Adds long snapper Dave Binn, "I think we got full of ourselves early [last year] and started slacking off. We thought we were better than we were. Marty's not letting that happen."
Though Schottenheimer undoubtedly appreciated Sunday's victory over his former team, it was the land of game that made him reflect longingly on his brief stint as a TV analyst. Over the years Schottenheimer's teams have consistently led or been near the top of the league in turnover margin; on Sunday the Chargers might as well have been handling fly balls in the Metrodome. The giveaways were two off-target tosses by Brees near the K.C. goal line, a pair of fumbles by wideout Curtis Conway and a coughed-up punt return by Tamarick Vanover.
When All-Pro tight end Tony Gonzalez caught a three-yard touchdown pass with 8:06 left, putting the Chiefs up 31-21, it looked like a good time to make one last trip to the fish-taco stand and bolt for the freeway. But Brees wasn't having any of that. Number 9? Number 9? "He's a football player, man," says veteran safety Keith Lyle, whose third-quarter interception return to the Chiefs' nine was San Diego's lone takeaway until the final play. "That's why we like the guy so much."
Though the Chiefs tried to rattle him both verbally and physically, Brees (28 of 41 for 319 yards and two touchdowns), whose resting pulse rate is a reported 38 beats per minute, stayed cool all day. Just before the start of the second half, he looked on the stadium's video screen and recognized the pretty blonde sitting in a luxury box. "Hey," he said, nudging Tomlinson, "that's Trista, the girl from The Bachelor. Dude, check it out, she's wearing your jersey."
With 4:07 to go, Brees threw an 11-yard touchdown pass to wideout Tim Dwight to complete a nine-play, 65-yard drive and cut K.C.'s lead to 31-28. The Chiefs then made it 34-28 on Morten Andersen's 43-yard field goal with 2:30 remaining.
It was time for the kid to rock, and Brees never flinched, completing five consecutive passes to set up second-and-one at the Kansas City two. After a pass to Conway (who had eight catches for 129 yards) fell incomplete, both teams became flustered. San Diego's play call was 989 Stops. The formation features four wideouts running comeback routes, but blocking tight end Ed Ellis mistakenly entered the huddle. With 12 men on the field and the play clock down to its final seconds, the Chargers were resigned to a delay-of-game penalty—until the confused Chiefs called timeout.
Brees was not just lucky, he was also good: From the shotgun he threw a perfect pass to Caldwell's outside shoulder, and the rookie juked defensive back Eric Warfield and skated into the end zone. Steve Christie's extra point provided the final margin, and the only remaining question was which of the NFL's most frequent weepers—Schottenheimer or Chiefs coach Dick Vermeil—would be the first to shed a tear. Schottenheimer nearly did, getting choked up as he told his team, "There's a lot of character in this room. I'd rather have good people than good players."
It was all a bit heavy for Brees, who had one more connection to make. An hour after the game he returned to the field to greet the lovely Trista, now cast as The Bachelorette, with a film crew in tow. After she and Brees chatted for a few minutes, the quarterback, perhaps mindful that he soon won't be a bachelor, jogged over to his fianc�e, Brittany Dudchenko, and said, "Come on over and meet her."
"Absolutely not," Brittany replied, frowning.
Brees, however, was just getting warmed up. He set up a long-throwing contest for the Bachelorette's five male suitors, jumping up and down excitedly when the dude wearing a Brees jersey won with a 50-yard heave. All the while, Flutie was standing across the field with a mischievous smile, flinging footballs in his direction.