Count Your Blessings

If I’m Mike Tomlin I’m P-I-S-S-E-D.  I mean absolutely, positively furious, because by every account his team should be in the playoffs.  And Mike McCoy should be counting his blessings and updating his Christmas card list for next year.

Thanks to a Ryan Succop miss with :08 left in regulation the Chargers are playoff bound, picking up the last wild card spot and giving the AFC West 3x the representation in this year’s AFC playoffs as any other division.  On one hand that’s good news – the whole “AFC West is soft this year” is pretty much complete BS.  But on the other hand if there was a team I didn’t want to make it that team would be the San Diego Chargers.

The Chiefs second string played exceptionally well.  I honestly walked into our watch party fully expecting the game would be over (and not in the Chiefs favor) by the time the 3rd quarter started.  Instead by the time the first half expired the score was 21-14 in favor of Kansas City behind some solid quarterbacking by Chase Daniel and a defense that, while not airtight, recovered from some absolutely horrid tackling in the first quarter.

The second half was much less spectacular, though, with the offense only scoring one field goal.  The defense on the other hand, gave up only ten points which kept the Chiefs in the game.  Not too shabby on either side of the ball for the second string against a first-string Chargers team that was playing for their very playoff lives.

But the real story of the game isn’t that the Chargers are headed to Cincinnati to battle Andy Dalton – but congratulations on a solid second half of the season for them – but rather that by every account it should have been Mike Tomlin’s Pittsburgh Steelers making the short trek instead.

As bad as the officiating was last week (the only way you don’t call the Junior Hemingway fumble against the Colts is if you are watching “Christmas Vacation” instead of the actual replays when you’re under the hood) this week was good … for most of the game.  But unfortunately it’s going to be the one blatantly missed call that will be the story because it may very well have eliminated a team not even playing in the matchup from a shot at a Super Bowl title.

(to be fair, when you start 0-4 like the Steelers the fact that you’re even still uttering the word “playoff” in week 17 is something you’re pretty thankful for; getting trumped by the refs is just karma coming back to bite you in the butt)

On fourth and two from their own 29 the Chargers decided it would be a good idea to fake the field goal.  To their credit no team at any level of professional football above kindergarten would have ever tried to fake a punt with two yards to go and sitting inside their own 30 with their entire season on the line, and as such it absolutely caught everybody off-guard.  But the Chiefs D came up big, stripping the ball and returning to the end zone for six points, a win and a late Christmas party for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Nope.

Despite the Chiefs CLEARLY stripping the ball and easily returning it for a touchdown, the refs inexplicably blew the whistle, claiming forward progress was halted.

I completely get the rule.  If the guy with the ball is stood up by defensive players who push him back 10 yards before he hits the ground you want to give him a fair spot at the furthest point he made it.  Legit rule.  Fair.

And I know I never played football at any level aside from PE in junior high, but I’m pretty sure that claiming that forward progress had been stopped requires that the ball carrier is not still moving forward.  I might be misunderstanding the intent of the rule, but if the dude who’s got the ball is still moving down the field – forward, not backwards – I cannot imagine the people who drafted the rule would consider that his forward progress stopped.

But apparently the ref confused forward and backwards, and as such blew his whistle bringing the play to an end and – because the whistle cancelled the ability of anyone to challenge it – giving the Chargers a set of downs they should never have had.

There is no possible way you could argue that the decision to blow the whistle was even remotely right, but   If the NFL Referee committee takes ten seconds to start writing up the “yup, they really f***** that call up; we’re sorry” public statement and apology letter to the Chiefs they’ve wasted eight of those seconds.

If you want to call forward progress being stopped then you have to call it when it was stopped initially (which was really the only time it was stopped) – which was behind the first down line, giving the Chiefs the ball again.  Not after he’s fallen forward and lost the ball – that just doesn’t work.

Want to see it for yourself?  Here you go (Weddle is #32); just click it.

forwardprogressstopped In the end it didn’t matter for the Chiefs – we were the five seed no matter what.  We didn’t even have to make the trip to San Diego to have that secured.  And with wins by Cincinnati, Indianapolis and New England we were going to face the Colts in Indy next weekend regardless of the outcome.

But I absolutely, positively, hate the fact that the bad call directly resulted in one team being eliminated from the post-season.  Not “would have given them a chance” – the game would have been over if it had been called correctly.  I don’t know that I’d rather have the Steelers in the playoffs instead of the Chargers, but that’s beside the point.

Regardless the Chiefs starters (most of them, anyway) got some much-needed rest in preparation for their Saturday battle against the Indianapolis Colts.  It was actually funny to watch Alex Smith and the rest of the starters pacing the sidelines, watching the second string almost do what they were unable to do about a month ago.

It’s just time to suit up, put on every bit of red you own and watch the Chiefs avenge last week’s loss.

GO CHIEFS!

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