November 26 1978 : Kansas City Chiefs 23 – San Diego Chargers 0
Forty years ago, the Chiefs were flying low.
Under Marv Levy, in his first year of his first head coaching job, the team had limped to 2-10. They were in the worst five teams in the NFL in points scored, and also in points allowed. The visitors at Arrowhead were divisional rivals the San Diego Chargers, who had beaten the Chiefs 29-23 in southern California just two weeks earlier.
The game was a slow burner, with no points scored in the first quarter. When the deadlock was finally broken, it was a field goal from the trusty boot of future Hall-of-Famer Jan Stenerud. But once the points were on the board, the Chiefs really started to turn on the style.
The defence gave Chargers’ QB James Harris a torrid time, picking him off no fewer than 5 times over the course of the afternoon, and disrupting the flow of the San Diego offence repeatedly. Four played caught an interception, including safety Tim Gray who took two. Gray obviously enjoyed playing the Chargers – the season before he had made a crucial fourth quarter fumble recovery, which he took 15 yards to make the game winning score against the same team.
On the other side of the ball, the offence was also starting to fire, as KC quarterback Mike Livingston was having a decent day. He found wide receiver Henry Marshall with a 29 yard pass to stretch the lead.
Mizzou graduate Marshall spent his whole 12 years career at Arrowhead after being drafted in the third round in 1976. He racked up over 6,500 receiving yards, and his 416 receptions still ranks third overall for the franchise (it’ll be fourth pretty soon, once Travis Kelce overtakes him!) Probably his finest game for the Chiefs came in 1980, when he caught 9 passes for 176 yards and two second-half touchdowns, as KC came from a half time deficit to win a thriller 38-28 away in Baltimore.
Livingston promptly led the team back downfield on another drive, and finished it off with another touchdown pass, this time to wide receiver Larry Dorsey. Dorsey had been drafted by the Chargers, and his first ever career touchdown had been for the Chargers, against the Chiefs, in that same 1977 game in which Tim Gray had scored the winner. In a neat piece of symmetry, this touchdown for the Chiefs against the Chargers was his last ever NFL score.
With the game in the bag, Kansas City controlled the ball in the second half, stopping San Diego from getting a point on the board, while adding two more Stenerud field goals to pull away to a comfortable 23-0 win. After some recent nail-biting games let’s hope that, 40 years on, the 2018 team can give us an equally relaxing victory!
Elsewhere in the NFL at the time:
At a cold Lambeau field, the high flying Vikings and Packers battled out a low scoring affair. Late in the fourth quarter, a Fran Tarkenton pass to Ahmad Rashad brought Minnesota level at 10-10. Neither team managed to score in overtime, and so the teams played out the 1978 season’s only tied game. The two teams both finished the season at 8-7-1, but the Vikings edged the Packers out of a playoff spot.
Elsewhere in the world:
A few days before this game, the “Star Wars Holiday Special” airs, a 90 minute Christmas feature which bridged the gap between the original film and The Empire Strikes Back. All the main cast appeared, along with Chewbacca’s son ‘Lumpy’ and father ‘Itchy’ (no, really…)