Paranoia Strikes Deep

     The reflection after an interesting sports Saturday for fans of three of our area teams might be more a reflex action than reflective. Chiefs fans didn’t have to wait through a long weekend of wild card football to find out what they most wanted to from the NFL action, that being the team that their squad would play next weekend. Meanwhile, the college basketball results mean that Sunflower state college supporters would have angst from different angles.

     The Kansas City Chiefs playoff history since the only Super Bowl triumph in their history almost fifty years ago is enough to cause anxiety in and of itself. But now that the opponent is known in the form of the Indianapolis Colts, purveyors of a significant chunk of the misery in the post season, dark memories cloud the bright horizon created by Patrick Mahomes and the electric 2018 version of the Chiefs. It’s now 2019 and that regular season excellence was nice…..but now it’s time to purge.

     The Chiefs, as I’m sure you are painfully aware, hold the NFL record for consecutive home playoff losses at six, and hopefully not counting. Indy is responsible for two of those. The Chiefs are 1-10 in their last 11 playoff games, and the Colts are responsible for forty percent of that misery. The two home losses to Indianapolis reflect what has become too familiar to Chiefs fans when they have had a playoff team….one platoon football. In 1996 as a top seed, they lost 10-7. In 2004, they fell in the epic “no punt” game 38-31.

     You dollop on the last playoff meeting between the two, the ludicrously blown four touchdown lead in a 45-44 loss, and the Colts as Bogey Man is as clear as day. But this year all is supposed to be different, right? Of course, then Saturday the Colts went out on the road and roasted the Texans with a formula that couldn’t seem more tailor made to pull an upset.

     Clearly the Chiefs worst unit is the rushing defense, allowing a pathetic 5.0 yards per carry. So naturally, the Colts went out and ran for 200 yards against the conferences best rushing defense. The Chiefs only strength on defense is their pass rush. So of course, the Colts didn’t allow a sack against the Texans star studded defensive front, and in fact Andrew Luck has only been on his back just 18 times this year. Even escape wizard Mahomes has been sacked 43 times.

     All righty then, lets try and compartmentalize all that bad matchup stuff and just focus on the good things. Come on, you can do it. No matter who they have played, the Chiefs have scored, 35 points a game and no less than 26 in any outing. They have been better on defense on their home field, although the offense ripping off big leads, and lesser quarterbacks being the victims, does mitigate that a bit.

     Frank Reich looks like he might be a fine coach in the long term, but still, we are talking about a rookie against Andy Reid. You would think that would be a significant advantage for the Chiefs. The Chiefs have, as usual, been a fine special teams unit this year. Very reliable, if not so far explosive this season. The Colts didn’t even expect to be playing playoff football after a 1-5 start, so you could make the case this is all gravy to them. But now with a playoff win under their belt, they might really feel the possibility of a dream season.

     It’s the hottest story of the season overall in Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs, against the hottest team in football in Andrew Luck and the Colts. You could have hoped for a playoff paper tiger like the Texans, but this is what we now have. Demons were going to have to be slayed in order to write a Super Bowl story anyway for the Chiefs. Here comes job one.

     Saturday in college basketball was definitely a downer for Wildcat and Jayhawk fans, and speaking of job one, for Kansas State getting a league victory might prove to be elusive in the short term. After another ugly offensive day in their 63-57 loss to Texas Tech, Kansas State is 0-2 in the Big 12 and their next three games are West Virginia, and then at Iowa State and Oklahoma. If ‘Cat fans are trying not be be completely gloomy, they can point to some signs of life after K-State fell behind 14-0 and missed their first thirteen shots. Dean Wade continued to not play, but Kamau Stokes did, and K-State crawled all the way to back to within one against the nations top defensive team and 11th ranked squad.

     But in the end, it was a 63-57 loss, and you really do have to put on some purple goggles to see anything but a looming disappointing season. Bruce Weber talked about trying to win yesterdays game in the high 40’s or low 50’s, and frankly, it would have to be 1940’s or 50’s for that to be a realistic game to game strategy. The coach has quite a task on his hands, and pulling off a decent turnaround will not be a piece of cake.

     Bill Self doesn’t have to execute turnarounds, he only occasionally has to tweak problems. But then again, Kansas doesn’t get pounded too often like they did Saturday in Ames 77-60. Self put on quite a gallows humor performance after the game, once he emerged from a half hour gathering with his team. He embraced being beaten soundly rather than edged, which creates an easier message about details.

     The biggest problem for KU was obvious, 24 turnovers is ghastly, and many of them were completely self-inflicted. The enigmatic Lagerald Vick was particularly cavalier with the ball with seven turnovers, but the other two best players on the team Dedrick Lawson and Devon Dotson also had six and five respectively. Of many funny Self quips, perhaps the best was “I thought their best offense was OUR offense”.

     All evidence would indicate that this is just one of those early conference games which allows a team or two, or a few observers, to think that maybe this is the year the record conference title run ends, only to see Kansas right the ship and make all that look foolish.

     Kansas has a pretty well-timed soft patch in their schedule in the next three games to get some things right, and to hopefully get Udoke Azibuke back in the lineup after another injury issue popped up before the game. That scenario with a sprained right wrist provided some distracting intrigue. X-Rays were negative, but Azibuke decided he was in too much pain to play, which was a discussion point for many.

     Kansas has TCU and Texas at home wrapped around a trip to Baylor in the next three, so they certainly have a good shot at restoring order. Maybe if these three games don’t go the right way then it would be time to at least start to think about where this Kansas team, which is now 6-8 against the point spread, and 0-2 in true road games, is at.

     Blowout losses for the Crimson and Blue send some tremors through the fan base, but ordinarily it is just passing minor drama on the way to more hardware.

Danny Clinkscale