December 18 1983: Kansas City Chiefs 48 – Denver Broncos 17
Hard times at Arrowhead… after our glory days in the late 60’s and early 70’s, the Chiefs had been largely uncompetitive for a good many years. The team was approaching the end of the 1983 season with a 5 and 10 record to seal a twelfth consecutive failure to make the playoffs, and with the December weather well below freezing, a host of no-shows meant an attendance of only 11,000 for the game against divisional rivals Denver.
The Broncos had already sealed a playoff spot, and were favourites to sweep the Chiefs after a narrow win at Mile High stadium earlier in the year. However, things went very wrong, very quickly – on only the third play of the game, star quarterback John Elway’s pass was intercepted and taken back 58 yards by defensive back Lucious Smith for the only touchdown of his professional career. It would prove to be a tough day for Elway – after hitting on only 13 of 34 passes, and being intercepted four times in total, he would end the day benched in favour of back up Gary Kubiak.
The defence was in lock down mode for Kansas City – forcing the Broncos to punt on their next two drives. And the offence looked just as good, as QB Bill Kenney led the Chiefs on touchdown drives following both punts, rounding them off with passes to Willie Scott and Carlos Carson.
Carson was in the middle of a 10 year career with the Chiefs, during which time he racked up 33 touchdowns and over 6000 career receiving yards. The yards gained in this game took him to 1,351 for the season, setting a franchise record which stood for nearly twenty years. He was selected to the Pro Bowl in 1983 (as was Kenney) and again in 1987, and later this year he will become the latest name added to the Ring of Honour at Arrowhead Stadium.
After Denver finally got off the mark with a field goal, KC turned to the ground game to press home their advantage, and managed another touchdown before half time, a 1 yard rush from Theotis Brown. The teams headed to the locker rooms with the hosts in an unexpected 28-3 lead.
The Chiefs didn’t let up on the pressure after the break. Two Nick Lowery field goals sandwiched another short range rushing touchdown, again scored by Theotis Brown. Brown had played for local rivals the St Louis Rams, and then divisional rivals the Seattle Seahawks, before moving to Kansas City part way through the 1983 season. He became a favourite right away by scoring in both of his first two games, and the pair against Denver brought him up to 8 for the season.
Brown then scored 4 more touchdowns and racked up over 500 yards from scrimmage the next year – however his career was dramatically cut short by a heart attack suffered while training in the off-season. Brown recovered but would never play again. The family link to football continues though, as his son is director of scouting with the Philadelphia Eagles and has been linked with GM roles recently.
With both starting QBs now sitting down, there was time for two garbage time scores to give a veneer of respectability to Denver. But the Chiefs had the last word, as a pair of rookies hooked up. First round draft pick Todd Blackledge hit undrafted wide receiver Stephone Paige for a 23-yard score to seal the game as a 48-17 win for Kansas City.
Elsewhere in the NFL at the time:
Plenty of other divisional rivalries on display on this day – a late, late field goal helped a Walter Payton-led Bears team to sneak past the visiting Packers, 23 to 21. Meanwhile the Cleveland Browns comfortably swatted aside the Pittsburgh Steelers 30 to 14, thanks mainly to four touchdown passes from QB Brian Sipe.
Elsewhere in the world:
An IRA bomb, detonated outside Harrods in London at the height of the Christmas shopping season, kills 6 and injures dozens more. The Flying Pickets did their best to cheer everyone up, topping the charts with their hit single “Only You”.