The Chiefs scored their first touchdown on the ground (of the season) with 1:53 to go in the first quarter. First-round draft pick Jonathan Baldwin was on the field making a catch for a first down. Brandon Flowers streaked down the sidelines with an interception return for a touchdown to ice it. Everything that was supposed to happen in the opening contest suddenly came to pass in the sixth game, and, perhaps sweetest of all, on the road at Oakland.
This has not been an easy year for Chiefs fans. It has taken effort to turn on the television the past month. Die-hards have been fearful that they'll see the clueless bunch that were pasted by Detroit and Buffalo. Or that another key player will be lost for the season like Jamaal Charles and Eric Berry. You can't watch scared so most choose to watch angry.
But a winnable game against the Chargers that got away from the Chiefs in the third week of the season might have marked a turnaround. The defense discovered how to cover for the absence of Berry, and the schedule makers gifted Kansas City with a trio of uncertain quarterback situations (Painter, McNabb and Boller/Palmer).
On Sunday, you saw a pouty Philip Rivers lose to a New York Jets' squad and an Indianapolis team that apparently missed its plane for its Sunday-night contest with New Orleans — a 62-7 thrashing that was oddly compelling, if only for the cords sticking out in Peyton Manning's neck and the dejection of Reggie Wayne. And suddenly this is a season in context. The Lions and Bills are better than they've been in years past and will be in contention for playoff spots. San Diego is a statistical monster that may prove to be better as a fantasy asset than football team. And the Indianapolis Colts are a cautionary tale of what might have been for the Chiefs. The Chiefs are a team that could have decided to be historically bad. Instead, they decided to try.
While Dwayne Bowe's heels-down, falling-out-of-bounds catch is what will make the highlight reel, it was another play that suggests he's one of the leaders of this turnaround. In the second half, the ball was spinning away from Bowe, tumbling on the ground toward the goal line. He got up from the field and half-crawled, half-dove for the loose ball. The play was blown dead, an incomplete pass. But there was Bowe, mad with effort to get to what he thought might have been a fumble before a pair of Raiders. It was the same hustle that drove offensive lineman Jon Asamoah to scoop up the football in the end zone that had escaped Leron McClain's hands (although McClain was later credited with the touchdown).
For four weeks, the Chiefs have been on the verge of a lost season. Now they've got a match-up at home with the division-leading Chargers next Monday (a pleasant reminder of the huge win that kicked off last season's surprising playoff run) with first place at stake. Sometimes, you've just got to come out the other side of a black hole.