October 9th 1995: Kansas City Chiefs 29 – San Diego Chargers 23
In 1995, head coach Marty Schottenheimer had assembled a good team. On his coaching staff were Herm Edwards and Gunther Cunningham (both future Chiefs head coaches), and Mike McCarthy (now ten years and counting into a successful spell as Green Bay’s head coach). Although Joe Montana had retired, the team still had the figurehead of Marcus Allen to rally around, and it was expected to improve on the previous year’s 9-and-7 record.
The Chiefs made a good start, winning 4 of their first 5 games, a slip-up away in Cleveland being the only defeat so far. Next up was a televised Monday night game against divisional rivals the San Diego Chargers who had themselves had a decent 3-and-2 start to the campaign. The game would be a thriller, with the lead changing hands several times and there was never more than a score between the two sides.
In the first half of the game both teams scored two field goals and a touchdown, to go in level at 13-13. The Chiefs field goal was a short pass from Joe Montana’s replacement at quarterback, Steve Bono.
Bono was a veteran journeyman, who had already played for the Vikings, Steelers and 49ers, and would later play for the Packers, Rams and Panthers. He was often a back-up, but this was the season where he was the starter for all 16 games, and he responded to the faith Schottenheimer showed in him, passing for over 300 yards, 21 touchdowns and only 10 interceptions. He also rushed well this season, scoring 5 touchdowns himself, including a 76 yarder to open the scoring in our game against Arizona.
After a scoreless third quarter, the drama then ramped up. A long field goal from Lin Elliott gave the Chiefs the lead, only for the Chargers to hit Tight End Shannon Mitchell for the only touchdown of his entire career to regain the lead at 20-16. A field goal then padded San Diego’s lead to 7 points, but a late drive saw us tie the game as Bono threw a touchdown pass to Derrick Walker (Tight End Walker had been drafted by the Chargers and had actually scored against us in both the 1990 and 1992 seasons, before moving to Arrowhead).
So we entered overtime – which was familiar territory for the team, as we had played – and won – in overtime twice already this season. The Chargers took the first possession and although they made it into Chiefs territory the drive ended in a punt. The Chiefs then went three and out and also had to punt. Then two incomplete passes followed by a sack meant it was the Chargers turn to punt. The Chiefs returner was rookie Tamarick Vanover, already very well known for his exploits as a kickoff and punt returner at Florida State. In the season opener, and his NFL debut, he had taken Seattle’s second half kick-off 99 yards back for a touchdown. The kick went reasonably deep and the Chargers special teams got close to Vanover as he collected the ball.
“Tamarick Vanover, that walking stick of dynamite is waiting to light the fuse again… it’ll be taken by Vanover at the 15… he’s in trouble!”
But he wasn’t. He shrugged off the first tackle, headed towards the sideline, was almost brought to a halt by a jersey grab but kept going. Then some great blocks by his Chiefs team-mates created a gap to accelerate into and he was gone. As this was overtime, Vanover’s score brought the game to an immediate end in front of celebrating KC fans as well as a nationwide audience.
Vanover went on to score 4 TDs from kick-off returns, 4 from punt returns, and 3 more from receptions over his time as a Chief. Sadly his career petered out and he had various run-ins with the police, but his highlight reel is still a treat for any Chiefs (or Seminoles) fan to watch.
San Diego and Kansas City both made the playoffs – and were both knocked out by the Colts, first the Chargers in the wild card round, and then our own Chiefs in the divisional round.
Elsewhere in the NFL at the time:
The Chiefs game wasn’t the only one to go to overtime that weekend. The Philadelphia Eagles hosted the Redskins and Charley Garner starred for the hosts with three touchdowns. But the Redskins kept fighting back and tied the game at 34-34 with a late field goal. Washington’s fight was in vain though, as kicker Gary Anderson hit a field goal to send the home fans home happy.
Elsewhere in the world:
OJ Simpson is found not guilty on two counts of murder. Meanwhile, here in the UK, former Prime Minister Alex Douglas-Home dies at the age of 92.