October 19 1986: Kansas City Chiefs 42 – San Diego Chargers 41
By the 1986 season, the Kansas City Chiefs had not made the playoffs for 14 straight seasons. But John Mackovic’s side had some strength – with good receiving options in Carlos Carson, Henry Marshall and Stephone Paige, as well as a defence which looked to its star safety Deron Cherry for inspiration.
After a 3 & 3 start, the team welcomed divisional rivals San Diego to Arrowhead. The Chargers had made a slow start to the season but with quarterback Dan Fouts running coach Don Coryell’s renowned “Air Coryell” offence they were always a threat.
Kansas City struck first in the game, with a 45 yard touchdown pass by Todd Blackledge (a first round draft pick from a few years earlier) to wide receiver Stephone Paige. But it didn’t take the visitors long to strike back, as their next drive was topped off by a short Fouts pass to Gary Anderson.
With the scores level, the second quarter proved to be a wild one. First of all, strong safety Lloyd Burruss picked off Fouts in midfield, and took the pick home for a score. Then, from Nick Lowery’s kickoff, the Chargers fumbled the return and Kevin Ross picked up the ball and scored another – in a flash the Chiefs were 21-7 ahead.
San Diego then struck again, another good drive finished off by a short range rush. After the Chiefs had to punt, the Chargers started to drive once more – but yet again Lloyd Burruss picked off Dan Fouts, and yet again he took it back for a touchdown, this time a 47 yarder to add to the 56 yarder earlier. This is the only time a Chief has ever scored two pick sixes in a game at Arrowhead (some of you may remember Derrick Johnson getting a pair in a road game at Mile High stadium a few years back).
Burruss played his whole 11 year career as a Chief. After winning the team’s rookie of the year award in 1981, he was then team MVP for the 1985 season. When his name went into the Chiefs Hall of Fame in 1999, he became the only player to have received all three of these team awards. Other great players like Christian Okoye and Derrick Thomas have since equalled this feat.
The Chargers then fought back yet again, first getting a field goal, and then getting a pick six of their own as Blackledge gave up the ball under pressure close to his own line. At the end of a breathless second quarter which saw 38 points scored, the Chiefs’ lead had been cut back to 28-24.
After the break, Stephone Paige caught his second touchdown pass of the game, this time from veteran quarterback Bill Kenney, who had replaced Blackledge following an injury.
Paige, an undrafted free agent out of Fresno State, carved out a successful 9 year career as a Chief. He scored 50 touchdowns for the team in total, and his 11 in this year was his highest total. He saved his best for Chargers games – as well as this touchdown double, he had notched an amazing line, in the corresponding 1985 fixture, of 8 receptions, for 309 yards and 2 touchdowns! This broke a 40 year old record to become the most receiving yards ever by a player in an NFL game (it has since been beaten twice, most recently by Calvin Johnson).
Refusing to lie down, the Chargers scored another touchdown, Gary Anderson’s second, and then a field goal. Well inside the last quarter, the lead was now down to a point. KC scored again, as running back Boyce Green, in his only season with the team, hit home from a yard out. But there was still time for yet another San Diego comeback, as Anderson notched his third TD of the day. Despite some nerves, time finally ran out on this encounter, and when the smoke cleared the home team had somehow emerged with a 42 to 41 win.
This win was the spark for a 4 game streak, which helped the Chiefs get to a 10-6 record for the season, earning a wild card spot, and a long awaited return to the post season. It was a short lived return however, as we lost to the New York Jets (who themselves then lost to the Browns – how times have changed in the NFL !)
Elsewhere in the NFL at the time:
A much more one-sided affair in Pittsburgh, where the hapless Steelers dropped to a 1 & 6 record as they were crushed 34-0 by the visiting Patriots. New England QB Steve Grogan made 3 touchdown passes to three different receivers, while his opposite number Bubby Brister had a terrible night topped off by a pick 6 which gave Fred Marion the only score of his 10 year NFL career.
Elsewhere in the world:
All systems go in the UK this month: the Independent newspaper is launched, the M25 London Orbital motorway is opened, and the BBC starts televising Australian soap opera ‘Neighbours’!