As always, I've tried to pick out plays that held some degree of significance – usually within the context of the game they occurred in, but also in the bigger picture if applicable.
Starting with play #10, we examine the bottom half of the Top 10.
10) McGraw's blocked punt (Kansas City @ Baltimore - September 13)
Twenty minutes into the 2009 season opener, Kansas City – led by backup quarterback Brodie Croyle – had only managed a paltry 10 yards of offense against the Baltimore Ravens.
Facing a 10-0 deficit early in the second quarter, the Chiefs were already in danger of seeing the game slip away. With no offensive production to speak of, any additional scoring by the Ravens may well have put the game out of reach.
In order for Kansas City to battle back, it was clear that one of two things needed to happen. Either the Chiefs' struggling offense had to find some life against one of the league's most vaunted defenses, or the team needed to find some big plays in the other two phases of the game.
After the Chiefs' offense went three and out for the fourth consecutive time, a 57-yard Dustin Colquitt punt forced the Ravens to start at their own 9-yard line. With Baltimore pinned back, Kansas City's defense responded and held the Ravens to their only three and out of the game.
With Baltimore punter Sam Koch standing at the one-yard line, Chiefs' safety Jon McGraw raced past the line of scrimmage untouched and blocked the kick. The ball bounced into the end zone, slipping away from at least three different Chiefs before McGraw himself secured it for the touchdown.
Suddenly, what looked to be a sure blowout was just a three-point game, as the Chiefs had closed the gap to 10-7. A key defensive play later in the game would give Kansas City a 14-10 lead, but they would ultimately fall to the Ravens 38-24.
Along with Jamaal Charles' kickoff return against Pittsburgh and Andy Studebaker's fumble recovery against the Browns, McGraw's block and recovery was one of three touchdowns the Chiefs scored on special teams this season. That mark tripled their output from 2008, when their only special teams touchdown came on Maurice Leggett's recovery of a Raider fake field goal.
9) Belcher stops the Steelers short (Pittsburgh @ Kansas City - November 22)
When ranking the top defensive plays of the year, it's easy to go with the flashy ones – interceptions, sacks or big hits. A simple tackle isn't nearly as exciting.
Unless, of course, that tackle is the result of a great individual effort during a critical situation.
With the score knotted at 24 in overtime, the Steelers – who had lost quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to a concussion – were driving on the Chiefs' side of the field. Facing third and two at the 35-yard line, they called an outside run and pitched the ball to running back Mewelde Moore.
Making it look easy, Chiefs' rookie linebacker Jovan Belcher raced into the backfield, sliced his way through the Steelers' blockers, and brought down Moore for a two-yard loss.
The tackle was huge for several reasons. First and foremost, by making the stop, Belcher prevented Pittsburgh from continuing their drive. Of course, there was still the possibility of a game winning-field goal.
From where the Steelers snapped the ball on the 35-yard line, they would have had to attempt a 52-yard field goal. But with Belcher's play causing them to lose two yards, it would have turned the field goal into a 54-yard attempt.
The longest field goal of Steelers' kicker Jeff Reed's career was a 53-yarder in 2008. In 2009, though, he didn't make a kick longer than 46 yards. Rather than have Reed try to set a new career record, Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin opted to punt the ball away.
The Chiefs scored on their next possession to win the game.
From kickoff returns to interceptions to long catch-and-runs, it took a host of big plays – some of which we'll see later in this countdown – for the Chiefs to upset the Steelers. But without Belcher's third-down stop, all of it would have been for naught.
8) An INT seals the win (Kansas City @ Oakland - November 15)
One week after the worst game of his professional career, Chiefs safety Mike Brown bounced back with a two-interception game, earning AFC Defensive Player of the Week honors.
His second pick, which came with 30 seconds left in the fourth quarter, sealed the 16-10 win and gave the Chiefs their second victory of the season.
Of course, there was more to it than that. The game-saving interception wasn't the result of a great play by Brown as much as it was an embarrassing gaffe on the part of Raiders' first-round pick Darius Heyward-Bey.
If the drafting of Heyward-Bey with the eighth pick in last year's draft didn't produce howls of laughter in most circles, it at least brought about a hearty round of chuckles, chortles, and guffaws. Heyward-Bey wasn't considered the draft's best receiver, or even the second-best receiver, but he did post the fastest 40-yard dash time of any player at the NFL combine.
That was all that mattered as far as Al Davis was concerned.
Playing in 11 games his rookie season, Heyward-Bey finished the year with just nine catches for 124 yards and a touchdown. But his season will be remembered most for this play, when – in the final moments of the game – he let a pass bounce off his chest, tipped it up into the air, and put it right into Brown's waiting arms.
Like last year's fake field-goal attempt, we include this on our Top 10 list not only because the play was crucial in a rare Chiefs' victory, but because it also gives us another laugh at the expense of our friends in Oakland.
7) Chambers' big debut (Kansas City @ Jacksonville - November 8th)
After keeping the score close for most of the game, Jacksonville had finally pulled away, opening up a 24-6 lead with only a few minutes left. The desperate Chiefs managed to move the ball out past midfield, only for Matt Cassel to be sacked as he dropped back on second down.
There were just over three minutes left in the game, the Chiefs were losing by 18 points, and they were facing third and 19 from their own 46-yard line. Things couldn't have looked much bleaker.
Despite rarely having the time to go deep, Cassel took the snap, dropped back, and uncorked a long pass downfield to wide receiver Chris Chambers, who the Chiefs had just claimed on waivers earlier that same week. By itself, his 54-yard touchdown reception wasn't enough to bring the Chiefs' back, but it did seem to provide a silver lining. Perhaps with the addition of Chambers, the Chiefs had found a new dimension to their offense.
Kansas City went for the onside kick and, to everyone's surprise, actually managed to recover it. Suddenly, they were moving the ball down the field at will, capping off another touchdown drive with Chambers' second score in less than two minutes. Unable to recover a second onside kick, however, the Chiefs lost 24-21.
Still, the emergence of Chambers proved to be a sign of things to come.
6) Hali's safety ices the game (Kansas City @ Washington - October 18)
Entering Week 6, the Chiefs were still looking for their first win. Their game against the Washington Redskins, who had already helped Detroit end a 19-game losing streak, seemed like a perfect opportunity.
With 41 seconds left in the fourth quarter, rookie kicker Ryan Succop hit a 24-yard field goal, giving the Chiefs a 12-6 lead. The way the Redskins' offense was playing that day, they hardly seemed capable of putting together a last-minute touchdown drive. But against the Chiefs' defense, anything is possible.
It was like the resistible force against the movable object.
Forced back to their own 7-yard line after a penalty on the kickoff, former Chiefs quarterback Todd Collins took the snap for Washington, retreated into the endzone, and was quickly smothered by a charging Tamba Hali. The resulting safety gave the Chiefs a 14-6 lead, and after recovering the Redskins' onside kick attempt, the game was in the bag.
The most impressive part of Hali's sack is that the Chiefs only rushed three players, dropping everyone else into coverage. Even with a running back briefly staying into protect, Hali simply blew past the blockers and took down Collins before he had a chance to react.
With that play, the Chiefs officially notched their first win of the season.
Top 10 Plays of 2009 - Part I
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