December 31 2006: Kansas City Chiefs 35 – Jacksonville Jaguars 30
On New Year’s Eve 2006, the Chiefs hosted the Jaguars in a crucial end of season game. Kansas City held an 8 and 7 record going into the game, and had to win – and hope for results to go their way elsewhere – to make it into the playoffs.
Things started well, as a Jaguars three-and-out forced them to punt well inside their own half. The punt was blocked by rookie safety Bernard Pollard, who then retrieved the loose ball and returned it for the game’s opening score. This was the third blocked punt of the season for Pollard, and the play earned him a Special Teams Player of the Week award.
Pollard is best known for having very few friends in New England: in 2008, while sacking Tom Brady, he inflicted a season-ending injury on the QB. If that wasn’t enough, he injured Wes Welker the following year, and then Rob Gronkowski in 2010!
The Jags fought back, and a 10-play drive was ended with a Fred Taylor TD early in the second quarter. A field goal on their next drive gave the visitors a 10-7 lead.
KC responded immediately. A Larry Johnson 40 yard rush on the next drive put the team into the red zone, and the same player finished the job a few plays later from a yard out.
Jacksonville were quickly held to a three-and-out, and in the Chiefs’ next drive Trent Green aired the ball – twice to Larry Johnson for short gains, and twice to wide receiver Eddie Kennison for 23 yards, and then a 35 yard score. After successfully defending one last Jaguars drive, the hosts went to the interval with a 21-10 lead.
Jacksonville’s opening drive of the second half lasted two plays – on the second, David Garrard’s pass was picked off by Ty Law and taken back to the 2 yard line. Larry Johnson needed only one attempt to punch the ball home and extend the Chiefs’ lead.
The Jaguars replied with a TD of their own, but it was immediately cancelled out in KC’s next drive – the familiar story was yet another Johnson touchdown, his third of the game, to make the score 35-17. Newer fans may be unfamiliar with just how dominant Johnson was over the 2 year period of 2005 and 2006. Across that spell, he racked up an astonishing 4,200 yards from scrimmage, and an equally amazing 40 touchdowns. In a total of seven seasons at Arrowhead, this was one of 20 occasions in which he scored multiple touchdowns in a game.
Because the Chiefs never like to do things nice and easy, we then allowed the Jaguars to score two touchdowns to bring them back to within a score, before finally running out the clock with a 14-play drive that ate up the last five minutes of the game.
Elsewhere in the NFL at the time:
The Chiefs had done all they could, but they also needed the other Wild Card contenders – the Titans, Bengals, and Broncos – to lose home games if they were to make it to the post season.
The Titans rolled over fairly easily against New England, but both of the other games went to overtime. And in a tense affair, the Pittsburgh Steelers helped us out with a long touchdown pass from Ben Roethlisberger to Santonio Holmes, to eliminate the Bengals.
But over in Mile High, the game was all square after 10 minutes of overtime – and a tie would put Denver though, a half game ahead of us. Luckily, on a 3 down and 8 yards, young San Francisco 49ers quarterback Alex Smith (whatever happened to him?) made a 14 yard completion which put his team into field goal range. The kick was good, and after a nail-biting wait, the Chiefs were confirmed as the AFCs’ sixth seed.
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.