The Morning Fix

Still, this one will sting for awhile.

It will not be easy to forget how third-year back Jamaal Charles, whose 6.38 yards per carry narrowly missed Jim Brown’s league mark of 6.40 set in 1963, took a pitch to the right and was buried for a loss of 4 on fourth-and-1 at Baltimore’s 33-yard line. With the visitors holding a 10-7 edge, the stop forever changed the momentum early in the third quarter.

“Ed and the Reed family, they’re going through a lot right now,” Terrell Suggs said. “He didn’t have to play today but he did play. We wanted to give him three hours of peace. Let’s just go out there and have fun with your football brothers.”

“As a team we talked about being there for our teammate, having that family atmosphere to carry a guy through a hard time,” said Todd Heap.

The Chiefs finished the regular season 10-6 to win the AFC West, going from worst to first following a miserable 4-12 campaign, and Cassel said that should be remembered.

“I would have loved to have come in and thrown for 300 yards and walked out of here with a victory but it also doesn’t take away from the fact that we did have a great season,” said Cassel, who finished the game with 70 yards.

Fans in bulky red parkas and knit toboggans speckle the parking lots hours before game time, smoking meats over charcoal and wishing. Music pours from pop-up tents. Bottles clink. And the proudest tailgate in professional football hummed again on a 26-degree Sunday morning, when the scene looked seductively like 1993, the year Kansas City won the AFC divisional championship.

Across the street from the Ice Terrace, a few people meandered through a lifeless Crown Center food court. The only television in sight displayed a graphic comparing the performances of Matt Cassel and Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco. A group of onlookers squinted at the television for a few seconds, then quickly moved on.

Just a few paces away, Ronda Gentry stood behind the counter in The Best of Kansas City store. The sound of a dispirited Len Dawson on the Chiefs radio broadcast echoed through the empty store, and Gentry just smiled and shrugged.

“They’ve fallen apart,” she said.

Cassel finished the regular season with 27 touchdown passes, the third-highest total in team history, with just seven interceptions. He had a career-high passer rating of 93.0 and demonstrated exceptional toughness by returning to start a game 11 days after undergoing an emergency appendectomy. His play helped the Chiefs’ pull off the biggest turnaround in team history, going from a four-win season a year ago to a 10-win campaign that clinched the Chiefs’ first AFC West title since 2003.

“This one hurts,’’ Cassel said. “It really does sting because I felt coming in that we had an opportunity to win. We had a great week of practice. It really came down to the second half and it came down to turnovers. We all know in playoff football you can’t turn the ball over and it starts with me. I forced a few balls in there and it did not turn out well. Our hats go off to the Ravens. They’re obviously a good team.’’

Tags: Kansas City Chiefs