them a 2 percent chance or less, because the following is the plainest way to state it:
No team in NFL history has won a game like this.
“Bro, never in my life,” Chiefs running back Charcandrick West said. “This year has been crazy for me. I’ve never seen this. I’d never even been in overtime my whole life playing football until Denver.”
Chiefs safety Eric Berry scored the NFL’s first game-winning, two-point conversion with his team trailing. He did it in his hometown, not far from his parents’ house, where he fought cancer less than two years ago, and this is only part of the Chiefs’ you-gotta-be-(expletive)-me 2016 season.
Here is a crazy thing to say, made crazier because it might actually be true:
The Chiefs caught a big break when they missed an extra point.
Seriously. This might be true. Maybe. Work with me here. Cairo Santos’ extra point was blocked — he was unclear what happened, and said he hit it well — which created this subplot of when to chase points and when not to.
The Falcons tried two-point conversions twice. On the the first, Derrick Johnson chased Devonta Freeman out of the backfield and knocked down a pass. Then, on the second, Berry jumped a route and ran all the way down the field for the two points.
This means that while the Chiefs lost a point when Santos’ kick was blocked, once you add the Falcons’ failed conversions and Berry’s return, they were a net plus-three on the transactions when compared with each side converting traditional kicks.
Plus-three. The Chiefs won by one.
“It’s funny how you put things like that,” tight end Travis Kelce said.
It is, in the literal and true senses, unprecedented, though the Broncos won in New Orleans in a similar manner. In that one, the Saints tied it with a touchdown with 1:22 left, but the go-ahead extra point was blocked and returned for what proved to be the winning points.
So, yes. The Broncos can relate to this outcome, though theirs wasn’t exactly the same, and besides, the point today is that the descriptions of the Chiefs’ wins this season read like they were written by someone on drugs.
The Chiefs have won this year, in order, with the biggest comeback in franchise history, the defense forcing eight turnovers, by holding one of the NFL’s best offenses to a season-low 10 points, getting outgained by 137 yards, their quarterback taking two non-concussive concussions, the Jaguars going full Jaguars, no offensive touchdowns and a ridiculous strip-punt by Marcus Peters in Carolina, and the game in Denver last week ... which might deserve its own paragraph.
Against the Broncos, the Chiefs actually benefited from giving up a 76-yard touchdown, then set up the tying two-point conversion on a pass that was tipped at the line of scrimmage, then converting the two points on a pass to a tight end known to Chiefs fans primarily for dropping passes, then trailing in overtime but eventually winning on a bank-shot field goal off the upright.
Even with the success of the Royals, there is still some well-earned skepticism from Kansas City sports fans, and the Chiefs’ offense has invited even more if the standard is the AFC Championship game or better.
And you can nitpick, if you want. Alex Smith missed Spencer Ware wide open on a third down, a should’ve-been game-sealing touchdown replaced by a punt. The defense missed tackles, and gave up more yards than the Falcons came in averaging. The offense still can’t get Ware going on the ground. Smith turned it over trying a hero play. Take away even half of these bonkers wins, and the Chiefs go from 9-3 to 7-5.
But, c’mon. This is no time for nitpicking. Smith may have played his best game of the season, Kelce may have been the best player on the field, the Chiefs did an admirable job with a brutal matchup against Julio Jones after the first drive, they continue to win on special teams, and the defense made virtually all the most important plays.
The NFL has, basically, two kinds of rules. The first aims to prevent players from having fun, and the second aims to make sure all teams are flawed, even the ones coached by Bill Belichick.
So, in that context, finding teams that can win games like this is a sign of strength, not a mirage, the same way finding teams that lose games like this is a sign they’re probably at least a year away.
For example, let’s look at the reigning Super Bowl champions. The Broncos went 3-0 in overtime last season, and won four other games with decisive plays in the final two minutes. If the Broncos had gone 4-3 in those games instead of 7-0, they finish 9-7 instead of 12-4 and miss the playoffs entirely.
But let’s not even go that far. Let’s just pretend they lose the game in Kansas City, the one in which they did not lead for even one second until Jamaal Charles fumbled with 30 seconds left.
If the Broncos lose that game, they don’t win the division, don’t get a first-round bye, don’t play the Patriots at home ... and it’s hard to see them making or winning the Super Bowl.
Seasons are often determined on these razors’ edges, in other words, particularly in the NFL. And so far, the Chiefs are navigating that edge like fighter pilots.
“I’ve never been part of a group of guys that closes games at the end like this,” said linebacker Tamba Hali, now in his 11th year. “It’s coming down to one or two plays at the end. However way we do it, we do it.”
The Chiefs are showing themselves to be dependably resilient, and there may not be a better trait in football. This sport takes wild twists, often between commercial breaks, and so it is that the Chiefs just beat a good team on the road by giving up a go-ahead touchdown and converting the other team’s two-point conversion.
Maybe some of this is luck, and it will run out. Or, maybe, the Chiefs are 20-4 since last October and consistently winning the biggest moments in a league and sport that is consistently decided in the biggest moments.