Thursday, December 4, 2008

In the Thick of Things Tradition: The 90s

(Editor's Note: This is part two of a three-part installment. Part one has been complete-but-unpublishable due to technical difficulties for what seems like days now. When our power's restored, we'll get it up. Meantime, blame Al Gore.)

(Update: The re-write is up.)

Typically, if my eyes can handle it, I'll try to put these series-type posts together all in one, but, well, I'm getting very old rapidly, and why not break up reader monotony a bit. So, we've now seen that things looked rough for the Chiefs when they squared off against Denver in the 80s, and some immediate reader interest demanded that I include the 1980-82 seasons in such decade-inclusive stats, so I will. For that stretch of Tradtion-related football, the Chiefs went 4-1 against the Broncos. Nineteen eighty-two featured only one contest, a Chiefs win in Denver, while the series was split in '81, and in '80, yes, Kansas City actually swept the Broncos. But, we'll keep tabs based on the way I started them, and be fine with it.

In 1990, the Tradition started off in week two at Mile High Stadium, this one on Monday Night Football. The contest's outcome favored the Broncos in another close one, the 23-24 final indicative of the participant's performers. Steve DeBerg threw for 395 yards while Chief wide receiver Stephone Paige caught 206. On the Bronco side of the ball, Bobby Humphrey gained 132 yards. The Kansas City game fell into a familiar category: Denver losing at Arrowhead in the December. Despite 328 yards from John Elway and 90 receiving yards for Mark Jackson, the Chiefs found themselves victorious, 31-20. Clearly one of Denver's worst campaigns in years, the Super Bowl frequenters wrapped things up at 4-12 while the Chiefs, this time, went to the playoffs on the heels of an 11-5 record. In another wildcard berth, Kansas lost another nailbiter, this time in Miami, this time the good numbers from Paige and DeBerg mattered little.

The next year would offer both squads some unwanted common ground. In the regular season, Kansas City continued its pattern of close losses (16-19) in Denver, while diving into some now-familiar territory by losing to Denver (20-24) at home. Kansas City capped the season by knocking of the Raiders (27-21) to advance to the playoffs with a 10-6 record. Strangely, their first-round foe would be none other than those same Raiders, and they would handle them again by the score of 10-6. Denver, fresh off a 12-4 mark, faced a Houston squad that had railed them earlier in the year. This time, fate was with the Broncos as they defeated the Oilers, 26-24, a 325-yard passing game from Warren Moon notwithstanding. Their next opponent would come in the form of the winner of Kansas City-Buffalo, a game in which Jim Kelly, Thurman Thomas, Andre Reed, and company produced 34 points to Kansas City's 17. The Broncos would have a tighter contest with the Bills, but lose just the same, 10-7.

In October 1992, another 300+ yard day for Elway, another one-point victory for Denver, and another victory for the Chiefs at home in December, 42-20. Denver, at 7-9 on the season, found themselves at home again for the post-season, while Kansas City earned another wildcard berth, and another early exit, this one a shutout in front of 58,000 in San Diego.

Perhaps tired of the one-and-done, Kansas City brings a couple of guys by the name of Marcus Allen and Joe Montana to town for 1993. Denver visited Kansas City in September and Elway had another 300-yard day, but it was no match for the 91 yards from Allen or the 139 receiving yards from Willie Davis. KC hangs on to win, 15-7. Later in the season, though, Denver would defeat Kansas City 27-21. Much like two years prior, the Broncos faced the Raiders in the last game of the season, but lost to them, 30-33. Highlights from the game included 361 yards through the air from Elway, but Oakland's Tim Brown netted 173 receiving. One week later, again in Oakland -- but this time in the wildcard game -- the Raiders would get revenge, throttling the Broncos 42-20. Kansas City, having lost a late-season contest to Minnesota, also found themselves in the ranks of cards wild, despite having clinched their first AFC West title since 1971. In the first round, they knocked off the Pittsburgh Steelers, then came from behind to beat Moon and the Oilers, only to lose again to Buffalo in the AFC Championship game, 30-13.

On to 1994. With 393 passing yards from Joe Montana, the Chiefs quarterback out-comebacked John Elway with a late-game drive and score for a 31-28 win. Naturally, that meant that Denver would come to Arrowhead in December, balance out the force, and knock of the Chiefs, 20-17. KC would post a 10-win season, and Denver would compile another .500 season, meaning that Denver missed the post-season, and -- you guessed it -- Kansas City, as a wildcard, goes one and done, this one at the hands of the Dolphins in Miami, 27-17.

It was perhaps the 1995 season where, on the surface, things appeared to be really looking up for the Chiefs. A mid-October trip to Mile High finds the Chiefs with consecutive victories in Denver, this one a 21-7 mark. And by the graces of God, Kansas City again beat the Broncos in December at Arrowhead by the margin of 20-17. This of course would all but put a cap on a 7-9 Bronco campaign, and give the Chiefs a 13-3 record, and another division title, not to mention home-field advantage throughout the playoffs and a first-round bye. It was clearly all for naught, however, as the Colts came to Arrowhead and eliminated them, 10-7.

Nineteen ninety-six didn't look as bright for the Chiefs, and only a bit better for Denver. The Broncos came to town early this go-'round, and lost 14-17 to Kansas City, despite staggering performances by Terrell Davis and Shannon Sharpe; Davis posted 141 yards rushing, while Sharpe netted himself 153 yards receiving. When Kansas City came to Denver a month later, however, the Broncos got theirs, a 34-7 blowout. With regard to post-season play, a 9-7 mark wouldn't be good enough for KC in comparison to Denver's 13-3. This time, it was the Broncos' turn for one and done, as a feisty young squad by the name of the Jacksonville Jaguars sent Denver packing, a 30-27 loss at home.

Again with the surface shine for the 1997 Chiefs. Sort of. Kickoff Weekend featured KC at Denver, only there wasn't much in the way of features. Kansas City went home embarrassed, their 3-19 loss eventually a mark of things to come. Denver would of course come to Kansas City and give it its all, though, falling short in a 24-22 slugfest at Arrowhead. This would be another division title for the Chiefs, another 13-3 regular season, and another first-round bye with home-field throughout. Denver, on the next finger, was nipping at the heels of Kansas City with a 12-4 record. They took the rough road to victory and took last year's spoilers -- the Jaguars -- behind the wood shed with a 42-17 thumping.

And then, in a flash, it was on.

The Denver Broncos were coming to Kansas City to face the Chiefs. This, the only times our two House of Georges squads have met in the post-season (Note: I'm not entirely certain that's true. Pretty certain, but not entirely.), for bragging rights to go the the AFC Championship game. But there was one problem. The date was the fourth. Of January. Denver wins, 14-10, handles the Pittsburgh Steelers -- a game which featured 92 receiving yards from Tyler Yancy Thigpen -- the following week, and goes on to face the Green Bay Packers in the Super Bowl. And I was there, at the same establishment (Note: I had been living in Colorado, still a Chiefs fan, since the spring of '94) as Old No. 7 to "watch" that game. Unfortunately, due to a non-descript medical condition, I blacked out in the fourth quarter, and have still never been able to figure out who won that really close contest.

Moving on. The subsequent year, the wheels came off the Marty Schottenheimer wagon in Kansas City. In mid-November, the Broncos came to Kansas City and put on a clinic with a 30-7 win. This was also the infamous "Monday Night Meltdown" where the Chiefs were flagged for five personal fouls on the Broncos' final touchdown drive. Three of which came from Chiefs All-Pro linebacker Derrick Thomas. Sources said that this was the only time in team history that owner Lamar Hunt entered the locker room with anger and disgust. Schottenheimer later said, "I could not in my worst nightmare imagine the conduct that took place at the end of that game."

Thomas, who later received a one-game suspension offered the following:

"I allowed my situation to get out of hand. My actions of (Monday) will never occur again. Being on of the individuals everybody looks up to on this football team, I have to conduct myself in a positive manner at all times."

As a fan, I would never root for or condone such a debacle of an on-field performance. That said, anyone who lugs Shannon Sharpe around by his facemask is alright in my book.

Anyway, the Chiefs went to Denver in December and lost 31-35. Notable performances from the day included 400 passing yards from Elway, 88 yards rushing from Davis, and a 165-yard day from Rod Smith. Regarding the post-season, I had to leave the country, and my pre-TiVo TiVo was like, on the fritz or something.

The last season of the decade had some highs and lows. The 0-1 Broncos came to KC in week two and witnessed a 283-yard day from Elvis Grbac, 142 rushing yards from Kimble Anders, and 117 yards worth of catches from Derrick Alexander. Chiefs 26, Broncos 10. Kansas City also handled their business in Denver, 16-10, which would be my first-and-only game at the old Mile High. (Note: Thank you, Tamarick Vanover, for the memory.) Among the lows would be no playoffs for either team. Among the highs would be the first of two consecutive Chief sweeps of Denver. That and the 6-10 campaign the Broncos posted; the 9-7 Chief campaign had hopes of a division title in Gunther Cunningham's debut season as head coach, but a week-16 loss to Seattle and a last-minute Raider field goal in week 17 handed the Seahawks their final AFC West title.

Thus, it was a tumultuous decade for fans of the HoG teams. The regular-season breakdown winds up at 10-10, and those pesky Broncos did manage to win that lone post-season contest, so they get the edge. Barely.