December 19 1982: Kansas City Chiefs 37 – Denver Broncos 16
In their last game before Christmas, the Chiefs players were hoping to give their fans a much-needed gift.
Following a players’ strike which had shortened the season, Kansas City had under-performed badly, and a four game losing streak left them with a 1 and 5 record, which meant they were already almost certainly out of playoff contention.
Hosts Denver were similarly struggling and in need of a boost, but it was the visiting Chiefs who drew first blood with a Nick Lowery field goal which was the only score in the opening quarter. Early in the second, a Denver pass in mid-field was snatched out of the air by Eric Harris, who took the ball back 56 yards for the game’s first touchdown, to put KC 10 points ahead.
Harris had been drafted in 1977, but opted to play in Canada. After three seasons playing in Toronto, he switched back to the NFL and joined the Chiefs who still held his draft rights. He promptly won the team’s rookie of the year award (as, despite his experience north of the border, he was still officially considered a rookie for NFL purposes). He was a great cornerback for the team, grabbing 17 interceptions in a three year spell – this was the only one of those 17 which he took back for a pick six. And the player Harris picked off – was Steve deBerg, who was only a back-up in Denver, but who would go on to have 4 very successful years at Arrowhead later in the decade.
Despite this good start for Kansas City, the hosts then got on the scoreboard with a short rushing TD, and followed this with a long distance punt return to give them a 13-10 lead at half time. Shortly after the break, Chiefs QB Bill Kenney found tight end Al Dixon for a short range touchdown pass (which would prove to be the last of Dixon’s career). The teams traded field goals, and by the fourth quarter, the match was still too close to call, with KC holding a 23-16 lead.
The difference between the teams would prove to be a tale of two passes. Firstly, Kenney found young wide receiver Carlos Carson for a 33 yard catch and run to stretch the Chiefs’ lead. And then on the Broncos next drive, an optimistic pass from deBerg gave up his second interception of the game, which was carried 43 yards by safety Gary Barbaro, to complete the scoring and secure a comfortable win.
For those not aware of Barbaro, he came to Kansas City from tiny Nicholls State University, and promptly won rookie of the year in 1976. The following year, he took an interception 102 yards from his own end zone to score against Seattle (still a Chiefs record), and in 1979 he was named the team’s MVP for the season, in the first year in which the award was given. Then from 1980 to 1982 he was selected to the Pro bowl in three consecutive years.
In a lean year, this was the Chiefs’ best defensive performance: holding the Broncos to 220 yards, and forcing four turnovers, they were able to head back home and enjoy a well-earned Christmas dinner!
Elsewhere in the NFL at the time:
The Los Angeles derby was a thriller at the Coliseum.
A couple of early touchdowns for running back Wendell Tyler helped the Rams to a 21-7 lead at the break. However the Raiders roared back in the second half of the game to take a 30-21 lead well into the last quarter. The Rams then scored a touchdown and a field goal to regain the lead 31-30 with time running out – only for future Chief and future Hall of Famer Marcus Allen to break their hearts with a touchdown in the dying seconds, as the Raiders ran out 37-31 winners.
Elsewhere in the world:
‘Gandhi’ is a smash hit at the box office this month – making a star of Ben Kingsley, and scooping 8 Oscars.