Denver at Kansas City: October 5, 2003
A battle of unbeatens turned into another chapter of Dante Hall’s record-setting season. With both the Chiefs and Broncos sporting a perfect 4-0 record, a division leader would be determined at Arrowhead.
This game featured it all. Johnnie Morton celebrated a third quarter touchdown with “The Worm,” a porous Kansas City defense stepped up with critical second half stops, Priest Holmes nearly coughed up the game on a fourth quarter fumble and, of course, “The Human Joystick” struck again.
Nearly three-and-a-half quarters had passed with the Chiefs had yet to hold a lead. Trailing 23-17 and just under nine minutes to play, Hall fielded a punt inside his own 10-yard line and wrote his name into the history books.
The 93-yard TD return didn’t just make Hall the eighth player in NFL history to record four touchdown returns in a season, it was also his most memorable return as a Chief.
Disaster was written all over Hall’s decision to field the punt inside his own 10. From there, Hall broke another return rule and went backwards with the football…and backwards some more…and backwards even further.
“I said to myself, ‘Oh, Dante, don’t go backwards,” Chiefs Head Coach Dick Vermeil admitted after the game.
Hall had backtracked all the way to the Kansas City two-yard line before he made his first vertical, up-field movement. But once Hall saw an opening, nobody would touch him.
“We didn’t know who to block because he was going back and forth,” Chiefs FB Omar Easy said. “He was going this way and that way.”
Hall’s teammates didn’t have to block anybody. He’d already made six defenders miss and was off to the races.
“He’s a human highlight reel,” Chiefs DE Eric Hicks said. “He’s like Michael Jordan. It’s ridiculous. The play he made, really nobody was blocked on the initial part of the play. My God, I’ve never seen anything like that in my life.”
Just when you thought you’d seen it all, Dante’s Inferno pushed the Chiefs to a perfect 5-0 mark. The Chiefs held sole possession of first place in the AFC West for the first time in four years.
FROM THE VAULT: GAME NOTES (10/5/03)
Game Captains: G Will Shields (offense), DT John Browning (defense) and DE Gary Stills (special teams).
Attendance Note: Sunday’s paid attendance of 78,903 was the largest at Arrowhead since a 54-34 win vs. St. Louis (10/22/00) drew 79,142 fans.
Chiefs 5-0 For First Time: The Chiefs are 5-0 for the first time in team history.
Chiefs Extend Arrowhead Winning Streak: The Chiefs have now won eight straight games at Arrowhead dating back to 2002, the club’s longest winning streak since producing a franchise-record 11-game home victory string from ’97-98. Sunday’s game marked the first time KC has trailed in second half this season.
Chiefs-Broncos Series Notes: The Chiefs snapped a two-game losing streak vs. the Broncos. Fifteen of the last 16 Chiefs-Broncos games and 24 of the last 28 have been won by the team scoring last. Since ’94, the winning points in six Chiefs-Broncos games have come on special teams plays in the fourth quarter or OT. Kansas City has won four of those six games.
Dante’s Inferno – Hall Strikes Again: WR Dante Hall became the first player in NFL history to return a kick (punt or kickoff) for a touchdown in four consecutive games with a 93-yard punt return vs. Denver. That punt return was the longest in Chiefs history, breaking the previous mark of 90 yards established by Hall vs. Arizona (12/1/02). He now has four career punt return TDs, tying a team record. Hall’s 35.00-yard punt return average vs. Denver established a Chiefs record, breaking the previous mark of 28.67 shared by RB Mike Garrett (9/11/66) and WR Noland Smith (9/15/68). Hall has a career punt return average of 11.66, breaking the previous Chiefs career record of 11.11 owned by Smith.
Hall tied an NFL record with his fourth kick return TD (punt or kickoff) of the season. Hall is the eighth player in NFL history to accomplish that feat and is the first to do it since Denver’s Rick Upchurch in ’76. Hall has now registered seven kick return TDs in his last 10 games. The Chiefs are 6-0 in games when Hall registers a kick return TD.
NFL RECORD BOOK – MOST KICK RETURN TDS, SEASON (4)
Jack Christiansen – Detroit (’51)
Emlen Tunnell – N.Y. Giants (’51)
Gale Sayers – Chicago (’67)
Travis Williams – Green Bay (’67)
Cecil Turner – Chicago (’70)
Billy Johnson – Houston (’75)
Rick Upchurch – Denver (’76)
Dante Hall – Kansas City (’03)
Morton TD: WR Johnnie Morton registered his second TD of the season and the 38th of his career on a 28-yard pass from QB Trent Green in the third quarter.
Starting Streaks/Games Played: G Will Shields started his 164th game, extending the longest streak of consecutive starts in team history. His 164 overall start tie Tim Grunhard (164) for the second-highest overall total starts in team history. S Jerome Woods and TE Tony Gonzalez played in their 100th career regular season game for the Chiefs, making them the 58th and 59th players in Chiefs history to reach that milestone.
Fumble Stats: The Chiefs forced four fumbles vs. Denver, the club’s most since forcing four vs. Denver (12/16/01). DE Gary Stills registered his second career forced fumble and his second career fumble recovery on special teams when he forced and recovered a CB Deltha O’Neal fumble in the first quarter. Stills also forced an O’Neal fumble in the third quarter that was recovered by the Broncos, the third special teams forced fumble of his career. DT Ryan Sims forced his first career fumble in the third quarter against RB Clinton Portis, a fumble that was recovered by Denver. LB Scott Fujita forced his first career fumble in the fourth quarter against Portis a fumble that was recovered by the Broncos
Turnover Table: The Chiefs were -1 (1 take/2 gives) vs. Denver, marking the first time KC registered a victory with a negative turnover differential since going -1 (3 takes/4 gives) in a 30-26 win at Jacksonville (12/30/01).
Holmes’ Streak Snapped: RB Priest Holmes had a string of 426 touches from scrimmage (349 rushes/77 receptions) without losing a fumble snapped on his final carry in the fourth quarter. The last time Holmes had lost a fumble was at New England (9/22/02).
Gonzalez Extends Catch Streak, Moves Into Second-Place Tie on KC Receiving Chart: TE Tony Gonzalez has now caught at least one pass in 41 straight games, the fifth-longest streak in Kansas City history. Gonzalez has at least one reception in 85 of his last 86 games. His 20-yard TD reception in the first quarter was his second TD catch of the season and the 39th of his career. Gonzalez now has 410 career receptions, moving him into a tie with WR Otis Taylor for second on Kansas City’s career receiving chart.
Injuries: DE R-Kal Truluck (right ankle sprain) and LB Monty Beisel (left shoulder contusion).