A Plea to NFL Historians: This 1986 Chiefs vs. Chargers Game Needs to be Seen
I was born in 1987, so even though I've been a die-hard Chiefs fan since I could form my own thoughts, there are still some games from before my time that I have had to catch up on. Most of the pre-'90s Chiefs action worth reviewing was from the AFL days, but there is one game in particular from 1986 that I have not been able to get out of my mind. I need to see it, and I'm hoping someone out there in the digital Chiefs Kingdom can help me out.
The year was 1986. A video yearbook available on YouTube is a good recap of the season, but one game only mentioned in passing is the one I can't let go. The venue was, of course, Arrowhead Stadium. It was Week 7, and the 3-3 Chiefs were hosting the 1-5 Chargers. The quarterback matchup was Todd Blackledge for the Chiefs and Dan Fouts for the San Diego Chargers. Before getting to the final result of the game, I want to share the parts of the box score that make this game so noteworthy.
One look at this box score and you would expect this game to be a blowout victory for the Chargers. They dominated almost every phase of the game. First downs were a 35-13 joke, they doubled up the Chiefs in rushing yards 131-64, they had two sacks to KC's zero, they had 381 passing yards compared to the Chiefs 164 (eight yards lost on the sacks gave KC a net total of 158), a ridiculous 217 passing yard advantage for San Diego, and time of possession was also heavily in the visitors' favor at 39:17 to 20:43. But as is often the case in NFL games, the turnover margin loomed large.
Four interceptions and a recovered fumble by the NFL's leading takeaway unit in 1986 helped keep Kansas City in the ballgame despite the lopsided offensive performances. Chiefs defensive back Lloyd Burruss was the star of the game, putting on one of the most dominant secondary performances in NFL history with three interceptions, returning the picks for touchdowns twice.
I have to see this game. At the very least, I would love to pour over the play by play, but a video would be ideal. Here's everything I know about it based on the scoring summary from Pro Football Reference:
The Chiefs got a big chunk of their total passing yards on the first score of the game, a touchdown pass from Blackledge to standout wide receiver Stephone Paige. Off to a good start!
The Chargers scored a passing touchdown for themselves in the first quarter, a seven-yard pass from Fouts to Gary Anderson. At the end of a quarter, it was a very normal 7-7 NFL game.
Burruss had the first of his two pick-sixes to begin the scoring in the 2nd quarter, a 56-yard house call that gave the Chiefs a 14-7 lead. The Chargers then Charger'd it up on special teams, fumbling a ball that Chiefs cornerback Kevin Ross returned 21 yards for another non-offensive touchdown for the home team. I would imagine that Arrowhead was electric. 21-7, Chiefs.
The Chargers would drive down the field and cut the lead to seven with a one-yard plunge by Buford McGee, but Lloyd Burruss was having none of that. A second returned interception in the quarter, this time of 47 yards, pushed the lead back out to 14 points for KC. But the Chargers would seize momentum back before halftime, kicking a 30-yard field goal and then returning a Todd Blackledge pass five yards for their own defensive score. At halftime, it was a blistering 28-24 total, with the Chiefs clinging to the slim advantage.
In the 3rd quarter, each team had one touchdown. First it was Stephone Paige catching his second score of the game, but this time the passer was quarterback Bill Kenney. Head coach John Mackovic explained after the game that despite the halftime lead, the team needed a spark, and the 31-year-old Kenney had played in 70 games by that time, with much more success passing than the younger Blackledge. Kenney had been battling injuries at the beginning of the 1986 season but was ready to step in for the ineffective Blackledge.
The Chargers answered with Gary Anderson's second touchdown of the day, a two-yard score that made it 35-31 Chiefs. San Diego would score again at the start of the fourth quarter, a second field goal by Rolf Benirschke to cut Kansas City's lead to a single point, 35-34.
The Chiefs would get insurance with a one-yard rushing touchdown by Boyce Green, giving them an 8-point fourth-quarter lead. That might not seem like a big deal in 2020, but back in 1986, there was no two-point conversion in the NFL, as the rule was adopted in 1994, so the Chargers were still down two scores. They would get a third touchdown by Gary Anderson as the last score of the game, but instead of being able to go for the tie, they would kick the extra point to put the score at 42-41, Kansas City.
That's where it would end, as does my knowledge of this game. How late was the last Chargers score? How did the Chiefs manage to drive the field in the fourth quarter for their final touchdown? How many goal-line stands or fourth-down stops or blown coverages or missed penalties were there? I would really like to know.
If anyone out there has access to this game on video, I would greatly appreciate a share. I'll pay for shipping if you can send me a DVD, I just need to see this game. (Seriously, DM me on Twitter.) I know part of the story, but this bizarre blip on the radar of the history of the Kansas City Chiefs deserves to be fully discovered.