Monday, November 25, 2013

San Diego Chargers 41 at Kansas City Chiefs 38 - November 24, 2013


The final quarter of the NFL road trip was supposed to be the one where I avoided the winter weather, but I didn't quite make it as Kansas City endured a bit of a cold snap on the weekend before Thanksgiving. On Saturday, Sporting KC won their semifinal in the coldest ever MLS game, one that I skipped to see the Missouri Mavericks. Sunday afternoon was somewhat warmer, but game time temperature at Arrowhead Stadium was a frigid 24 degrees. I had enough layers to avoid frostbite, but I don't have a true winter coat, which is still in transit from Asia. I must have looked pretty funny with about 5 layers, a scarf, a hoodie, a toque, and a flimsy fall jacket, but it did the trick.



I stayed at a hotel just across from Arrowhead, which allowed me to take the picture above, where the stadium looks more like a huge ark than a football arena. Look at all those cars too; this place has the best setup for tailgating and nearly every car had some sort of grill set up.



In front of the Founder's Plaza entrance stands a statue of Lamar Hunt, who was the owner of the Chiefs, an instrumental part of the AFL, and the man who coined the term Super Bowl. I did not do much of a walk around, but snapped the pic below showing that the ramp is actually quite small, meaning the upper deck is not that far from the field.



I had bought a ticket a couple of days before as I found a very cheap option on StubHub just 7 rows from the field in one end zone. The Chiefs had not responded to my request for a ticket at that time, but they did contact me on Saturday and told me that there would be a ticket at will call. It turned out to be a club seat, which was a godsend given the weather. I ended up entering via the club as there was no line, and wandered around there first.



The entire club area is very spacious and has a lot of good food options, with BBQ brisket looking to be the best. Hail to the Chiefs for providing me this option, which I made good use of in the second half. Below is the view from my seat and a side shot of the nine rows in the club seating area.





I then made my way downstairs and toured the crowded lower concourse. I was able to see the players warming up and grabbed a shot of Phillip Rivers. Love the Chargers' uniforms, even their road whites are quite stylish.



On the south side of the lower concourse, you will find a Hall of Honor that includes busts of all members. The Chiefs have had a storied history and it is very well presented here, although you will have to deal with lots of fans. The highlight is the trophy from Super Bowl IV, the last one with the logos of both the AFL and NFL on it. Interestingly, this one does not have the teams or the game score inscribed.



I then moved around taking pictures from a variety of angles. The stadium is great, with the upper deck quite close to the field, as the club section is relatively small. With each level having different seat colours, it is really eye-catching. Note the scoreboards are oval and differently sized.













With game time approaching, I hurried down to my seat and was quite happy with its location, just next to where the Chiefs were being introduced.



It would be a fool's errand to recap this game on a score-by-score basis. There were 10 touchdowns and 3 field goals, making it the highest scoring contest on the trip, beating the season opener's 76 points. It didn't start like that though, KC's first drive resulted in -3 net yards yet they got a first down (due to a Chargers' penalty), leading to the interesting stat line below.



After that, KC played well, and took a 14-3 lead on this Jamaal Charles run early in the second quarter.



Then the unthinkable happened. First Tamba Hali sprained his ankle, then Justin Houston (below tackling Phillip Rivers) suffered an elbow injury just after the 2 minute warning. These were the club's two top pass rushers, and with both lost for the game, San Diego started to go wild.



They scored a quick touchdown to end the first half when Rivers hit Danny Woodhead with an 11-yard pass with just 16 seconds left to make it 14-10.



At halftime, I moved back to the club to warm up and then enjoyed a crazy second stanza as the teams traded touchdowns the rest of the way. San Diego scored on their first possession to take a 17-14 lead (the second of eight lead changes) but Alex Smith (#11 below) seemed to have a reply every time.



Whenever the Chiefs scored, they celebrated with a horse riding across the field. Poor thing must have been exhausted after the game.



As you would expect, the battle was still undecided in the final minutes. San Diego was up 34-31 as KC took over with 3:51 to go. Smith marched the team down with some pinpoint passing, and culminated the drive by hitting Dwayne Bowe with a bullet that Bowe collected with one hand to give the Chiefs the lead yet again at 38-34. With just 1:22 to go, the Chiefs certainly seemed to be in control, but Rivers had other ideas.



After a couple of incompletions, Rivers hit Antonio Gates (#85 above) with a first down pass and called their second timeout. This was the key play of the game. Two quick passes to Woodhead who got out of bounds both times, and suddenly the Chargers were on the KC 33 with 44 seconds left. A pass interference penalty moved the ball to the 21, but Rivers was sacked on the next play, forcing the Chargers to use their final time out.



On the next play (above), Rivers found Seyi Ajirotutu streaking down the sideline. The ball just eluded Chiefs' defender Sean Smith and Ajirotutu held on in the end zone for his only catch of the game and the winning touchdown with just 24 seconds left. That's the shocking final below and judging from the looks on the frozen faces of the fans, they had no idea what had just happened.



For me, one of the most entertaining games on the trip, but not one of the best. I like to see some defense, and there were also 16 total penalties (I even snapped a pic of a flag being thrown) which always slows things down. Along with the injuries and a few reviews, the game took 3:32, too long for such a cold afternoon.



Notes

Keenan Allen (#13 below, signalling fair catch on a punt return) was the receiving star, grabbing 9 balls for 124 yards, good for 3rd in the league during the week. For the second week in a row, I saw the week's leading passer after Carson Palmer's game in Jacksonville the previous Sunday.



Next Up

There are just seven games left over the final five weeks. This week sees me in Texas for the Cowboys' Thanksgiving tilt against the Raiders before moving south to Houston for the Pats and Texans. I'm also going to San Antonio for the Spurs and AHL Rampage. Updates as always will be posted as soon as possible, assuming the hotel wi-fi is fast enough to upload all these pictures (it wasn't in KC).

Best,

Sean

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