|The 2nd Biggest Playoff Comeback In NFL History|
Defiance, Ohio & Indianapolis, Indiana (Map)
Bear with me through a sports explanation for a moment, please.
My favourite football team is the Kansas City Chiefs, who play in the American Football Conference (AFC), one of two conferences that split up the 32 teams of the NFL. Now if Kansas City is to make the playoffs in any given year, they are going to play someone within their own conference. This game would be around that time that I'm home for Christmas, but the problem with liking someone besides the hometown Lions, is that I'd have to drive 11 hours to Kansas City to see one of their home games.
I'd be much more likely to see a Chiefs playoffs game if it happened to be against one of the nearby AFC teams. Unfortunately the Detroit Lions play in the other conference, so they could only meet the Chiefs in the Super Bowl (ha!) Instead, the Chiefs would need to fall into a matchup with Cleveland (283km/170mi), Buffalo (353km/220mi), Cincy (423km/264mi), Indy (454km/284mi) or Pittsburgh (459km/287mi).
The next closest team would be a great step up in distance, between either Baltimore or Tennessee, who are both in the range of ~850km/~530mi away from Detroit/Windsor.
On the afternoon where Nailhed and I went to Andrew Jackson, he would drop me off downtown shortly after so that I could head home to clean up, then travel back over to the south of Windsor to visit Roachie that night.
Once there, we consumed a steady stream of beers and watched whatever crap Penguins game was on, since we couldn't line the night up with a Bruins game. Within the hour, Roachie asked me what time I was heading to Indianapolis the next day to see the first Chiefs playoff game in 3 years, flabbergasted when I told him that I wasn't going.
Now it's easy enough to convince me to travel somewhere normally, even more so after a few pops. After about 5 minutes of talk involving the rarity of being home for such a thing and "how he'd go if it was his Bears playing somewhere close", I was then logged on to StubHub looking at tickets.
How could I not go when it was this close? Plus, the Chiefs had a legitimate chance at breaking their 8-game, 21-year playoff losing streak!
The next morning I'd pick up my rental car I reserved just 12 hours earlier, making sure that the rental jacket listed the standard 20-or-so states you can visit. With a 4-5 hour drive ahead of me I raced towards the Ambassador Bridge, suffering through the border guard's mystified questions about how I could think it was reasonable to drive all that way, how it was odd that I'm a Chiefs fan and how he didn't think it was worth the money spent on car rentals and tickets.
Unfortunately for me, considering how much I love Indiana and Ohio, my lack of spare time meant I couldn't meander very much. I'd make sure to stop for scheduled coffee in Defiance Ohio though, as I knew Defiance was the county seat, where I could visit their great Ohio downtown and 2/3rds of a county courthouse.
Nothing like a courthouse with two floors from 1873 and the upper floor/roof from 1958. Ha ha!
As I don't make it to Indiana nearly enough, I'd be inclined to visit an Indiana courthouse that's further away from home instead, but I didn't know I'd be in Indiana today. I had to rely of previously knowing Defiance was a county seat, whereas I didn't have any knowledge of Indiana county seats.
Also, I remembered how much of a pain it was to drive to Fort Wayne (Indiana) before, where I should have went west to pretty much Battle Creek before heading south. As I didn't want to drive over to Battle Creek today, I had planned on driving back roads after Toledo, eventually managing to cut over to Indianapolis. This would leave me very little time to spare before the afternoon kickoff.
Luck would be on my side though, as this section of US-24 is as good as any major Canadian highway, where it would take far less time than any of those other trips on Ohio backroads.
Filling up on Taco Bell in rural Indiana, I sped right into Indianapolis along busy roads which eventually dumped me off onto a feeder boulevard. I remembered very little from coming here 10 years ago, but the War Museum stood out as I made me way towards Lucas Oil Stadium. Kickoff was just about to happen, so the streets were lacking Indianapolis Colts blue, but I also wasn't walking along the main route to the stadium. Although nervous, it was actually a really quiet walk, as I cut alongside the state capitol building, then through a hotel property.
Nearing the stadium, I found my way into the throngs, with occasional harassing and an uncomfortable lack of others in Kansas City colours. The hostility and the excitement of the home crowd was intimidating. I wondered about my sanity and masochism in paying these costs in exchange for harassment.
If I was going to go through all of this though, I was going to buy decent seats. This would also help me in that it would be much worse to sit up in the third level, with rowdier people drinking more and attending the game in larger groups.
After the brief reprieve of quiet during the national anthem, the Hoosiers ramped up the noise to an even greater level, only quieted as the Chiefs had a nice kickoff return and subsequently moved the ball up the field. The confident sea of blue didn't seem to worry as they still had (Andrew) Luck on their side, but the performance of my Chiefs gave me some hope that this would be all worth it and that this could be quite the great day in the course of my lifetime.
I quietly nodded and softly clapped as my Chiefs marched up the field into a 7-0 lead. The guy behind me who insisted on ribbing me since I came into his stadium, offered up a high five, where my dim-wittedness was apparent when I didn't realize an Indy fan would pull their hand away and leave me to push my hand through the empty air.
The quiet after the Chiefs touchdown was gone in an instant, as even in Indianapolis simply getting the football, the noise returned to uncomfortable levels. They'd of course then march up the field, with the bane of my existence on this day, T.Y. Hilton, getting the touchdown.
An amazing thing would happen from there though, with the Chiefs getting a field goal, then a shocking three touchdowns in the second quarter. At the half it was 31-10 and things looked marginally comfortable (although as a Chiefs fan, you get used to harbouring skepticism).
The fans around me skeptical though, instead bummed out and angry with what they were seeing. I would go for a short walk during halftime, in comfort like one amongst polar bears in an armored car with a rifle, as Chiefs fans smiled and fist bumped, while Indianapolis fans shook their heads and avoided eye contact.
I'd wait in line for a cheesy meatball sub, a line long enough that by the time I was making my way back to my seat, the Chiefs had intercepted Andrew Luck and went forward to get another touchdown. I sat down at my seat and dug into my gluttonous sub, Indy fans giving me shifty eyes and telling each other to take my delicious sub, something that could be a small victory for them on a seemingly rough day. Others continued to yell "Go Back to Kansas City!!" at me.
The score was 38-10. The largest comeback in NFL history was a game where Houston led 35-3.
Indianapolis took less than 2 minutes to make it 38-17. They have one of the greatest quarterbacks in the league and this wasn't all that much of a surprise touchdown. The Chiefs with their star runner injured on the first drive, still had a decent backup, where you'd think they'd slow the game down and eat up game clock by running the ball.
Fumbling the ball would help nothing though, as Kansas City's quarterback coughed it up and Indy had the score at 38-24 with 7:36 left in the third quarter. What a change from 38-10 just 6 minutes earlier.
My Indianapolis fan behind me asked if I was nervous. I nodded. He asked who I'd put money on. While I wouldn't admit that I'd put money on Indianapolis, I told him that I think he knows who I'd put money on, judging by past Chiefs experiences.
The Chiefs would kick a field goal, but Indy scored another touchdown with 2:34 left in the third quarter, to make it 41-31. Lucas Oil was rocking by this time, the noise louder than any concert I've attended and the energy levels through the roof. Meanwhile, every lonely Chiefs fan stood dumbfounded, myself cross-armed and infuriated. A cell phone would appear to my right, with my Indianapolis buddy squeezing up beside me, taking a selfie with the unimpressed Chiefs fan against his contrasting blue.
(In later telling this story, almost everyone back home loved the hilarious thought of Indianapolis dudes taking selfies squeezed up beside my harsh, unbroken stare.)
It was somewhere around here that our backup running back and our star cornerback Brandon Flowers also injured themselves. Indianapolis would score another touchdown with 10 minutes left in the 4th quarter, to make it 41-38. While the Chiefs got a field goal to make it 44-38, T.Y. Hilton would then get a touchdown in an incredible 71 seconds to take the lead at 45-44. The stadium was deafening. People yelled right in my ear, I stood there with my eyes unfocused.
Of course you can see where this is going. Our meagre offense missing its star running back and sucking all through the second half, we completed a few throws, but then Alex Smith took an intentional grounding penalty, we got ourselves into a situation where we needed too many yards, then Alex Smith botched the final pass of our Chiefs season.
I immediately turned to my left and asked to be excused, breaking hand tackles until I reached the stairs and jumped two at a time up to the concourse; Indy fans pointing, laughing and screaming at me, while I rushed towards the door and out of there. Thankfully I was close enough to the north exit to be on the street before almost anyone else.
Scurrying back to the car, a large, bearded dude in a Superman suit actually felt sorry and tell me he felt bad, while Bill Burr would later podcast about how such a defeat shouldn't happen to any fan base.
It was a weird ride home where I pondered spending money for this experience, while also being really upset about losing and blowing such a lead.
Before today's (December 7th, 2014) loss to the Cardinals, the Chiefs were lined up to play in Indianapolis for the playoffs yet again in 2014-15, but having did it once, I don't think I'd sign myself up for a return visit.
Then again, it was all in good fun. No one was rude or crossed the line, I was in their house and everything was reasonable. I actually regret not asking Indianapolis dude to take a selfie with my cell phone.
One last funny thing: Nailhed and Chad were insistent on hanging out the next night, my last night in Ontario, a day where I was admittedly tired. Apparently Chad was talking to Nailhed and said that I checked in from Indianapolis the day before, then Nailhed, confused with how he dropped me off the day before that, said "that doesn't seem right."
The thought of that confusion puts a smile on my face.
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1 - Pro-Football Reference.com - Kansas City Chiefs 44 at Indianapolis Colts 45
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