5) The Raiders fake a field goal (Kansas City @ Oakland - November 30)
I know what you’re thinking – this particular play didn’t have a whole lot to do with the Chiefs. After all, Maurice Leggett had the ball bounce right to him, and he simply scooped it up and ran it back for a touchdown.
But Oakland’s hilariously inept attempt at a fake field goal will surely be replayed for years to come as broadcasters, analysts, and fans watch the highlight and ponder one key question: what in the world they were thinking?
Leggett scored easily.
Jed Jacobsohn - Getty
Only the Raiders could design a trick play that required beefy kicker Sebastian Janikowski to seamlessly catch the ball out of mid-air and run up the field like a skill position player. Only the Raiders would call that play in a situation where Janikowski had to run nearly 20 yards to pick up the first down.
Four of Oakland’s five wins this season came under interim head coach Tom Cable, but when Al Davis decides whether or not to keep Cable on a permanent basis, Exhibit A in the case against him will probably be the decision to run this play.
Leggett’s score marked the Chiefs’ only touchdown on special teams this year, and between the amusement it provided and the fact that it happened to be the difference in the second of the Chiefs’ two wins on the season, the failed fake had to make the list somewhere.
4) McIntosh stacks ‘em up (Miami @ Kansas City - December 21)
It was the Chiefs’ longest play from scrimmage in 2008. Running back Jamaal Charles caught a short bubble screen pass from Tyler Thigpen and ran for 75 yards before being tackled at Miami’s 2-yard line.
The rookie speedster would later blame the extra layers of clothing he was wearing to combat the -12 degree wind chill as the reason he didn’t make it into the endzone. Charles also stumbled as he avoided a few downed Dolphins, which probably slowed him down just enough to give Miami’s pursuing tackler a few extra strides.
Big Mac Attack!
But Charles’ role in the play was overshadowed by the most unlikely of suspects: Chiefs’ right tackle Damion McIntosh.
As the ball was snapped, McIntosh ran downfield looking for a defender to block. In the span of about two seconds, the big man from Jamaica flattened one member of Miami’s secondary and then immediately drove a second Dolphin down on top of the first. The highlight got national attention on various ESPN telecasts and McIntosh was named NFL Live’s “prime time player” for Week 16.
The play featured two great individual efforts and deserves a spot in the top five.
3) Flowers takes it to the house (Kansas City @ New York - October 26)
Brandon Flowers played remarkably well through the first six games of the season. Going into Week 8, though, the Chiefs’ second-round pick hadn’t registered an interception. That all changed when the rookie took the field against the Jets and future Hall of Famer Brett Favre.
Flowers actually came away with two interceptions that day. The first pick – marking the first of his pro career – may be the easiest one he’ll ever see. Favre badly overthrew his receiver on the play, leaving Flowers as the only person in the area of the ball. It was such an easy catch that Flowers actually appeared to be the intended target.
But it was his second interception that makes our list.
Flowers puts the Chiefs ahead.
Al Bello - Getty
Halfway through the fourth quarter, the Jets – already ahead 21-17 – were driving for a score with the ball on the Chiefs’ 8-yard line. In all likelihood, a touchdown in that situation would have sealed the win, putting the game out of Kansas City’s reach.
Facing a third and two, Favre attempted a short pass to receiver Chansi Stuckey that Flowers grabbed instead. The rookie corner immediately headed upfield, racing 91 yards for a score that put the Chiefs on top, 24-21.
Flowers’ pick-six could have been the game-winning score if not for the events that followed. The Chiefs got the ball back, but facing a late fourth and one, Herm Edwards opted to punt the ball back to the Jets. With one minute left in the game, Favre connected with receiver Laveranues Coles for the go-ahead touchdown.
There’s no doubt that if the game had ended differently, Flowers’ interception would be remembered as one of the biggest game-changing plays of the season. But the disappointing outcome shouldn’t diminish his outstanding individual play.
2) Johnson clinches the win (Denver @ Kansas City - September 28)
When the Chiefs took the field in Week 4, they hadn’t won a game since October of the previous year. It was a streak of 12 straight games, the longest losing streak in the history of the franchise.
Their opponent that day was the Denver Broncos, a team that Larry Johnson has dominated in his time as the Chiefs’ starter. So the game plan was simple: keep giving the ball to LJ, who finished with 28 carries for 198 yards and two touchdowns. The Chiefs would inexplicably abandon that strategy when they traveled to Denver later in the season, but on this occasion it worked just as planned.
With two minutes left in the fourth quarter, the Chiefs were up seven and needed a score to put the game out of reach. After a failed onside kick by the Broncos, Kansas City had the ball at the Denver 43-yard line, needing to pick up another 10 to 15 yards for a shot at a field goal.
Johnson clinches the win.
Jamie Squire - Getty
On the first play of the drive, Johnson broke a 34-yard run down to the Denver 9-yard line, making a field goal – and the victory – a near certainty. But on the next play, a holding penalty backed the team up 10 yards. From there, a field goal would have been 36 yards – a makeable kick, but by no means automatic.
Two plays later, Johnson settled the issue himself. He took the handoff and ran to the right, immediately coming into contact with a pile of linemen. Just when it looked like the play had been bottled up, Johnson somehow broke free, cutting back to the left and racing 16 yards for the game-sealing touchdown.
After the long losing streak, a win would have been nice enough on its own. But to get one against a hated rival, who to that point had been undefeated, made the Chiefs’ first victory of the season even sweeter.
1) Thigpen-mania Runs Wild (Tampa Bay @ Kansas City - November 2)
The Chiefs’ best play of the season is probably on the short list of the NFL’s best plays from 2008. After all, it’s not every day that a wide-open quarterback catches a touchdown pass thrown by one of his receivers.
In fact, Tyler Thigpen was the only quarterback in the league to catch a touchdown pass in 2008. Detailed receiving stats for quarterbacks are not that easy to find, but as far as I can tell, it’s been at least five years since another quarterback has hauled in a touchdown, with Drew Brees doing it back in 2003.
Our #1 play occurred in Week 9 against the Tampa Bay Bucs. Just two plays earlier, the Chiefs had run a play from the “wildcat” formation in which Thigpen lined up as a receiver and the ball was snapped to Jamaal Charles. On that occasion, Thigpen slowly jogged a few steps as Charles kept the ball and picked up 16 yards.
The season’s top play started off in a similar fashion, with Charles taking the snap and Thipgen spread out wide. When the ball was snapped, Thigpen again jogged forward a few steps, but this time Charles pitched the ball to Mark Bradley on a reverse.
Jamie Squire - Getty
Bucs’ cornerback Ronde Barber had no reason to suspect that Thigpen would actually run a route, so he bit hard on the reverse to Bradley. When he did, Thigpen took off down the field, and Bradley tossed a 37-yard touchdown pass to the Chiefs’ quarterback.
It was a spectacular play, but the most remarkable part about it was the accuracy of Bradley’s throw. The exchange on the reverse between Bradley and Charles didn’t happen cleanly, as Bradley bobbled the ball for a few moments before pulling it in. Then, once he had it secured, he kept on running for several more steps and threw the pass on the run without ever setting his feet.
But even with all that working against him, Bradley’s pass was right on target, hitting Thigpen directly in stride. Many of the deep balls thrown by Thigpen himself didn’t display the kind of accuracy Bradley showed during this play.
Although the lead would be short-lived, the Bradley-to-Thigpen touchdown pass put the Chiefs up 21-3 over the Bucs and was unquestionably the Chiefs’ top play of 2008.