The insanity and irrational thinking that comes with being a sports fan is rarely lost on me. Though I think I am one of the more levelheaded Steelers fans around, even I have my moments of irrational thinking, anger, and total insanity. Generally, these moments occur during Steelers games.
Yesterday, they happened during the San Diego Chargers-Kansas City Chiefs game.
Last week, the Steelers entered the day needing four things to happen to keep their playoff hopes alive. Thanks to Le’Veon Bell, Cortez Allen, and Aaron Rodgers’ collarbone, the Steelers beat Green Bay. Thanks to the forces of the universe, determined to make the Steelers’ demise a long and painful one, the Dolphins and Ravens both lost, and the Jets won. The Steelers were still alive for the playoffs heading into Week 17.
The playoff scenario for the Steelers looked like this: Steelers beat the Browns; Bengals beat the Ravens; Jets beat the Dolphins; Chiefs beat the Chargers and miraculously, the Steelers would make the playoffs after starting the season 0-4. It was a long shot, but there was still a chance.
I didn’t think the Steelers would make the playoffs. In fact, I spent the week telling myself there was no way it was going to happen. I thought the Steelers would beat the Browns easily and I thought the Bengals would beat the Ravens. I saw people saying they were concerned about the CIN-BAL game. I never was. The Bengals still were playing for a bye week and the Ravens have been abysmal on offense, plus the Bengals hadn’t lost at home all year. The AFC North games didn’t concern me, and for good reason; the Steelers easily beat the Browns and the Bengals defeated the Ravens.
No, it was the other two games concerned me.
Jets-Dolphins and Chiefs-Chargers were the games I was worried about. The Jets offense had not had a good season, to put it lightly. But it looked like they were playing to save Rex Ryan’s job, and they pulled it off, despite Geno Smith having a passer rating of 65. (Seriously, Steelers—you couldn’t beat the Dolphins AT HOME IN THE SNOW, but the Jets and Bills beat the Dolphins? SERIOUSLY?)
So the Jets beat the Dolphins and all of a sudden, the Steelers seem like they could actually wind up in the postseason. It was going to come down to the Chiefs-Chargers game. Andy Reid chose to sit 20 of his 22 starters, so things weren’t looking to be in the Steelers favor. That being said, Philip Rivers is still the Chargers’ quarterback. And losing to a second-string Chiefs team would be the most Philip Rivers thing that Philip Rivers could ever do. God knows he’s choked in bigger games than this one.
It looked like the Rivers choke streak would continue, as the second-string Chiefs took a ten-point lead into the fourth quarter. Their defense was playing well. Backup QB Chase Daniel wasn’t playing terribly. Dexter McCluster was having an ok day.
I was freaking out. I was hyperventilating. I still didn’t quite believe it was going to happen, but my mind started to wander…
My train of thought at the start of the 4th quarter: “Can I get tickets to the Wild Card round game in Cincinnati? What day will the game be on, Saturday or Sunday? Will this be the best story EVER? What if the Steelers go to the Super Bowl? They can beat Cincy, right? Dalton looked like shit today! Oh fuck, they’re going to have to play the Patriots, aren’t they? I hate Tom Brady’s face!”
The 4th quarter wore on. The Chargers scored a touchdown and I began to get a sinking feeling in my stomach. The doubt started creeping in, big time.
The Chargers tied it up. I was basically on life support at this point. The Chiefs got the ball back though and wound the clock all the way down to eight seconds. Ryan Succop would come on to attempt a 41-yard field goal.
He fucking missed it.
The game was going to overtime.
At this point, I couldn’t decide which would be a better fate—watching the overtime or setting myself on fire. I opted to watch OT, because burnt flesh smells nasty.
The Chargers won the coin toss and elected to receive. It looked like they were going to go three-and-out to start OT, but they faked the punt. It looked like they fumbled on the play and the Chiefs had returned it for a touchdown. I was on my feet, jumping up and down in front of the TV, yelling “GO GO GO GO GO GO GO GO GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!! It happened!! It actually happened!!! We’re going to Cincy! Oh my go….wait, what? WHAAAAAT?!?!?!”
The touchdown was called back. Chargers ball. They’d eventually kick a field goal, but the game wasn’t over. The Chiefs would get the ball back.
The Chiefs moved the ball into Chargers territory. The Steelers needed a Chargers loss. Even if the Chiefs tied it and the game continued, a tie would still send the Chargers into the playoffs.
I was sweating and starting to re-think that whole setting myself on fire thing.
The Chiefs moved the ball, but it wasn’t enough. It came down to 4th & 15 in no-man’s land. A field goal would’ve been 59 yards. In the end, Chase Daniel was not the hero we all wanted him to be.
It was a crushing way to be eliminated from the playoffs. An even bigger blow would come later, when former NFL Vice President of Officiating Mike Pereira would later say the officials had screwed up twice on key plays in the Chiefs-Chargers game.
According to Pereira, the Chargers were in an illegal formation on the missed field goal, which the officials had missed. That means the Chiefs would have gotten five yards closer and Succop would have had another shot at a game-wining field goal. Pereira also disagreed with the call on the fake punt in OT; he said he believed it was a fumble and Chiefs touchdown. If Succop re-kicks and makes the field goal, overtime never happens. If the touchdown stands, the game is over. Either thing happens, and the Steelers are in the playoffs over the Chargers.
It was like pulling a band-aid off of the hairiest part of your body in the slowest fashion possible. I saw someone on Twitter say today was like waterboarding Steelers fans. I don’t know if I’d go that far, but man, what a brutal way to lose. Yes, the Steelers should’ve taken care of business themselves. Yes, they should have never put themselves in this position. Blah, blah, blah. Whatever. It still sucked to be eliminated that way.
Despite the crushing end to the Steelers playoff hopes, yesterday is a perfect example of why I love the NFL. Anything can happen on any given Sunday. Outlandish scenarios begin to unfold, and all of sudden, you’re standing in your living room, screaming at the TV during a game your team isn’t even playing in. You find yourself living for every Chiefs first down, and dying with each one the Chargers make. The roller coaster of emotions during the end of the Chiefs-Chargers game is precisely why being a sports fan is the both best and the worst. The outcome was not what we Steelers fans had hoped it would be; but yesterday was still a majorly fun day to be a sports fan.