Because it’s human nature for us to see what we want to see and believe what we want to believe, maybe you assumed the worst when enigmatic former Chief Marcus Peters of the Rams plopped onto Patrick Mahomes on the bottom of a pile after Samson Ebukam’s interception return for a touchdown amid the bedlam on Monday night.
Heck, even some Chiefs initially thought just that during the 54-51 loss in an instant classic and prospective Super Bowl prelude at the Los Angeles Coliseum.
Only the truth isn’t always what it appears to be from a distance, especially when it comes to a complicated and often confusing guy like Peters.
Whatever it looked like on TV or from the sideline, though, Mahomes said teammates “kind of misinterpreted. But he was telling me, ‘Hey, man, I’ve got you; I’m going to pick you back up.’ … He was helping me out.”
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As it happens, the reality was reminiscent of the scene in Oakland last year when Marshawn Lynch of the Raiders ran onto the field to bust up a kerfuffle between his own teammates and Peters, his declared cousin and an Oakland native.
And maybe that’s the best lens on how to understand Peters on this night, which in some ways was entirely predictable and others ways a total surprise.
Volatile as Peters can be, and he certainly seemed his mercurial self during a postgame interview that began with him telling reporters to move back and ended abruptly after just over a minute, this seemed to be a night that would induce the full Peters Experience.
We figured to see the spectacular knack for the big play on the big stage as well as, you know, the obligatory unhinged punt into the stands or fling of a penalty flag or trash-talk.
Especially since surely he was going to be cranked to another dimension against the team that cast him away because it could no longer abide his shenanigans as it sought a certain culture change.
Instead, what we got was this:
In a twist that might make a team with a vulnerable defense regret losing him, Peters indeed came up with what seemingly was the backbreaking interception with 1 minute 18 seconds left (only for the Rams to somehow hold the ball only 14 seconds before giving it back and Mahomes’ being picked off again on a desperation heave with 13 seconds left).
But with no notable taunting or nonsense in a game that ended with an embrace from Chiefs coach Andy Reid, who had had a pleasant, brief chat with Peters during an injury timeout.
The scene was punctuated by Peters running off the field shirtless carrying Tyreek Hill’s jersey after a swap. Somewhere along the line, Peters also somehow acquired jerseys of former teammates Eric Murray and Kareem Hunt that were hanging in his locker afterward.
“I feel like Marcus will always be my brother,” said Hill, later adding, “To play against him, it was fun. All laughs and smiles, baby.”
If it wasn’t how any outsiders might have foreseen the dynamics of the game, one of the X-factors about Peters is loyalty and appreciation.
Yes, the Chiefs discarded the interception magnet for less than a haul: second- and fourth-round draft picks while giving up a sixth-rounder themselves. Maybe that could make him bitter.
But there’s no doubt he still thinks of his teammates and even the organization itself with a certain reverence for taking a chance on him and giving him his start in the NFL.
And once you’re in that place in its heart, it takes.
When I asked him about what it was like to play against the Chiefs, Peters said, “Aw, man, I loved it, man. The best thing about this (night) is I got to see my teammates, I got to see my old coaches and stuff. And I miss those guys, like real honestly. I miss those guys. … You’re gone, but you still have tough love for them.”
It’s funny that he used the term tough love, actually.
However the Chiefs tried to administer that with Peters just wasn’t working, and the tip of the iceberg was visible in some of the outrageousness and even sideline confrontations with defensive coordinator Bob Sutton.
Something was foul in the chemistry, and you can blame Peters or the Chiefs or both, but everyone needed this reset and it’s mostly win-win.
The Chiefs believe strongly in their locker room now, and part of that is the absence of Peters, who was well-liked he also could be disruptive and divisive.
Meanwhile, Peters seems to have responded well to being with the Rams. Yes, he has struggled mightily at times, at least in part because of a groin injury in Week 3, but he still can do great things on the field and also seems to have found himself personally with this organization.
When Reid was asked about his exchanges with Peters on Monday, he noted Peters’ efforts in recent community tragedies in the Los Angeles area and said, “I’m happy for him. Not happy that he had an interception, but I’m happy for him that he’s doing good. And most of all, football aside, doing well as a father and as a person he’s doing well.”
In a nearly empty Rams locker room an hour or so after the game, Rams general manager Les Snead thought about what had made him believe in Peters beyond the mere fact “he’s gifted at touching the ball.”
Knowing the ups and downs that have come with him, the real question was, “Can he fit here, and if so what are we going to do to help support him?”
Without exactly elaborating on how, Snead believes the Rams have found the way. He tells a story about his stepson, an eighth-grader, working 12-hour shifts in the equipment room and receiving a generous tip from Peters and wondering “how come everybody thinks Marcus Peters is a bad guy?”
Snead’s answer: “The lesson is always go behind the cover.”
That was the lesson Monday, too.
“I think in all these situations, people (can) grow up, people (can) evolve; I think he’s doing it,” Snead said. “He’s a very smart kid who embraces life, and I think he’s definitely taking advantage of his next chapter. Which I think that’s us as humans, right?”