Harbaugh Returns To His Field of Triumph

Jim Harbaugh returns to Arrowhead Stadium Friday night and there is no question it will bring back some fond memories for the head coach of the San Francisco 49ers.

Quite possibly his greatest moment in 14 seasons as an NFL quarterback came on the playing surface at Arrowhead. The date was January 7, 1996, a divisional-round game in the AFC playoffs. The Chiefs had finished the 1995 season with a 13-3 record. That was not only the best record in the conference, but also the best record in the league. Marty Schottenheimer’s team had a week off before hosting a post-season game.

Indianapolis was 9-7 and a wildcard team. Harbaugh had come over the previous season from the Chicago Bears where he entered the league. The 1995 season was his best as a starting quarterback. The Colts were 7-5 in the 12 games he started, and Harbaugh finished with a passer rating of 100.7 thanks to a 63.7 completion percentage, 17 touchdown passes and only 5 interceptions.

In the wildcard round of the AFC playoffs, the Colts went to San Diego and beat the Chargers 35-20. The next step brought them to Arrowhead.

It was a 3 p.m. kickoff that day and even late in the afternoon, it was cold. Game-time temperature was 0 degrees with a wind chill factor pushing the felt like temperature to minus-15 degrees. The Chiefs went into the game favored by 8 points according to the folks in Las Vegas and most in the league figured the matchup to possibly go to the Super Bowl would be between Pittsburgh and the Chiefs.

Harbaugh had other thoughts, and so did the Colts defense.

It would turn into a defensive struggle in the cold. The Chiefs scored first on a 20-yard touchdown pass from QB Steve Bono to WR Lake Dawson. The Colts came back and tied things up ine second quarter as Harbaugh hit WR Floyd Turner for a 5-yard scoring pass. That made it 7-7 at half-time.

In the 3rd quarter the Colts added a field goal to take a 10-7 lead on a 30-yard field goal from Cary Blanchard.

That’s how the game ended. The Chiefs would turn the ball over 4 times in the game, and kicker Lin Elliott would miss 3 makeable field goals. When it was all over, Harbaugh walked off the field with the game ball and a salute to a few Colts fans that had been able to enjoy the upset. On the day, Harbaugh completed 12 of 27 passes for just 112 yards, one TD throw and one interception.

The next week, the Colts went to Pittsburgh and came one play away from beating the Steelers and earning a trip to the Super Bowl. Pittsburgh won 20-16 and then went on to lose to the Dallas Cowboys.

In his 181-game NFL career, that day at Arrowhead Stadium proved to be the most satisfying of Jim Harbaugh’s career.

8 Responses to “Harbaugh Returns To His Field of Triumph”

  • August 16, 2013  - Niblick says:

    That’s a game I will never forget. I froze in the sub-zero weather and never left a game so frustrated. In addition to all the missed field goals and turnovers, Marty abandoned the run and put the game in the hands of Bono in the 2nd half. I never understood why in such terrible weather. He inserted Gannon late in the game, who almost led us to the winning score. It was an incomplete pass in the end zone to Dawson, if I recall. Oh well, another sad memory of playoff frustration.

  • August 16, 2013  - ATrain81 says:

    I was at that game. I’m still cold. Linvell Elliot could have used a ball warmer. Niblick you’re right: “Oh well, another sad memory of playoff frustration.” I met the woman who is now my wife the following week. So that helped.

  • August 16, 2013  - Chiefabroad says:

    It was a sad day. I prefer not to think of it. And I believe I’m not mistaken in remembering that Harbaugh’s Colts did us again the following year, in the regular season. It was also a cold day. As a sports fan we have to take the bitter with the better (though we’ve been waiting a long time for the better).

  • August 16, 2013  - txchief says:

    I still have not forgiven Lin Elliot. I understand he sells insurance in Austin now. I doubt he would even consider showing his face in KC.

  • August 16, 2013  - SteveO says:

    I remember Jason Whitlock’s column the day after – paraphrasing his lead paragraph – Lin, call me. I’ll give you a ride to the airport.

  • August 16, 2013  - johnfromfairfax says:

    Sadly, I too remember that clunker. An unsatisfying day all around and if I’m not mistaken the pass to Dawson might have been tipped or was obscured but could have been caught to cap off one of the most frustrating losses for long suffering Chiefs fans. Wasn’t that also the year we set a record for not allowing a score or TD in the second half of like 10 games? I always thought if Montana stayed one more year we go to and maybe win the super bowl. Yeah, it still hurts.

  • August 16, 2013  - Randall Webb says:

    I still can’t stand Harbaugh!!!!

  • August 16, 2013  - Craig says:

    Playing Bono instead of Gannon was Marty’s mistake.

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