Things seemed to be going pretty well for the Kansas City Chiefs in Saturday’s Wild Card game.
They stormed into Indianapolis and got the best of the Colts on both sides of the ball in the first half. The low risk, moderate reward offense led by Alex Smith was going off, as if the former 49er ascended to a new level of skill when it was playoff time. The offense was genuinely impressive and was the deciding factor in the 38-10 lead the Chiefs took into the locker room at halftime.
Everything appeared to be in order: the Colts got the best of the Chiefs in the regular season just a few weeks ago, but that was obviously a clever ruse. Head Coach Andy Reid must have held back, denying Peyton Manning’s old team the chance to play and prepare for the real Kansas City Chiefs team.
Bandwagoners and fans who were rooting for the Chiefs just for that game for one reason or another rejoiced; assured that even at halftime that this game was already a blowout and a Kansas City Chiefs victory. Experienced Chiefs fans celebrated quietly, knowing deep down in the pit of their red and gold souls that the Chiefs could very well still lose the game.
It’s clear to me that the Chiefs allowed the second biggest comeback in the collected history of playoff games in the National Football League for one reason, mostly: Colts players were dishing out game ending injuries all over the field.
Just a week after most of the Chiefs starters had been rested against the San Diego Chargers, partly so they wouldn’t get injured in a game that had no effect on the Chiefs’ playoffs either way, they were dropping like flies.
Running back Jamaal Charles, whose innate ability to shed tackles and gain yards made him a vital part of the Chiefs’ offense, was injured and concussed not even five minutes into the first quarter. Strangely, the loss of one of their star teammates seemed to invigorate the offense, because they really only got hot after he went back to the locker room.
But in the second half, the hits kept on coming.
The Colts injured Donnie Avery, Brandon Flowers, Knile Davis and Justin Houston en route to their historic win. It might have been bad Chief conditioning. It might have been particularly nasty and energetic play from the Colts — but some of the Arrowhead faithful will assure you these injuries were simply the manifestations of the strange football gods and their deep desire to see the Chiefs lose another playoff game. With that heartbreaking Colts win, the Chiefs are still third place overall among NFL teams for time elapsed since a playoff win, behind only the Detroit Lions and Cincinnati Bengals.
So it has been, and so it will be: it would be easy to suppose there is some strange force denying the Chiefs a single playoff win in two decades. The last time the Chiefs won a playoff game was during the 1993-94 season — I was 4, and the Chiefs were continuing a Wild Card run by beating a team that doesn’t exist anymore, at least under that name: the Houston Oilers. They proceeded to lose to the Buffalo Bills in the AFC Championship, officially starting a 20-year playoff win drought.
But the Chiefs can at least reach the playoffs. The Buffalo Bills haven’t even gotten there in 14 years and the Kansas City Royals haven’t gotten to the MLB playoffs since they won the I-70 World Series in 1985.
There are some who would tell you Kansas City sports teams are cursed, fated to never again win a playoff game. These are the same people who must not consider soccer a real sport, since Sporting Kansas City are the reigning champions of Major League Soccer and won three playoff games in a row to reach that title.
There is no shortage of supposed sports curses: for decades, the Boston Red Sox operated under the idea they had been cursed by Babe Ruth himself when his contract was sold to the New York Yankees. For 86 years, they failed to win the World Series. I’m still not sure what happened in 2004 to break the curse — maybe the arcane magic of the immortal sorcerer Babe Ruth finally ran out.
The Chicago Cubs are still experiencing the wrath of a man and his goat, and Japan’s Hanshin Tigers suffered the curse of Colonel Harland David Sanders himself after fans celebrating a Japan Championship Series win stole a statue of the Colonel from in front of a local KFC and threw it into the river.
Maybe Kansas City was cursed by the St. Louis Cardinals for daring to beat them in a world series. Maybe it comes courtesy of the Houston Oilers, whose last playoff appearance was the aforementioned loss to the Chiefs. Maybe the curse is mutual, since the Tennessee Titans have never won a Super Bowl under any moniker.
Kauffman Stadium and Arrowhead Stadium are relatively unique — there aren’t a lot of NFL and MLB franchises that share a giant parking lot. Maybe the Truman Sports Complex was built on an ancient battle or burial ground.
There is no Kansas City Curse, because there isn’t any curse, anywhere: just a series of unfortunate events. But hey, at least the Missouri Tigers won the Cotton Bowl.