Originally posted on Fox Sports Wisconsin  |  Last updated 12/18/11
KANSAS CITY, Mo. The Kansas City Chiefs' 19-14 victory over the undefeated Green Bay Packers on Sunday turned the NFL on its head, and now allow me to try to do the same. That loss could end up being the best thing that's happened to the Packers so far this season. It had been one day shy of exactly one year since Aaron Rodgers and his well-coached compadres last lost a football game. That came to 19 straight victories coursing their way through last season, the playoffs, a Super Bowl championship and this year's run at perfection all accomplished in a grindingly tough league that demands blood, sweat, tears, luck, excellence and much, much more as the cost of every win. So, now, still poised to claim home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, the 13-1 Packers can add to its arsenal a most important and fleeting tool a reminder of just how much it hurts to lose. Losing, I'm telling you, just made the best team in the NFL better. "We need to get better," Green Bay head coach Mike McCarthy said. Every coach says that. Most great players try to believe it. But you think those words would have the same power, for the players or McCarthy, if the Packers had just rolled the lowly Chiefs by 21 points? No way. Even winners are human, which is why the most well-intentioned of all winners in business, sports, music, arts, politics, everything sometimes get complacent without meaning to. Winning is great. But losing is how most of us learn to do it. I'm not saying McCarthy should join Don Shula and his crew of 1972 Dolphins alums and break open the bubbly. In fact, losing left tackle Derek Sherrod to a gruesome broken leg Sunday and further weakening the Packers' options at the position is problematic to say the least, as well as a stark reminder of the fragility of all excellence in the NFL. But it's also true that losing, as Aaron Rodgers said afterward, "sucks." And indeed it does, especially at this level where a loss on Sunday becomes a slow, weeklong burn that doesn't go away until the next chance for redemption. Not if you care, which, judging by the mood in the Packers' locker room, they very much do. You could almost hear McCarthy's teeth grinding themselves down as he talked about what happened Sunday. "We didn't answer the bell," he managed. "We were beaten." Beaten by a team that had been in utter disarray, no less, a few days prior. The Chiefs fired head coach Todd Haley this past week, and recent waiver-claim quarterback Kyle Orton broke a finger on his first play as a Chief two weeks ago. Yet with Romeo Crennel stepping in as the interim head coach and Orton back in the lineup, the Chiefs were a different football team Sunday. They (and a string of drops by Green Bay receivers) suffocated the Packers' offense enough to limit them to 213 passing yards, 315 total yards of offense and those measly 14 points. The Chiefs stifled the league's most high-octane offense, a unit that had averaged more than 35.8 points per game heading into Arrowhead. On the other side of the ball, Orton spearheaded a 438-yard day for the offense. His workmanlike 23-of-31 passing day and 104.1 passer rating was good enough, surely, to confuse Chiefs fans who had not seen glimpsed even an imitation of a real NFL quarterback in about the same time since Green Bay last lost a game. Maybe the biggest winner of the day was Crennel, who had a very nice audition to turn that "interim" head-coach tag into a permanent one. His guys played hard for him, his team looked well coached and ready, and in the end, they beat the best NFL team in the land. I'm sure Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli took note. But back to the best team in the land. No professional athlete sets out to lose, particularly one who's part of a team chasing the ultimate excellence. But that doesn't mean losing, at the right time and in the right way, can't have its merits. It can. It probably did Saturday. In 2009, coming off of a respectable loss against the Dallas Cowboys for their first of the year, the New Orleans Saints followed up in Week 16 with another loss against an awful Tampa Bay team. Instead of going 16-0, the Saints went 13-3. And then went on to win the Super Bowl. Two years earlier, a 16-0 New England Patriots team roared to the Super Bowl and lost to the New York Giants. On the other hand, the Giants lost two of their last three regular-season games that year. The last of which was to the Patriots. Losing, you see, doesn't always mean the wheels are permanently off. And winning doesn't always mean the ultimate goal is on its way. You can't fake these things, but the fact is, hunger is a form of pain. And oftentimes, unwanted pain fuels greatness. It's only in retrospect that we usually look back and see where the bad times were, in fact, preparation for the great ones. Asked if that perfect16-0 mark had been a goal, Rodgers responded immediately. "A Super Bowl is the goal 16-0 is just three games away from the ultimate goal." Yes, no doubt he's right. Just as 15-1 would be utter excellence mixed with just the right reminder that it can be so very fleeting. The perfect recipe, perhaps, for winning it all. You can follow Bill Reiter on Twitter or email him at foxsportsreiter@gmail.com.
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