Sporting events are better when they create a good story, and this Los Angeles Chargers vs Kansas City Chiefs game became a legend in the making.
“Never, never, never, never, NEVER… give up.”
— Winston Churchill
As many analyses are being written about the Chargers’ Thursday Night epic game on December 13th, 2018, against the Chiefs, I’m going to forego the statistics for the story.
The story’s plot points
1. The Underdog Character
The Hidden Hero limps into the opponent’s fortress, predicted to be exposed as a pretender. The antagonist has won NINE STRAIGHT games against the protagonist. In Act One (the first half), the fairy tale season is about to turn into a pumpkin. Act 2 begins with more of the same, and with less than five minutes left, the loser is far behind, just as in the second quarter, by two touchdowns. As football slaughters go, Arrowhead Stadium might as well be Little Big Horn. But if you’ve ever seen the original Rocky movie…
2. The Old Lion vs. the Young Lion
On the first passing play of the game, old man Rivers played catch with the Chiefs’ secondary. That ball was not merely underthrown, it was lobbed. Here we go again, goes the old narrative: old hothead No. 17 is going to try to win it on his own, but makes bad decisions.
This was horribly apparent on a hare-brained pass to the end zone, intercepted, and the golden opportunity to make a score is handed over to the gleeful enemy. With less than five minutes to go, the points gap is still 14, just like it was in the first quarter.
Ever seen the movie, Cinderella Man? Or Unforgiven (or almost any Clint Eastwood movie)? The old-school character is out-gunned. He blows his opportunities. He’s past it. He’s humiliated.
3. Changing the Ending of the Chargers’ annual Story.
Have you ever seen the film, Rob Roy? At the end of a climactic duel, the exhausted and outplayed hero (Liam Neeson) falls to his knees, his sword falling uselessly to the floor, and the younger and faster opponent (Tim Roth) lays his sword across Rob Roy’s throat. It’s over.
Except.. the villain takes his eyes off his victim for a moment, and the old lion, with his bare hand, grabs the tip of his enemy’s sword. Blood gushes from his hand as the enemy tries to pull his blade free, but Rob will not quit. With his spare hand, he grabs his claymore (broadsword) and in one great arc of a swing, Roy cuts his oppressor from shoulder to heart, like a machete into a watermelon.
And that’s how Rivers played out a great story on Thursday night: the ending is everything. In the photo below, you can almost see him grabbing the point of the sword.
4. The Twist
Do the math: No No.1 nor No.2 running back and losing a No.1 receiver early in the game, and no top run-stuffers in linebacker Denzel Perryman and lineman Corey Liuget, and No stellar tight end Hunter Henry nor starting cornerback Jason Verrett, and no success in turnover differential = No problem.
The offense surprises
Mike Williams sheds his mortal disguise and becomes Thor with dreads. He even scores a rushing touchdown?! Lost and presumed dead Travis Benjamin returns to life. Antonio Gates becomes the Chiefs’ secondary’s daddy. Third-stringer Justin Jackson runs straight into the mouth of the dragon and right out the other end (*OK, let’s erase that mental picture) . And who the hot heck is Detrez Newsome? Everyone. Made. Plays.
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The defense surprises
At the climax of this story, the elusive Scarlet (Patrick ) Pimpernel was finally captured by… Joey Bosa? Melvin Ingram? Nope. It was young gun Isaac Rochell forcing the Chiefs to punt from their end zone. The offense promptly took a 10-yard penalty before the final drive found another gear.
The defense adjusted so well, I can forgive and forget Jahleel Addae for twice throwing a futile shoulder block: once allowing Tyreek Hill a crucial catch, and once allowing a running touchdown with a glancing blow at the 2-yard line. Is he afraid to pay the price of a head-on, wrap-up tackle, or is he just too often out of position?
The guardians came up big at the last, and never quit. Game ball to defensive coordinator Gus Bradley.
Next game: The Baltimore Ravens have a better defense, but they don’t have Patrick Mahomes nor Hill. And the Melvinator will be back, likely Austin Ekeler as well, and the tank, Brandon Mebane will hopefully be back. So..
Prediction: The Ravens will eat crow. Rivers resorts to dink and dunk and the Chargers’ defense gets hot and tasty turnovers.