We begin today with the acknowledgement that no college athlete in the country has had a better showing the last few days than Andrew Baggett, and, yes, you read that right.
Baggett, as you surely know, missed a short field goal that would’ve sent Mizzou’s nationally televised game against South Carolina into a third overtime. It was his second missed field goal of the night, and, predictably, as Vahe wrote this morning, some idiots fired nasty comments his way.
Baggett, who hit five field goals the week before and the game-winner in overtime last year at Tennessee, has responded perfectly. In many people’s eyes, that missed kick will likely define Baggett’s time at Mizzou which means that in many people’s eyes, that missed kick will likely define Baggett. And if that’s the way it happens, hopefully his response to the disappointment and misguided hate is part of that definition.
Baggett has taken full responsibility, even as the snap came in high and the hold could’ve been better. He hasn’t used past successes as cover, hasn’t talked about the defense giving up a touchdown on 4th and 15 in the first overtime. He’s used a mix of humor and honesty and above all accountability. The idea is to win the game, and Baggett probably won’t ever fully get over the disappointment of missing that kick.
But in ways that mean more than a football game, his response to the miss has made him more admirable than anything he could’ve done in uniform.
As always, thanks for your help and for reading.
One of two things:
1. The sky falls.
2. The Chiefs win the Super Bowl.
I mentioned this in a blog post yesterday, but there is a difference between level-headed acknowledgement that the offense needs to get better and defeatism.
I’d also point out that this is a relatively small chunk of the fan base. For most people, 8-0 is plenty — especially so quickly after 2-14. But, from a small portion of people, I sense an almost muscle-memory list of complaints about the NFL’s last undefeated team.
@mellinger when did being 8-0 have to be flawless? seems the national media holding it against KC.— Mike Vamosi (@MikeVmos) October 28, 2013
That’s a good way to put it. Look, we’re all adults here. We see that Eric Fisher is still struggling, and WAY too much is being put on Jamaal Charles because the Chiefs haven’t been able to develop other consistent threats.
But everybody’s got problems.
Take a paragraph from my last column, which you should definitely read for a ridiculous stat about the 17 most important drives against the Chiefs defense:
"Among the AFC’s top teams, Indianapolis scored nine points against the Chargers and just lost their best receiver. New England has a weak receiving corps and Tom Brady’s throwing hand is the size of a Buick . Cincinnati lost to the Browns and can’t run the ball. Denver is playing with a makeshift offensive line and is giving up more than 28 points per game."
So, look. We can all see that the Chiefs have weaknesses. But I think when you follow a team it’s very easy to lost context about what other teams look like^. Every team has problems. Every team has weaknesses. But when you’re 8-0, those are good problems and workable weaknesses.
^ Not to start a whole thing, but this is part of the Ned Yost criticism I’ve been fighting against. Every manager makes mistakes .
Now, all that said
slow down. Here is the complete list of teams that are averaging 30 points per game: Broncos, Bears, Packers.
The Chiefs are actually 13th in the NFL at 24 points per game, but that number is obviously inflated by the defense (and largely weak competition). Pro Football Focus ranks the Chiefs 25th in offense, and Football Outsiders has them 18th. If we split the difference and call them 21st or 22nd that’s closer to what my eye test says.
Getting into the top 12 or so would be a good goal, and league average might be doable. There’s enough here — particularly with Andy Reid — that league average should be obtainable. You know, as long as everyone stays healthy which, well
@mellinger your column warned that the Chiefs may be using Charles too much. Is the knee okay? Can he hold up the rest of the year?— Garrick Hodge (@garrickhodge) October 28, 2013
I don’t know how much is too much work for Charles.
I just know that the Chiefs shouldn’t find out.
@mellinger with the good games by Keenum & Campbell, if Thad Lewis has a good game, will the Broncos start Osweiler against the Chiefs?— The Great Bassby (@MeatMaster_Bass) October 28, 2013
The way this season is going, the Broncos will be starting Osweiler because Manning has a vicious, nasty, debilitating 24-hour flu. Twice
pretty much. On Sunday, at a key point in the second half, the Chiefs are gifted a muffed punt. But when Dexter McCluster fumbles, the Chiefs not only recover it but gain yards. Add in the special teams mistakes from the Eagles that gave the Chiefs a 10-point lead before the offense did anything (in a game they’d win by 10), the amazing muffed-punt-turned-touchdown against the Titans, Dez Bryant dropping that pass in the fourth quarter, and I’m sure I’m forgetting something here besides the clean injury report I mean, this is adding up fast.
Vahe made the point that the Chiefs are creating their own luck, and there’s a case to be made for that. If you’re quicker to the ball, you’re more likely to recover that fumble. If you bum-rush the quarterback, you’re more likely to have Terrelle Pryor lob one of the worst passes in NFL history down the middle of the field.
So the Chiefs get some credit here. But if I was Andy Reid, I’d go buy a power ball ticket just to make sure.
@mellinger im getting my dad a cooper jersey for his bday. Should I customize it F. Cooper? Thoughts.— Joe Mattingly (@JoeFunk90) October 28, 2013
I am morally obligated to not only condone this, but ask for a picture.
That’s fine, but the Falcons are going to WAY disappointed with my lack of run blocking, especially when compared to my prolific performances at the training table.
@mellinger both KC and DEN schedules are much tougher post bye wk. You think this works in KC's favor? Whats your take on best pumpkin beer?— Wickett (@wickett999) October 28, 2013
First of all, that’s a trick question because there is no best pumpkin beers. Only beers ruined by pumpkin.
Taking out the games against each other and common opponents, here is what each team has left:
Chiefs play at Buffalo, at Washington, and Colts at home.
Broncos (who are off this week) play at New England, Titans at home, and at Texans.
The easiest game on either schedule is the Titans at home, and the hardest is at New England (though you could make a case for the Colts, I suppose). But I’m not sure either schedule is markedly more difficult than the other.
This really will be about which team plays better when it matters most, including against each other, and with the one-game lead the Chiefs win a tie.
@mellinger Does Dexter McCluster take too much heat in this town? No superstar, but ppl don't seem to appreciate what he brings to the team.— Jeff Smith (@theGeneric1) October 28, 2013
I mentioned this in the Insta-reaction, but McCluster is a bellwether for Reid and the Chiefs. The coaching staff sees a lot of Bryant Westbrook in McCluster, and came into training camp confident they could get the best out of him where previous coaches had missed. I don’t mean this to take anything away from McCluster, necessarily, but when he does well on offense — that punt return was all him — that means the coaches are doing well on offense.
And I’m probably not answering your question, but that’s because I either don’t hear many people giving McCluster heat, or I tune them out because expecting him to be a superstar is just silly.
@mellinger Where's my swagger? My team is 8-0 yet I must wear the same clothes every Sunday or I feel I will fall into a Haley/Pioli abyss.— Bill Manion (@Bill_Manion) October 28, 2013
Whoa, that’s going to be tough to beat for Most Kansas City Question of the Week.
@mellinger the chiefs had a pretty physical training camp. You think that has anything to do with how well the defense is playing?— corey wells (@well_well_wells) October 28, 2013
I guess, but I’ll only go along with this if we all acknowledge that if the Chiefs were struggling and (especially) injured there would be people blaming the physical training camp.
The relationship between cause and effect is something sports fans and media struggle with more than virtually any other demographic, I think.
Love this question. Would they get more than the 2-14 team?
Justin Houston, Derrick Johnson and Tamba Hali would be locks. Jamaal Charles and Eric Berry would get in, but for some reason I’m not including them as locks. Marcus Cooper has played well enough, but you wonder if someone would get in ahead of him based on reputation (and a late start means he hasn’t played as many snaps as many others). Dontari Poe has been terrific, but that’s a tough position. Damon Harrison, Geno Atkins, Randy Starks, Jurrell Casey and Marcell Dareus (keep an eye on him this weekend in Buffalo) will also get a lot of consideration. The Pro Football Focus numbers, if you’re into that kind of thing, really like Jon Asamoah.
Throw in a wild card on special teams — Colquitt, Succop and McCluster would each have a case — and six is probably a good over-under.
@mellinger How will the Chiefs upstage Mizzou for sports heartache this year? We all know it's going to happen.— Clinton Thomas (@ClintT13) October 28, 2013
as you can imagine
I got a lot of this and
there are two undeniable facts from Mizzou’s heartbreaker^ over the weekend, both of which I tried to point out in the column:
1. Holy crap that was a gut-punch that goes down with the Flea Kicker and Fifth Down.
2. Everything that was possible before that ball banged off the goal post is still possible today.
^ Vahe did a good job here on the idiots throwing hate Andrew Baggett’s way.
The math in the SEC East changes, especially because South Carolina would now hold the tiebreaker, but Mizzou still has a one-game lead which means it controls the rest of its season. Win out, and they play (against Alabama, probably) for the SEC Championship.
But if you look at it like, hey, Connor Shaw came in here and did that so what the heck is Johnny Manziel going to do? well, that’s reasonable.
Mizzou will have to prove it can bounce back from a heartbreaker, but if they do that, this can still be a great season — one of the best in school history.
See that? That’s all I’m asking for here, guys. Just some honestly, and enough comfort in yourself to admit it. Also, walking in on Saturday, I saw a tailgate with a stuffed Jayhawk being "eaten" by a stuffed Tiger so let’s not pretend this doesn’t go both ways.
Sure wish the KU athletic department would get over it and schedule a game.
@mellinger scale of 1-10 how excited are ppl for KU BBall 25000 at late night, 10000 at a scrimmage, 2000 at 6am lottery for exhibition game— Ryan Burrow (@ryburrow) October 28, 2013
Well, I’m not sure I could put a number on it
@mellinger actually the answer is 25. I just want to hear your thoughts on the hype and the team— Ryan Burrow (@ryburrow) October 28, 2013
but, yeah, it’s getting pretty ridiculous. Bill Self has made the point a few times that they’ve had teams ranked higher in the preseason, but perhaps never one that had this much hype. So much of that is in Andrew Wiggins, of course, and as much as KU is publicly trying to downplay the hype they absolutely know what they have here.
This is a team so talented that a top 10 pick is coming off the bench. In a different recruiting class, Wayne Selden would be the star. On a different team, Perry Ellis might be the first-team all-conference guy.
The conflicting reality is that KU could play up to its preseason ranking and not make the Final Four, partly because as down as college basketball was last year it’s as loaded this year.
But whatever happens, it’s gonna be a whole mess of fun to watch.
@mellinger It's basketball season!!! Crazy prediction or not? Wiggins is the third leading scorer for the Hawks this year, but the #1 pick.— Taylor Kohn (@T_Kohn) October 28, 2013
UmmI don’t know about that. I’d be surprised if Wiggins isn’t the leading scorer or, perhaps, second to Ellis. This isn’t that Kentucky team from a few years ago, when Anthony Davis was the top pick in the draft and fifth on his team in shots. Wiggins should be a very good defender, and his talents are diverse enough that he can help in many ways, but he is without a doubt the Jayhawks’ best scorer. Especially with the new rules/emphasis on hand-checking and charges, he’s going to be a b-word to defend.
All of which makes this question
entirely reasonable. Andrew Wiggins, talented as he is, will go 4-for-13 some night. Might even miss a key shot in a loss. Joel Embiid, talented as he is, is new enough to the game that he’s not starting. Wayne Selden, talented as he is, will have some bad nights.
But one of the things I like about Self is he doesn’t try to shield his players from it. This is part of the deal, and you must deal with it. I’ll always remember a few years ago, when Tyshawn Taylor was taking a bunch of grief from fans, and Self said something like, "Let’s be honest, if you’re affected by that kind of thing you’re soft." Soft is the most vicious insult possible in Self’s universe. Then a week or so later, Taylor ranted on Twitter about fan criticism, which, presumably, made him soft in Self’s universe. Self didn’t lash out at fans, instead sat down with Taylor in private and told him how he could better handle the situation.
It was a pro move that I don’t know people noticed much, but it obviously worked. That was the year KU Taylor and Thomas Robinson pushed KU to the national championship game.
Point being, there will be some blowback from all this hype. And Self will help the team handle it.
I’m always rooting for local, and if we’re being honest, I wish I had more time to follow MMA closer.
Steve Johnson making fun of Plaxico Burress shooting himself in the leg is the gold standard, you guys.