Sam Mellinger

Mellinger Minutes: Greatest game, good-enough Chiefs D and some moments ranked

Andy Reid believes team will learn from mistakes after loss to Rams

Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid has confidence that the team will learn from mistakes made in the 54-51 loss to the Los Angeles Rams on Monday Night Football on Nov. 19, 2018.
Up Next
Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid has confidence that the team will learn from mistakes made in the 54-51 loss to the Los Angeles Rams on Monday Night Football on Nov. 19, 2018.

Sports are the least relevant thing in the world, right up until that moment they are the most relevant thing in the world, and this is the best part of the whole enterprise.

We spend way too much time on this stuff. Too much thought, too much energy, and lord knows way too much money. My job is to write about all of it, so please understand I recognize I’m part of the problem here but I think we can all agree on something else:

Moments like Monday night, when a game is so anticipated and so terrific that it actually exceeds any reasonable expectation, can make it feel like there’s nothing else in the world other than sports.

The Rams beat the Chiefs 54-51 in Los Angeles on Monday night, a score so absurd I instinctively double checked the first time I typed it.

Obviously, the outcome is not what the Chiefs or most folks back in Kansas City wanted. But even in the moments after, those involved seemed to have an appreciation for what they just did.

“A great experience,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said.

“A heavyweight fight,” receiver Chris Conley said.

From a purely and nerdy football point of view, this is one of those digestible losses. The Chiefs were playing a star-stacked power, on the road, without three critical starters they can reasonably expect back (Eric Berry and Mitch Morse), one they hope can return (Laurent Duvernay-Tardif) and another who played just a few snaps but should be back after the bye (Sammy Watkins).

They committed 13 penalties and five turnovers, but still scored 51 points, and lost by just three to the team many believe is the best in the NFC.

There is no shame in any of this.

But more broadly, and in most ways more importantly, this was a game the players felt fortunate to experience and the rest of us felt lucky to watch. ESPN’s Bill Barnwell made a credible case for this as the greatest regular season game in NFL history. This was football at its best, or at least its most entertaining, with a final score that blurs the fact that the offenses combined for just four touchdowns on their final 14 possessions.

This wasn’t an empty shootout, in other words. The defenses punched back, unpredictably, and often spectacularly. The team that lost went for 546 yards and an average of 7.9 per play. It had one receiver over 200 yards, another over 100, and four catch touchdowns. It scored a touchdown on defense, and almost certainly would have won if a cornerback made an entirely makable interception with about 2 minutes left.

This was not a playoff game, or division game, or even a conference game. And somehow, that all made it feel bigger. The interest wasn’t confined to one part of the country. This touched the whole league, including a slew of new instant think pieces about how this is the NFL’s new normal.

That’s a lie. Through rules changes and rules enforcement, and for motivations that include player safety but mostly revenue, the league has long been trending toward more and more offense.

But to suggest that 54-51 is the new normal is to ignore that these are two special teams, with trend-setting coaches and MVP candidate quarterbacks who aren’t even 25 years old.

This might be what the NFL has been pushing toward, but good luck to anyone other than the Saints and Patriots in approaching it, because there are too many delicate moving parts that need to be in harmony.

That’s what we saw on Monday, two exceptional teams operating at or close enough to their best. Football, for all of its problems and all of the bureaucracy of the league, can be so damn entertaining.

The best part, especially for those of us in Kansas City, is that there is so much more of it left this season.

This week’s eating recommendation is the Hook ‘em Up at M&M Bakery and the reading recommendation is Kevin Alexander on finding the best burger place in America and then killing it.

Please give me a follow on Twitter and Facebook, and as always, thanks for your help and thanks for reading.

If you haven’t already, please consider supporting our work with a KC Sports Pass subscription.

Don't have a KC Star subscription? Help support our sports coverage

If you already subscribe to The Star, thanks for your support. If not, our digital sports-only subscription is just $30 per year. It's your ticket to everything sports in Kansas City ... and beyond, and helps us produce sports coverage like this.

<iframe src="https://www.facebook.com/plugins/comment_embed.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2FKCmellinger%2Fposts%2F2213827161969392%3Fcomment_id%3D2213860961966012&include_parent=false" width="560" height="141" style="border:none;overflow:hidden" scrolling="no" frameborder="0" allowTransparency="true" allow="encrypted-media"></iframe>

I can think of at least five. A list?

A list!

1. Orlando Scandrick’s dropped interception. This one is the most obvious, and even if we all understand that isolating one out of 164 plays can be misleading, it is factually accurate to say that if Scandrick makes this interception the Chiefs win.

Let’s watch, and it’s a long clip because we’re including the replays:

<div style="width:100%;height:0px;position:relative;padding-bottom:52.521%;"><iframe src="https://streamable.com/s/tvs4a/kflnsu" frameborder="0" width="100%" height="100%" allowfullscreen style="width:100%;height:100%;position:absolute;left:0px;top:0px;overflow:hidden;"></iframe></div>

Scandrick has been unfairly picked on by some fans this year. That’s the product of playing cornerback on a shaky defense. If you watch in the context of the NFL in 2018, he’s been OK. But at least at first glance, that was a rough game for him. Didn’t help that the play immediately after this, on 3rd and 9, his man made the first down.

2. Patrick Mahomes’ second interception. There’s a lot going on with this play, but if we’re going to isolate one thing it’s Samson Ebukam beating Travis Kelce’s block to affect Mahomes’ throw downfield.

<div style="width:100%;height:0px;position:relative;padding-bottom:53.684%;"><iframe src="https://streamable.com/s/otces/kjdltt" frameborder="0" width="100%" height="100%" allowfullscreen style="width:100%;height:100%;position:absolute;left:0px;top:0px;overflow:hidden;"></iframe></div>

3. More help for Cam Irving. This was bizarre. Cam Irving is a good swing lineman, and a fine fourth or fifth starter in today’s NFL, but he needs more help than he was provided against Aaron Donald, who might not actually be human. Donald has been the NFL’s best defensive player for a few years now, and there are tradeoffs in shifting protection, but leaving him one-on-one is a great way to get two forced fumbles.

This is the second one, and as always, there is a lot going on. Mahomes could be more aware, and better protect the ball or get rid of it. Also, and this might be the most important: there’s absolutely no shame in getting beat by Donald, but for crying out loud, DO NOT TRY TO PICK THE BALL UP AND RUN JUST FALL ON IT.

<div style="width:100%;height:0px;position:relative;padding-bottom:52.941%;"><iframe src="https://streamable.com/s/ddngx/qemgkj" frameborder="0" width="100%" height="100%" allowfullscreen style="width:100%;height:100%;position:absolute;left:0px;top:0px;overflow:hidden;"></iframe></div>

4. Samson Ebukam’s insane interception. As he usually does, Mahomes gave an insightful and blame-hoarding description of this play. Demetrius Harris was the first read, and open, but Mahomes felt like he was throwing a tick early so instead of ripping the ball through like he usually does he sort of babied it through.

It’s a logical explanation, but even so that’s an incomplete pass if Ebukam doesn’t reach around a 330-pound right tackle with his left arm, deflect the ball back to himself, make the catch and then sprint 25 yards for a touchdown.

Mahomes is probably correct that he should’ve thrown with more velocity. But it’s also correct that if he throws soft like that it’s merely an incomplete pass 99 times out of 100.

<div style="width:100%;height:0px;position:relative;padding-bottom:52.632%;"><iframe src="https://streamable.com/s/2hto2/umgjkb" frameborder="0" width="100%" height="100%" allowfullscreen style="width:100%;height:100%;position:absolute;left:0px;top:0px;overflow:hidden;"></iframe></div>

5. Some calls, man. You know where I stand. Complaining about the officials is The Ballad Of The Loser, and as we see above, the Chiefs had more than enough chances to win this game. They did not make those plays.

We should also account for missed calls on the other side, including a hit on Rams quarterback Jared Goff that is normally penalized in today’s NFL, and something like a thousand holds on Aaron Donald that could’ve been called.

Still, there were misses. And they mattered. We’re choosing this one because it’s a rare triple — Rams right tackle Rob Havenstein clearly moves early, then holds Dee Ford, and it’s a 3rd down that was converted with a touchdown.

Which means that if the officials call either of two penalties on Havenstein, it likely means four points.

<div style="width:100%;height:0px;position:relative;padding-bottom:53.263%;"><iframe src="https://streamable.com/s/gvek2/foscrv" frameborder="0" width="100%" height="100%" allowfullscreen style="width:100%;height:100%;position:absolute;left:0px;top:0px;overflow:hidden;"></iframe></div>

One last point. We could do this with virtually any one-possession football game in the history of organized sports.

But, still.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-conversation="none" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">The <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Chiefs?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Chiefs</a> scores 51 points while committing 5 turnovers, 13 penalties (cough), and missing several makeable plays. What happens when we clean this up for the playoffs?!!!</p>&mdash; J-D JR (@jimmyjay555) <a href="https://twitter.com/jimmyjay555/status/1064926932637286401?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">November 20, 2018</a></blockquote>

<script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

That’s what I keep thinking about.

We are 11 games into the season and we have evidence that this is what is required to beat the Chiefs:

1. Be one of the best teams in the league.

2. Have a quarterback with five Super Bowl rings and backed by the best coach in the sport’s history or one who’s second in yards and backed by one of the best offensive minds on the planet.

3. Play at home.

4. Make sure you’re penalized five times fewer than the Chiefs.

5. Make sure you have a defensive player make at least one insane play that leads directly to a turnover, and while you’re at it make sure you win on turnovers.

6. Force one of the most prolific offenses of the 21st century into mistakes it usually doesn’t make, and hope they make a few on their own, too.

7. Hang on for dear life.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-conversation="none" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Can our defense hold a playoff caliber team like the Rams or Saints to under 40 points?</p>&mdash; The Arborist (@ongrd2) <a href="https://twitter.com/ongrd2/status/1064911240441532418?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">November 20, 2018</a></blockquote>

<script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

This might be the first time in Earth history that a team gives up 54 points and the local sports columnist who still thinks the defensive coordinator should have been fired actually stands up for the defense.

What a time to be alive.

But let’s start with the point total. The Rams defense scored two touchdowns on its own. That’s 14 points that had nothing to do with the Chiefs defense. The Rams scored another touchdown after taking over on the Chiefs’ side of the field on a fumble.

That’s another seven, and now we’re down to 33 points, which is the Rams season average, and if the Chiefs defense can hold the opponent to its season scoring average it has to be enough.

But, that’s only one way to look at it.

Let’s look at possessions. Not including kneeldowns, the Rams had 13 possessions. That’s a lot! They scored five touchdowns, kicked two field goals, turned it over twice and punted four times.

You guys. That’s really not bad.

The Rams had been scoring touchdowns on 33 percent of their drives, and points on 47.6 percent. They scored touchdowns on 38 percent against the Chiefs, and points on 54 percent.

Considering where the Chiefs are offensively and defensively, that has to be enough to win.

I’ve often framed the Chiefs success or failure on defense in terms of stops — turnovers or punts. Get five in a game and they should win, four and they might still win. Against the Rams, they got six, plus two more field goals.

One of the major themes from this season, particularly for those of us who follow the Chiefs, is how the rules and expectations are now so clearly and drastically different. I’ve written about this several times.

It is simply not realistic to expect the Chiefs (or any team, really) to hold a great quarterback or offense below 30 points.

Defenses, when backed by spaceship offenses, can win games with single plays here and there. The Chiefs did enough. They forced and recovered two fumbles, and allowed just two touchdowns on the Rams’ last seven drives (again, not including the kneeldown).

But, here’s another way to look at your question. The Chiefs have played four games against AFC teams who are currently .500 or better. They are 3-1, with an average score of 41-25.

Twice they’ve won by 10 points or more, and in the other win they never trailed, on the road.

I don’t know if the Chiefs will make it to the Super Bowl. There are a lot of things that still need to happen, and injuries can always help wreck a season.

But this combination of offense and defense can absolutely work.

<iframe src="https://www.facebook.com/plugins/comment_embed.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2FKCmellinger%2Fposts%2F2213827161969392%3Fcomment_id%3D2213840045301437&include_parent=false" width="560" height="161" style="border:none;overflow:hidden" scrolling="no" frameborder="0" allowTransparency="true" allow="encrypted-media"></iframe>

Let’s look at each turnover, in order.

The first fumble, late in the half:

<div style="width:100%;height:0px;position:relative;padding-bottom:53.488%;"><iframe src="https://streamable.com/s/y9eeu/lvsfzy" frameborder="0" width="100%" height="100%" allowfullscreen style="width:100%;height:100%;position:absolute;left:0px;top:0px;overflow:hidden;"></iframe></div>

He can do a better job of protecting the ball here. Donald beats Irving — again, one-on-one — but even so Mahomes has time to make his drop and throw. The receiver wasn’t there, so he pulls the chute and wants to escape right, which is great. That’s when he’s often at his most dangerous.

But he has to secure the ball a little better, or be aware enough of the best defender on the planet coming from the backside that he simply takes the L.

So, a combination of Donald’s gifts and Mahomes’ ambition to make a play.

OK, the second fumble, early in the third quarter. We watched it in a previous question, but here it is again:

<div style="width:100%;height:0px;position:relative;padding-bottom:52.941%;"><iframe src="https://streamable.com/s/ddngx/fualuc" frameborder="0" width="100%" height="100%" allowfullscreen style="width:100%;height:100%;position:absolute;left:0px;top:0px;overflow:hidden;"></iframe></div>

Kind of the same thing as the first. Donald beats Irving — one-on-freaking-one — but Mahomes has enough time if the first read is open. It’s not, so he begins to drift right, but at the point of contact Mahomes is holding the ball with just one hand.

That’s going to be a fumble almost all of the time.

The first interception came late in the third quarter. Again, we watched it and talked about it in a previous question, but here goes:

<div style="width:100%;height:0px;position:relative;padding-bottom:52.632%;"><iframe src="https://streamable.com/s/2hto2/xujwax" frameborder="0" width="100%" height="100%" allowfullscreen style="width:100%;height:100%;position:absolute;left:0px;top:0px;overflow:hidden;"></iframe></div>

Hard to say this is carelessness. Mahomes wasn’t perfect, as he mentioned before, but come on. Sometimes the guy on the other side simply makes a ridiculous play.

The second interception came late in the fourth quarter. ONE MORE TIME, we watched and talked about it in a previous question, but here goes:

<div style="width:100%;height:0px;position:relative;padding-bottom:53.684%;"><iframe src="https://streamable.com/s/otces/exfegd" frameborder="0" width="100%" height="100%" allowfullscreen style="width:100%;height:100%;position:absolute;left:0px;top:0px;overflow:hidden;"></iframe></div>

Context matters here, so it’s worth acknowledging that the Chiefs are down, with fewer than 90 seconds left, needing to make plays to win or go to overtime. And as we talked about before, Ebukam beats Kelce and affects the throw.

But the decision to throw is also one that Mahomes might want back. Marcus Peters takes the gimme interception there, but he’s one of four defenders in an area with only two receivers.

It’s late, but the Chiefs are past midfield, with three timeouts. This is first down. He doesn’t need to take a risk like this.

Now the third interception:

<div style="width:100%;height:0px;position:relative;padding-bottom:53.277%;"><iframe src="https://streamable.com/s/2h8qq/qslrlh" frameborder="0" width="100%" height="100%" allowfullscreen style="width:100%;height:100%;position:absolute;left:0px;top:0px;overflow:hidden;"></iframe></div>

I don’t know how to be mad at this one. The ball is snapped with 25 seconds left, some 40 yards outside field goal range, with no timeouts. The risk-reward calculus is severely tilted. You can nitpick if you want, and say he should’ve thrown this away and then gone with hero ball but if you did I’d politely ask you to pipe down.

So, five turnovers is way too many. I think we’d all agree on that. But if we’re trying to judge whether Mahomes is too wild, we should take the last one off, remember that Donald is a freak on the fumbles, and keep in mind the context of the first two interceptions.

The conclusion: he got a little too loose, maybe hurried and pressing in a wild game, and he’ll need to protect the ball better than that.

The good news is that he has protected the ball better than that in every other game he’s played. He’s really smart, and an exceptionally quick learner. This isn’t anything to freak out about.

You make a good point in the question. This is the sort of game a lot of us expected more of before the season.

The talent is obvious, and tantalizing, and viewed from 30,000 feet this is sort of like watching a baby lion grow up in the jungle and find his strength. You don’t know if the stove is hot unless you touch it sometimes. If you have a Ferrari, you have to drive it fast, and just understand you’ll get a ticket sometimes. The forced analogy paragraph of this answer is over.

Mahomes is an otherworld talent, and with the support around him, there are times the sport looks easy. This is a reminder that it’s not, that he’s 23, in his first year as an NFL starter, and in his fourth year as a full-time football player.

There will be mistakes. Watching the whole thing develop will be one of the most fascinating and potentially exciting stories in Kansas City sports history.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-conversation="none" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Is there any concern that we can&#39;t beat the top teams? With this D?<br>Will Berry make that big a difference?</p>&mdash; Mike (@blackhawkpryd) <a href="https://twitter.com/blackhawkpryd/status/1064911779174772736?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">November 20, 2018</a></blockquote>

<script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

We all have a tendency to move the goalposts, don’t we?

There was a time I told myself I’d never complain once the kids both slept through the night consistently, but now that they do — usually! And jinxes aren’t a thing! — I want them to go to sleep faster.

There was a time that I thought this team would go 8-8, and the most optimistic prediction I saw was 11-5, and now they’re 9-2 and we’re talking about whether they can beat the best teams.

Here’s a thing that’s true. The Chiefs, Patriots, Steelers, Chargers, and Texans are the AFC’s only teams that are above .500. Only four teams have beaten those teams on the road.

The Chiefs are the only one that’s done it twice.

The Patriots have lost three road games, none against winning teams, by an average of 17 points.

The Steelers lost at home, twice, by an average of 8.5 points.

The Texans lost to the Giants at home, needed overtime against the Colts and Cowboys, and just beat Washington by two.

The Chargers gagged one against the Broncos at home, and their best two wins are against the Seahawks and Titans, who are both 5-5.

The Chiefs have lost twice, by a total of six points, on the road against two of the best five teams in the NFL.

That’s pretty damn good.

Also: yes, Eric Berry will make a big difference, and I will write more about that later in the week.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-conversation="none" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Does Bob Sutton coach the DBs to be grabby? We get flagged for it a lot it seems, especially early.</p>&mdash; KSchaser in NE (@kschaser1) <a href="https://twitter.com/kschaser1/status/1064918009159008256?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">November 20, 2018</a></blockquote>

<script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

I wouldn’t have guessed this, and thought it was interesting. You probably know that the Chiefs are the NFL’s most penalized team, but did you know that most of that is the offense?

They’ve been called for 97 penalties on offense, which is an astounding 19 more — 20 percent! — than anyone else.

The defense isn’t great: tied for sixth with 74 penalties, but still. They’re the less flagged group, and I would’ve guessed the opposite.

My point here is that mistakes on offense might be more costly, but mistakes on defense can feel more common than they actually are.

It’s also worth noting here that the Chiefs have played more passing downs than anyone else, and that with the bye the stats will start to normalize a bit, and I probably should’ve put this higher in the answer: the defense has been called for fewer penalties per game than 14 teams.

I know I keep hammering this point, both here in the Minutes and in columns, but that’s because it’s important. Context matters. Other teams get flagged, too, and the NFL is making it harder on everyone to play defense.

Nobody wears the punishment of aesthetic worse than cornerbacks, because they’re the ones chasing receivers on all the highlights, so you might roll your eyes at me but this is true: the Chiefs’ corners have been good enough.

We can do this with film, but here’s a good shortcut. Steven Nelson ranks 16th, Kendall Fuller 26th, and Orlando Scandrick 42nd among 117 cornerbacks who’ve played at least 20 percent of the snaps according to Pro Football Focus.

I might be mistaken, but I believe the Bears are the only team with three corners ranked higher than Scandrick.

That means for every time you curse about a blown coverage or corner getting beat, just know that a fan of the other side has cursed more.

I say all of this as one more little tease for the Berry column I’ll have later in the week.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-conversation="none" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">What storyline from this Chiefs season are we not paying enough attention to?</p>&mdash; Dan Weixeldorfer (@dan_wex) <a href="https://twitter.com/dan_wex/status/1064917268126158848?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">November 20, 2018</a></blockquote>

<script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

You probably know me well enough to know I’m going to start by saying there are no football storylines in the NFL that we don’t pay enough attention to. We all pay FAR MORE ATTENTION to these things than would be logically advised, and yes I know I’m a huge part of the problem, but just needed to get that out there.

OK.

In the spirit of your question, I can think of five. Another list?

Another list!

1. Eric Berry. I know! We’ve all paid a lot of attention to this! But not in the most meaningful way. My point in including him here at the top is that it’s turned into a sort of daily joke about him getting better and not practicing. But — and, again, more on this soon — I do believe he’ll be back sometime after the bye and when he does he will make a tremendous difference.

2. The cornerbacks are actually pretty decent. We just talked about this above, and you probably still don’t believe me, so let’s just move on.

3. The linebacker situation is fluid, and improving. The Chiefs were committed to using both Anthony Hitchens and Reggie Ragland on most snaps at the beginning of the season, and offenses were taking advantage. They were both rusty, and probably injured, and the result was ugly.

But they’ve both steadily improved — especially in tackling, which is an easy thing to miss when it’s good — and defensive coordinator Bob Sutton showed a new wrinkle against the Rams with more snaps for Dorian O’Daniel as a sort of spy on Todd Gurley. They’re figuring out some stuff there, maybe.

4. Allen Bailey’s emergence. He benefits from playing next to Chris Jones, for sure, but Bailey is doing some things on his own, too. He had a sack, recovered two fumbles, and returned one of them for a touchdown against the Rams, and that’s not an anomaly. He dominated the Cardinals, too, and has been a steady force on the inside of that line in a contract year.

5. Mitchell Schwartz. He’s just so good at his job, and the nature of the position is that excellence usually goes unnoticed, but Pro Football Focus rates him as the fourth best tackle overall and best right tackle. That aligns with the eye test, and he just went over 7,000 consecutive snaps. Putting him fifth on this list is probably a disservice.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-conversation="none" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">My wife and I are expecting a boy in April. We are tossing names around. Patrick is obv my choice. The boss disagrees. Perhaps a list of top 5 plays I can show her of showtime will put her over the top. Help out a fellow dad?</p>&mdash; Casey.holland (@Caseyholland24) <a href="https://twitter.com/Caseyholland24/status/1064911565563019264?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">November 20, 2018</a></blockquote>

<script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

My man! Congrats!

Reasonable minds can disagree on this, of course, but here’s where I’m at right now:

One more list? One more list!

1. I will probably always be partial to this one, because it’s the one that made me jump out of my seat, hug Terez, see exactly what this was going to look like and generally act like an unprofessional nincompoop.

<div style="width:100%;height:0px;position:relative;padding-bottom:51.586%;"><iframe src="https://streamable.com/s/48ol5/gpcckk" frameborder="0" width="100%" height="100%" allowfullscreen style="width:100%;height:100%;position:absolute;left:0px;top:0px;overflow:hidden;"></iframe></div>

2. I kept my description of this play under 1,700 words, thank you very much.

<div style="width:100%;height:0px;position:relative;padding-bottom:51.477%;"><iframe src="https://streamable.com/s/p5jgy/vleqde" frameborder="0" width="100%" height="100%" allowfullscreen style="width:100%;height:100%;position:absolute;left:0px;top:0px;overflow:hidden;"></iframe></div>

3. Heh. Another play so good I basically wrote a love letter to it. I mean, the video of this looks like a magic trick, like Mahomes just threw the ball up in the air and someone dropped another ball into Hill’s hands 70 yards down the field.

<div style="width:100%;height:0px;position:relative;padding-bottom:55.391%;"><iframe src="https://streamable.com/s/pppym/fjadhx" frameborder="0" width="100%" height="100%" allowfullscreen style="width:100%;height:100%;position:absolute;left:0px;top:0px;overflow:hidden;"></iframe></div>

4. The most amazing incomplete pass I can remember.

<div style="width:100%;height:0px;position:relative;padding-bottom:44.924%;"><iframe src="https://streamable.com/s/8fhtu/pfehsk" frameborder="0" width="100%" height="100%" allowfullscreen style="width:100%;height:100%;position:absolute;left:0px;top:0px;overflow:hidden;"></iframe></div>

5. The timing, touch, and brain showed here would make him a star even if he had a weak arm and no athleticism.

<div style="width:100%;height:0px;position:relative;padding-bottom:55.858%;"><iframe src="https://streamable.com/s/m90hf/pdfnzx" frameborder="0" width="100%" height="100%" allowfullscreen style="width:100%;height:100%;position:absolute;left:0px;top:0px;overflow:hidden;"></iframe></div>

All of that said, you and I both know you’re naming that boy whatever your wife wants to name him.

<iframe src="https://www.facebook.com/plugins/comment_embed.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2FKCmellinger%2Fposts%2F2213827161969392%3Fcomment_id%3D2213853545300087&include_parent=false" width="560" height="161" style="border:none;overflow:hidden" scrolling="no" frameborder="0" allowTransparency="true" allow="encrypted-media"></iframe>

I believe you’re referring to Stewart Mandel’s column, and I’m not much for writing about others in the media. But here’s my answer:

I get the skepticism of any hire that Kansas would make. It’s a tough job. Not without its merits, but certainly an uphill climb with facilities, recruiting base, culture, money, and other factors.

I even understand the argument that Kansas would be better off with The Next Big Thing, too, the way K-State built around a quiet assistant from Iowa instead of a retread head coach.

All that said, most of the criticisms I’ve read come through a little empty. Kansas is luckier than it deserves that Les Miles was interested in the job, and even that’s only because it hired Jeff Long as AD.

Seth Littrell is a good name to bring up here. He’s the coach at North Texas, and a leading candidate as The Next Big Thing. He even has Kansas connections! He coached there, when they were good!

But is there reason to believe he was interested? That he wanted the job? Nate made a good point here on the Border Patrol, that younger coaches might see a job like Kansas as a career killer or staller. Why take that job when Colorado is open? Why not wait for a place where you have a better chance?

To that point, I’d submit that Kansas tried the “young innovator” approach with their last coach. David Beaty was supposed to have a mind for offense and recruiting ties in Texas that would push Kansas back to relevance. I actually think he’s grown into the job a little, and might still make a good head coach someday, but he was simply overmatched.

Miles might not succeed, but with his history he won’t be overmatched.

One last point about the “innovator” thing. It sounds great, but what does it mean? It better not mean a wide open passing attack because that’s what everyone runs, especially in the Big 12. If that’s your plan at Kansas, you’re just running the same stuff with inferior athletes.

In that way, I’m not sure Miles’ reputation for running neanderthal offense is the worst thing in the world.

Les Miles, KU's new football coach, talks about the Big 12's style of play, hiring staff and the current crop of Jayhawks during his introduction on Nov. 18, 2018.

Please don’t get me wrong. He needs to update, and diversify, but if he maintains some of that run-first DNA — particularly with a talent like Pooka Williams — then maybe Kansas is running stuff different than the typical Big 12 team which makes them a little harder to prepare for and starts to even the field a bit.

So, I don’t know. I’m not going to slam anyone for something as silly as a take on the hiring of a college football coach. But I’m still not sure how Kansas could have done better. It’s the most encouraging thing at that program in many years.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-conversation="none" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Who’s at their current job longer? Les Miles as HC of KU Football, or Bill Snyder as HC of K-State Football.</p>&mdash; scottwildcat (@scottwildcat) <a href="https://twitter.com/scottwildcat/status/1064911235156713474?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">November 20, 2018</a></blockquote>

<script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

Here’s what I hope happens: K-State upsets Iowa State on the road, qualifying for a bowl game, which Bill Snyder announces will be his last game as head coach. Gene Taylor and the university trip over themselves thanking Snyder for his hard work and genius, and use the head start to conduct a wide coaching search.

Snyder swallows his pride and is OK when that search ends with someone other than his son hired, and after a short transition Snyder is remembered as the man who saved a program, on the short list of the most influential and meaningful coaches of his generation.

That’s what I hope happens.

I’m not quite ready to talk about what I fear happens.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-conversation="none" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Having a two-week layoff in the middle of of the playoffs is kind of a bummer for the MLS, no?</p>&mdash; Max Rieper (@maxrieper) <a href="https://twitter.com/maxrieper/status/1064914138265255938?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">November 20, 2018</a></blockquote>

<script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

Yes.

You might have seen where Miki Turner reported that MLS is “preparing a significant overhaul” to its format for next year.

The new schedule would mean the MLS Cup would be done before the November international break, which would mean a shorter regular season and much more digestible and fan-friendly playoff format.

This is a terrific idea.

We’re getting into the weeds a little with this stuff, but the change would make the league more inviting to fans outside the MLS’ passionate but relatively small core of fans.

The downside is that the league won’t cut regular season games, which means more midweek games, less time for players to recover, and potentially choppier play. Midweek games draw fewer fans, which isn’t an issue in Kansas City, but could create problems in other places.

There are not perfect solutions, but applause to the league for trying.

MLS has a lot going for it, in terms of demographics and the trend lines of soccer’s popularity. But it has to meet soccer fans halfway, particularly if the goal is to create more soccer fans.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-conversation="none" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">What&#39;s your hypothetical MLB Hall of Fame ballot this year?</p>&mdash; Max Rieper (@maxrieper) <a href="https://twitter.com/maxrieper/status/1064920057510268928?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">November 20, 2018</a></blockquote>

<script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

Please allow me to put on my Well Actually Guy mask as I tell you it’s not a hypothetical ballot.

The ballots should be in the mail soon, but here is how I voted last year:

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">My Hall of Fame ballot. Joe Morgan won’t be mad. Just disappointed. <a href="https://t.co/OHmRps0N31">https://t.co/OHmRps0N31</a> <a href="https://t.co/C53ZfvrWoy">pic.twitter.com/C53ZfvrWoy</a></p>&mdash; Sam Mellinger (@mellinger) <a href="https://twitter.com/mellinger/status/946149563815120896?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">December 27, 2017</a></blockquote>

<script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

That’s three spots on my ballot last year that open with the inductions of Vladimir Guerrero, Chipper Jones, and Jim Thome.

I haven’t put a lot of thought into this year’s vote yet, but would expect to vote for the seven who didn’t make it. Mariano Rivera, Roy Halladay and Andy Pettitte are the most intriguing names among those eligible for the first time. I’d also expect to take another long look at Billy Wagner, Scott Rolen, Jeff Kent, Fred McGriff, Andruw Jones and other holdovers.

This is another thing I’ll write more about in the future, but know that it’s important to me that we stay transparent with these votes. You might not agree with where I go, but I hope you at least hear how I got there.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-conversation="none" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">How did you escape being locked in the porta john? <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/MellingerMinutes?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#MellingerMinutes</a></p>&mdash; Michael Reed (@xXDanteHicksXx) <a href="https://twitter.com/xXDanteHicksXx/status/1064914898516353025?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">November 20, 2018</a></blockquote>

<script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

True story: I wasn’t even mad, and if I’m honest, I’m not even sure I was surprised. Nothing about yesterday was normal.

I don’t mean this as a media complaint, because who cares, but it was weird covering the biggest game of the regular season from a trailer-like press box that closer resembled St. Thomas Aquinas than any of the other 30 NFL stadiums and I’m including the StubHub Center here.

So, you want to know I got out?

Just banged on the door a few times, and waited for someone to be a good samaritan.

Seriously, I would not have been surprised if the door was opened by a werewolf.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-conversation="none" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">What’s the best side at Thanksgiving?</p>&mdash; Rob Brenton (@FastTalkinRob) <a href="https://twitter.com/FastTalkinRob/status/1064917192964227073?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">November 20, 2018</a></blockquote>

<script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

Stuffing, and I will not debate this for it is not up for debate. I’m a purist, too, so I’m talking about the load of heaven you cook inside the turkey inside the oven. An ounce of that for my soul, but I am also a pragmatist, and will never kick stuffing out of bed, so if you make it out of the box I’ll eat that too.

Depending on the stuffing situation, my ideal plate on Thursday would be 50 percent stuffing, 25 percent mashed potatoes, 10 percent turkey, 10 percent vegetable so I can at least look the part, and five percent something else that is not cranberry sauce because cranberry sauce is unfit to feed to a rabid opossum and I will not debate this either for it is not up for debate.

If I’m really feeling it, the second plate will be more adventurous, though the plurality of its surface area will still be covered in delicious stuffing. Pecan pie for dessert if it’s available, but if not, anything but key lime.

This week, and I know this sounds kind of weird ... but this week I’m particularly grateful for Thanksgiving. It is my favorite holiday, though I have the feeling our kids are at the age where my mind is going to be temporarily changed to Christmas. But, for now. Thanksgiving.

No pressure of gifts, no pretense, just the expectation that you eat as much as humanly possible, watch football all day, drink as much as you want, and make jokes with family and friends. Sign me the heck up.

Don't have a KC Star subscription? Help support our sports coverage

If you already subscribe to The Star, thanks for your support. If not, our digital sports-only subscription is just $30 per year. It's your ticket to everything sports in Kansas City ... and beyond, and helps us produce sports coverage like this.

Sam Mellinger

Sam Mellinger is a Kansas City Star sports columnist.

Related stories from Kansas City Star

  Comments