KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) -- Sometimes teams that enter the final
game of the season needing half a dozen things to break their way
get their wish.
The Kansas City Chiefs went around all week grumbling at
themselves for failing to make the playoffs for the eighth time in
Now they're rubbing their eyes and getting ready to go to
Indianapolis on Saturday, thanks to a 35-30 victory over
Jacksonville and losses by Tennessee, Cincinnati and, most
improbably, Denver, which lost 26-23 in overtime to San Francisco.
That handed the Chiefs (9-7) the sixth seed in the AFC playoffs and
a trip to Indianapolis next week.
First, the Chiefs had to beat Jacksonville, which they did behind Larry Johnson's three touchdowns and record-breaking
rushing day. Then they needed for New England to beat Tennessee.
Then Pittsburgh had to upset Cincinnati. Check again, after the
Bengals' Shayne Graham was wide right on a 39-yard field goal try
with 8 seconds left in regulation.
Then, 3½ hours later, after players and coaches had scattered to
their homes and New Year's Eve parties, the most improbable leg of
all in this farfetched four-team parlay came through.
It was a fitting tribute to Lamar Hunt, the team's founder, who
died on Dec. 14.
Even Clark Hunt, the chairman of the Chiefs, wondered if his
father was somehow involved.
"I've had some people in the locker room suggest that maybe my
father hand a hand in that," the younger Hunt said after the
The Chiefs had feared that for the second year in a row, they'd
wound up the regular season with a hollow winning record.
Johnson rushed for 138 yards, scored three touchdowns and set an
NFL record for carries in a season but still they needed for Denver
The stage is set. The Chiefs-Colts game in Indianapolis will kick off wild-card weekend on Saturday, with three games to follow. First-round byes go to the Chargers (No. 1 seed) and Ravens in the AFC, and the Bears (No. 1) and Saints in the NFC. This weekend's lineup:
AFC: Chiefs at Colts, 4:30 ET (NBC)
NFC: Cowboys at Seahawks, 8 ET (NBC)
AFC: Jets at Patriots, 1 ET (CBS)
NFC: Giants at Eagles, 4:30 ET (FOX)
• For the complete playoff schedule, click here.
"It won't be that disappointing if we don't get in. It really
won't," guard Brian Waters said then. "It's out of our control.
And if we don't make it, it was our fault. It's nobody else's
Said defensive end Jared Allen, "It's frustrating that we're
9-7. Either way this turns out, the regular season's been
Johnson's 416 carries erased the record of 410 set by Atlanta's
Jamal Anderson in 1998. Johnson's 1,789 yards rushing broke the
team record of 1,750 yards the durable 230-pounder set last year in
only nine starts.
Jacksonville finished the season with three straight losses and
wound up 8-8.
"This is where we put ourselves. To walk away, losing three
games in a row, that ain't no good feeling," defensive end Paul
Spicer said. "If anybody in here says this season was a success,
they're lying to you. There's no way in the world this season was a
success, after losing three straight games."
Johnson said he'd prefer not to have 400 carries "every
"It just means that I know I can carry the ball through an
entire season and you have something to gauge me by," he said.
"Now you know you don't have to worry about tiring me out because
you know how far I can go."
The Chiefs' fourth touchdown came after Ty Law intercepted David
Garrard's pass, and sent the turnover-prone quarterback to the
Jacksonville bench for the rest of the game.
Law picked off Garrard on the 18 and returned it to the 2, and
Johnson scored to put Kansas City up 28-10 with 12:08 to play.
Into the game came Quinn Gray, who signed as an undrafted free
agent in 2003 and had appeared in only one game in three seasons.
He led the Jaguars on three touchdown drives, finishing the first
two with nifty runs himself. Jacksonville pulled them to within
five points with 5:00 remaining on Maurice Jones-Drew's 5-yard run
following Trent Green's fumble.
Gray darted nine yards for a TD on his first possession, then
went 17 yards for his second score. Garrard was 10-for-18 for 140
yards with a 26-yard TD pass to Fred Taylor in the second quarter.
Quarterback is sure to be the biggest question of the offseason
in Jacksonville. Garrard had replaced Byron Leftwich after six
"I wanted to give our football team a spark," said coach Jack
Del Rio. "He did a nice job of giving us the spark and leading us
to scores and giving us an opportunity."
A roughing-the-passer penalty against Spicer for a late shot to
Green seemed to energize a lethargic Kansas City team midway
through the second quarter.
On the first play after the 15-yard penalty, Johnson rambled 40
yards to the 8, and on fourth-and-goal from the 6-inch line vaulted
into the end zone to put the Chiefs on top 14-10.
On their next possession, Green hit Kennison on a 35-yard
flea-flicker pass for a touchdown.
The Chiefs' first TD came on Bernard Pollard's blocked punt and
recovery in the end zone.
The Chiefs paid tribute to Hunt with a moment of silence
before the game and the video boards played tributes before and
during the game. ... Green, who missed eight starts this year with
a severe concussion, left the game briefly in the third quarter
with a sprained left ankle after a hard hit from LB Clint Ingram.
He returned later in the quarter, after Damon Huard led Kansas City
on a scoring drive for a 35-17 lead. ... Jacksonville failed to
become the fifth team in NFL history with two 1,000-yard rushers.