November 30 1997: Kansas City Chiefs 44 – San Francisco 49ers 9
When the 49ers headed to Arrowhead 21 years ago, it was for a clash of the titans between two teams with serious Superbowl ambitions.
Marty Schottenheimer’s Chiefs had a 9 and 3 record, but San Francisco, led by QB Steve Young, were doing even better with an 11 and 1 record so far. However, Steve Mariucci’s team would be brought down to earth abruptly by a dominant Chiefs performance.
The fun started early, with quarterback Rich Gannon finding Andre Rison with a short range pass to open the scoring. After several successful years in Atlanta, 1997 would see Rison making his fifth and final Pro Bowl, this time as a Chief. Despite a 49ers field goal, KC kept up their momentum, with another short Gannon pass this time to rookie tight end Tony Gonzalez. Gonzalez would of course eventually travel in the opposite direction to Rison, making 4 Pro Bowls as a Falcon after his 10 as a Chief. He is eligible for the Hall of Fame from 2019 onwards, and this writer will wear a Raiders top to our next meet up if he is not invited to Canton at the first possible opportunity!
Another Chiefs star, running back Marcus Allen, then took centre stage. Firstly in the usual way, punching home a 3 yard run to increase the lead. And then he took over QB duties, to toss a 1 yard pass to Ted Popson – Popson had played the previous three seasons in San Francisco, and this score against his old team was his first touchdown since moving to Arrowhead this year. Despite a late 49ers field goal, the Chiefs sent the 77,000 home crowd to the interval delighted with a 28-6 lead.
The second half started with a San Francisco field goal, but after that score, the play carried on much like the first half, with a pass from Gannon to Rison once again providing the first touchdown of the half.
The unsung heroes of the offensive line had played their part in this dominant display, preventing SF from getting a single sack on Gannon all afternoon. The 49ers O-line hadn’t been quite as successful, allowing the Chiefs defence to feast with 5 sacks on the day. And after a Chiefs punt pinned the visitors back on their own goal line, defenders Joe Phillips and Donnie Edwards managed to pounce on running back Terry Kirby behind the line for a safety.
There was still time for the final insult – San Francisco’s next drive stalled in their own red-zone, and a pass from Jeff Brohm (on for Steve Young, who had been pulled with the game already lost) was picked off by Mark McMillian for a short range pick six. This was one of three interception TDs for McMillian in a career year for the defensive back. Kicker Pete Stoyanovich kicked his sixth extra point from six attempts to round off the game.
The 44 points in this game was the most that the 49ers had conceded in any game since 1980. Both teams would make the post-season with identical 13 and 3 records, but both would fail to make the Superbowl after disappointing home playoff defeats.
Elsewhere in the NFL at the time:
A breath-taking shootout at Veterans Field saw the hosts come away with a narrow win.
Philly scored early on, but two touchdowns by the visiting Bengals gave them the lead, only for two more by hosts to make it 24-14 to the Eagles at the break. The Eagles stretched their lead to 13 points, but two more Cincinnati touchdowns gave them a one point advantage late on. But there was still time for Eagles to delight their home fans with a late field goal for a 44-42 win.
Elsewhere in the world:
The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary this month. In (probably) unrelated news, MTV aired the last ever new episode of Beavis and Butthead.