November 13 1988 : Kansas City Chiefs 31 – Cincinnati Bengals 28
The 1988 Bengals were one of the best teams in that franchise’s history. When they brought their 8-2 record to Arrowhead on a cool November afternoon (the Chiefs were a less impressive 1-8-1 at the time), they were confidently expected by all experts to continue their march to the playoffs. Cincy would indeed go on to win the AFC Central division and reach the Superbowl, but they didn’t get the result they wanted in KC.
The first half of the game was a frustrating one for the home fans, as the Chiefs had the majority of the possession and the offensive gains, but stalled whenever they got in sight of the goal line. The Bengals scored two touchdowns (including one from star rookie running back Ickey Woods – in the middle of a season where he racked up 1,500 yards from scrimmage and 18 touchdowns). By contrast the Chiefs scored three times, but each one was a field goal by kicker Nick Lowery.
After scoring a single field goal for the New England Patriots, Lowery moved to KC and spent 14 seasons, and over 200 matches, as the Chiefs kicker. In 11 out of those 14 seasons he had a perfect 100% record in points-after-touchdown, and he was selected to the Pro Bowl on 3 occasions. He also played and scored in three playoff victories, over the Raiders, Steelers, and Oilers – a record we’d love current Chiefs players to repeat!
The frustration seemed set to continue into the second half, as Bengals QB Boomer Esiason sneaked over the line to stretch the lead to 21-9. The Chiefs managed to finally cross the line when quarterback Steve deBerg led a drive and topped it off with a 17 passing play to Stephone Paige – however, smiles turned to frowns immediately, as Cincinnati’s Stanford Jennings took the kick-off straight back for another touchdown. The Chiefs were back to 12 points behind and time was ticking in the 3rd quarter.
However, this was the team’s cue to step up on both sides of the ball.
Another offensive drive put Lowery in range for his 4th field goal of the day, and then the defence pinned the visitors back deep in their own territory – cornerback Albert Lewis managed to block the resulting punt, and the ball ran out of the end zone for a safety. The Chiefs got the ball back, and with confidence growing, another drive downfield put Christian Okoye in range for a 1 yard score to tie the game up at 28-28. The ‘Nigerian Nightmare’ was still a young player on the up at this point – the following year he would break through and grab national attention by scoring 12 touchdowns, grabbing the NFL rushing title, and being named All-Pro!
All square, and now the Bengals had the ball back. But the defence held out one more time and the visitors were forced to punt once again. DeBerg led the Chiefs down the field one last time, and with time running low, the team trusted in Nick Lowery’s reliable foot. From 39 yards, he kicked his 5th field goal from 5 attempts, and sealed a 31-28 win for Kansas City.
Elsewhere in the NFL at the time:
A much less closely contested game in Texas – the Cowboys were at home, and had Herschel Walker and Michael Irvin in the line up. But that couldn’t protect them from being blown away by an in-form Minnesota Vikings team. Long-time back up QC Wade Wilson had one of his very best games as the Vikings blew out their hapless hosts 43-3.
Elsewhere in the world:
After spending 8 years as vice president to Ronald Reagan, George HW Bush is elected as the 41st president of the United States. At the same time, U2’s double album ‘Rattle and Hum’ is number 1 on both sides of the Atlantic.