November 16 1997: Kansas City Chiefs 24 – Denver Broncos 22
Week 12 of the 1997 season saw a blockbuster battle between the top two sides in the AFC West, as the 9-1 Denver Broncos came to Arrowhead to take on the 7-3 Chiefs. The Broncos had already won in the season opener, and were looking for the season sweep that would lock up the division.
The visitors looked in great form early on – two field goals from Jason Elam, either side of a touchdown pass from John Elway to Shannon Sharpe, gave them a 13-0 lead. But the ’97 vintage Chiefs were a resilient team, and they fought back with a long drive capped by a short range Marcus Allen TD. The veteran Hall of Fame running back was 37, and in his 16th and final year in the NFL, but was still good for 11 touchdowns in the season.
In the next drive, quarterback Rich Gannon (in for the injured Elvis Grbac) led the team back downfield, and rounded off with a 5 yard pass to wide receiver Danan Hughes, to give the home team a 14-13 lead. Hughes wasn’t a prolific scorer for the Chiefs, but had hit a golden spell – after a reception from Marcus Allen against Pittsburgh, and then a fumble return against Jacksonville, this was his third consecutive game with a touchdown.
After the break, the Chiefs started brightly, and Allen’s second short range rushing touchdown of the game extended their lead. But from then on, the Broncos had a solid spell where they dominated possession. The Chiefs defence kept working hard, and managed to keep the pressure on the Broncos’ sign caller throughout – repeated sacks broke up the momentum, meaning that Denver were forced to settle for field goals; three in total to put them back in front 22-21.
Leading the pressure was star linebacker Derrick Thomas, who claimed 2 of Kansas City’s 6 sacks on the day. Thomas had been KC’s first round draft pick back in 1989, and had been selected to the Pro Bowl as a rookie – the veteran was now in his ninth year at Arrowhead, and this would be his ninth consecutive trip to the Pro Bowl. After racking up well over 100 sacks as a one-team player, DT was elected posthumously to the Hall of Fame in 2009, the same year in which his 58 jersey number was retired by the franchise.
Despite the valiant effort by the defence, the team was still losing the game. Taking the ball on his own 27 yard line, Gannon led the team forward one last time. With 10 seconds left he was still only at the half way line, but managed to complete a pass to Andre Rison, who got out of bounds to stop the clock at 4 seconds, and set up a 54-yard field goal attempt. As time expired, Pete Stoyanovich struck the kick down the middle, and with just – only just! – enough length to make it over the goalpost to win the game.
After Stoyanovich was chaired off the field by his team-mates, a buoyant Chiefs team won out the rest of the season, to snatch the division crown from Denver by a single game.
Elsewhere in the NFL at the time:
Fans in Indianapolis saw a wild shoot-out, and went home happy in the end.
Brett Favre led the visiting Packers to an early lead, but three Colts touchdowns in quick succession (including a fumble return and 50 yard trick play) put them 24-14 ahead. There was still time for Green Bay to retake the lead before the break, going in 28-27 up at the half. The teams swapped scores in the third quarter, and the match was poised at 38-all with time running out, with just enough time for Indy to snatch the game with a late field goal.
Elsewhere in the world:
The Queen and Prince Philip celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. Like most people at the time, they probably celebrated by shaking a leg to Aqua’s “Barbie Girl”, which topped the charts for the whole month