Chiefs Skinny: Late Win Good for KC's Morale

As Christmas Day viewing fare goes, Kansas City's to-the-wire 31-30 victory over Oakland was pretty good stuff. Two lead changes in the final 63 seconds created a victory that Dick Vermeil would later call "as dramatic a win as I've been involved in since the Miracle at the Meadowlands."

The implications of the Chiefs' victory, however, weren't nearly as consequential as that 1978 game when current Jets coach Herman Edwards returned a Giants fumble 26 yards for a touchdown with 31 seconds remaining. The stunning 19-17 victory lifted Vermeil's Philadelphia Eagles to a 9-7 record that earned them their first playoff berth in 18 seasons.

Coming from behind to beat Oakland in the final 1:03 had no such payoff consequences for the 7-8 Chiefs, whose lottery-long odds of reaching a second straight playoff appearances were mathematically laid to rest later Christmas evening when Denver beat Tennessee and took Kansas City out of any contention for the final wild card spot.

It had to become enough, then, that the Chiefs won a fourth straight game in dramatic fashion.

Refusing to fold after Trent Green's fumble at the Raider 43 with 1:46 left led to Sebastian Janikowski's go-head 46-yard field goal at 1:03, Kansas City got a 49-yard kickoff return from Dante Hall to the Oakland 36. Working without timeouts and only 56 seconds showing, Green hit two passes for 13 yards and Larry Johnson added four on a run to move to the 19 before stopping the clock at 0:26. Lawrence Tynes then converted the first game-winning kick of his rookie season, a 38-yarder, to deliver a late-day holiday gift.

"I call him Little Dash of 'The Incredibles' because he always comes to save the day," TE Tony Gonzalez said of Hall, who this week voiced disappointment in being named only a Pro Bowl alternate after going scoreless through the season's first 10 weeks.

In the last five games, though, Hall has returned two kickoffs for touchdowns, one to open the game in a 45-17 rout of Denver. Janikowski cut short his bid for the game-winner against Oakland, but not before Hall had plunged the dagger to within a inch of the Raiders' heart.

"We made the big plays when we had to today -- offense, defense, Dante," Gonzalez added. "That's something we couldn't do earlier this year."

If they had made just one or two of such big plays in narrow loss to Houston, Jacksonville, Tampa Bay, New Orleans or San Diego, the Chiefs would be in playoff contention even today. Instead, they will merely have to be content with this too-late four-game surge at the end.

"I think we played like a real good football team today," an emotional Vermeil said afterward. "And (the Raiders) played like a good team regardless of their win/loss record. At this late stage in the year, to play that hard on two short weeks in a row is a tremendous tribute to our guys."


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