That Championship Thrill … Saturday Cup O’Chiefs

There is great excitement this weekend in the French Quarter. Same thing in Indianapolis. Parties are planned on Sunday from the concrete canyons of Manhattan to the fishing sheds on the 10,000 ice covered lakes of Minnesota.

It’s conference championship weekend in the NFL. Pro football’s final four. Every fan of the league enjoys this weekend, but it’s something special for the cities of the four teams playing the games.

Remember how that used to feel Chiefs fans? Probably not, because it’s been so long since Kansas City has experienced that type of football excitement. In fact, it was 16 years ago Saturday.

That was the day the Chiefs were in Buffalo to play the Bills in the 1993 AFC Championship Game. It was the first championship game of any kind for the Chiefs since their Super Bowl IV victory over Minnesota in January 1970. That was 24 years between title games, and now it’s been 16 years since the Chiefs have stood on the doorstep of the Super Bowl.

It was a cold day at Rich Stadium in the Buffalo suburb of Orchard Park. But then, what else would be expected on a January Sunday. At various times that Sunday afternoon, there was rain, snow and sleet falling on the teams. Temperatures were right around 30 degrees, but a wind out of the southwest that sometimes gusted to 20 mph made it feel like 15 degrees.

That the Chiefs were in the game was one of the validations for the organization’s addition of QB Joe Montana to the roster. He came over in a trade with the 49ers for one reason: to help the Chiefs get over the hump and experience success in the post-season. Before Montana’s arrival from San Francisco, the Chiefs had played four games in the playoffs under head coach Marty Schottenheimer and they were 1-3, and scored 16, 10, 14 and 0 points.

A bump in the offense was badly needed and after losing 17-0 to San Diego in the ’92 AFC playoffs, Schottenheimer decided to shake things up. Offensive coordinator Joe Pendry was not retained and Paul Hackett was hired to install the so-called West Coast offense developed by the late Bill Walsh. Who better to handle the new scheme with the Chiefs than the guy who had led the 49ers offense to Super Bowl titles.

The post-season dividends were immediate, as the Chiefs won a wild card round game against Pittsburgh 27-24 in overtime. Then it was a 28-20 victory on the road against the Houston Oilers in an AFC Divisional Playoff game. That was an average of 27.5 points, a sight better than the 10 points per game that were scored in the four post-season games from 1990 through 1992.

The Bills came into the game as one of the most experienced teams in NFL post-season history. In the previous three years, Buffalo had reached the Super Bowl, only to lose the title game to the New York Giants, Washington and Dallas.

There were a lot of Hall of Famers on the field that day. For the Bills, there was QB Jim Kelly, RB Thurman Thomas and DE Bruce Smith. Hall of Fame coach Marv Levy was on the sidelines. For the Chiefs, there was Montana, RB Marcus Allen and OLB Derrick Thomas.

The head official for the game was Johnny Grier, while NBC handled the broadcast, with Dick Enberg and Bob Trumpy in the booth and 76,642 fans in the stands for an 11:30 a.m. kickoff CST.

If you are a Chiefs fan of any standing, the memory of what happened near the end of the first half is permanently imprinted on your cerebral cortex. Buffalo led 20-6 when the Kansas City offense took over at their 20-yard line after a kickoff went out of the end zone. Montana started moving the offense, through the air, completing passes for nine, seven, 12, 16 and then 31 yards to RB Todd McNair. That set the Chiefs up at the Bills five-yard line, first-and-goal with 25 seconds to play.

Montana’s first pass was thrown out of the end zone. Only four seconds ticked off the clock. On second down, Montana dropped a short pass in the middle of the field to a wide open FB Kimble Anders who was at the goal line. Anders couldn’t handle the ball and it bounced off him into the air where it landed in the hands of Buffalo S Henry Jones, who brought it out of the end zone for a 15-yard return. Kelly kneeled down for the final play of the half.

Instead of trailing by just a touchdown at 20-13 if Anders holds onto the ball, the Chiefs were still down by 14 points, on the road, in bad weather, against an experienced team, led by a Hall of Fame quarterback. It was too much to overcome.

The Chiefs lost their Hall of Fame quarterback on the third offensive play of the second half, when Montana was crushed by Smith and suffered a concussion. He spent the rest of the game, sitting on the bench, a long coat wrapped around him, as he tried to clear his head. He was replaced by Dave Krieg, who later in the third quarter led the Chiefs on a 14-play, 90-yard scoring drive that ended with Allen getting into the end zone on a one-yard run. With 18 minutes left, the difference was just seven points.

But the Bills wrapped up the game with 10 points in the fourth quarter, for a 30-13 victory.

The excitement that comes with an appearance in the conference championship games is matched by the disappointment for the teams that lose. That thought of being one step away from the Super Bowl and having to go home is the ultimate disappointment in the NFL. Among the fans on St. Charles Street, or along Park Avenue, the Nicollet Mall or Monument Circle, two groups are going to be very disappointed.

The Chiefs carried that feeling home from Buffalo in the cold and snow 16 years ago. They wanted another chance.

They are still waiting.

TRANSACTIONS, NEWS & NOTES AROUND THE LEAGUE

  • AFC PRO BOWL TEAM – Texans LB Brian Cushing is out of the game; Steelers LB LaMarr Woodley added to the squad.
  • LIONS – hired special teams coach Danny Crossman (Panthers); announced QB coach Jeff Horton is leaving to join the staff at the University of Minnesota.
  • NFL – reported an average of 33 million fans watched football last week in the divisional round of the playoffs. That was a 15 percent increase over last year and the most viewers for a weekend of post-season football since 1994.
  • PACKERS – announced an average increase of $9 in ticket prices for the 2010 season. It’s the team’s first ticket price increase since 2007.
  • RAIDERS – hired Mike Waufle (Giants) as defensive line coach.
  • VIKINGS – QB Brett Favre is the leader in souvenir jersey sales after the end of the 2009 season according to the NFL. Favre was ahead of Colts QB Peyton Manning, Saints QB Drew Brees, Vikings RB Adrian Peterson and Steelers S Troy Polamalu.

SAY HAPPY BIRTHDAY …

Born on January 23, 1962 in Nassau County, New York was DL Pete Koch. He joined the Chiefs in 1985, after playing one season with the Bengals who selected him in the first round of the 1984 NFL Draft out of Maryland. Koch spent three seasons with the Chiefs (1985-87), appearing in 38 games. He finished his NFL career playing with the ’89 Los Angeles Rams. He went on to a movie career, with several bit parts in movies and television shows. That’s him to the left in Heartbreak Ridge where he played brawling Swede.

Born on January 23, 1964 in Hoboken, New Jersey was OL Frank Winters. He joined the Chiefs in 1990, after spending two seasons with the Browns and one with the Giants. Winters played two seasons (1990-91) with the Chiefs, appearing in 32 games and starting six while working at center and guard. He joined the Packers as a free agent in 1992 and played 11 seasons in Green Bay. Over his career, Winters played in 231 games. He continues to make his home in the Kansas City area.


5 Responses to “That Championship Thrill … Saturday Cup O’Chiefs”

  • January 23, 2010  - jimbo says:

    Another painful memory brought to the forefront. Once again Bob, you have made my day.
    I’ll be glad when the post season is over.
    Go Chiefs.


  • January 23, 2010  - ThunderChief says:

    Today’s story puts me in a reference sort of mindset that we’ve all heard from various coaches, players and team press releases:

    “You never know when you’ll get here again, if ever”, or words to that effect. Who would have thought the Chiefs would be waiting 16-17 years and counting for a berth in the AFC championship game?

    OR, 40 years and counting on another SuperBowl appearance? When they make it again, whenever that time/date happens, those shopworn words about ‘never knowing’ will ring more true than ever, more true than most NFL teams can appreciate. By the way, what NFL team with a Superbowl appearance to their credit has been waiting longer than the Chiefs for a return appearance?

    Yep, it’s the J-E-T-S and I’ll be pulling for them to end their Superbowl dry spell because we all know who deserves to end their dry duster next.


  • January 23, 2010  - PnS says:

    Bob….. Great post on the Chiefs grades.I find it strange that so many didn’t like the grades.We wanted a insider’s look at the chiefs. Then when we get the grade…..we refuse to admit it’s truth. To those ….. I use to be like you Blind Faith Fans but after 40yrs I now have a much better view . 2-14 4-12 doesn’t leave much of ……Well get them next year fan in me . It Is What It Is . As Dennis Green said after losing ……They are what we thought they where……loser’s….. as much as that hurts.


  • January 23, 2010  - Merwin in NY says:

    The one other thing I remember about that game was the wind chill factor. Joe Montana wore gloves for the first time in that game. He was wildly erratic in the first and early in the second quarter. Just before the drive in the second quarter he finally took off the gloves and lo and behold he drives down the field for seemly a score. What a let down on that interception. Then to have Joe go down in the third quarter, and to see him sitting on the sideline in that heavy trench coat. With a total blank look on his face with little idea of what was happening around him. I felt it crushed the hopes of the Chiefs players. They still keep fighting but the end was now determined with just the final score left to be determined. I just hope the Chiefs get back to the big dance soon!




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